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Summary A number of issues have arisen in the course of inquiry into the semantics and pragmatics of descriptions that cross-cut traditional lines of debate.  Such issues include, inter alia: the role of familiarity in distinguishing definite and indefinite descriptions, how to understand the relationship between definite descriptions and complex demonstratives, and how to account for plural descriptions.
Key works The idea that a familiarity presupposition might help to distinguish definite from indefinite descriptions is generally attributed to Christophersen 1939.  This proposal was introduced into more contemporary linguistic discourse in Heim 1982.  For an account of the parallels and differences between definite descriptions and demonstratives, see Roberts 2002.  For attempts to account for plural descriptions, see Sharvy 1980 and Link 1983.
Introductions Ludlow 2008
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  1. Barbara Abbott, Definiteness and Identification in English.
    Many characterizations of definiteness in natural language have been given. However a number of them converge on a single idea involving uniqueness of applicability of a property. This paper will attempt to do two things. One is to try to unify some of these current views of definiteness, seeing them as drawing out Gricean conversational implicatures of the uniqueness concept, and the other is to try a more articulated approach to dealing with some recalcitrant counterexamples. I will focus primarily, but (...)
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  2. Barbara Abbott, Issues in the Semantics and Pragmatics of Definite Descriptions in English.
  3. Barbara Abbott (2008). Issues in the Semantics and Pragmatics of Definite Descriptions in English. In Nancy Hedberg & Jeanette Gundel (eds.), Reference: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 61-72.
  4. Barbara Abbott (2003). A Reply to Szabó's “Descriptions and Uniqueness”. Philosophical Studies 113 (3):223 - 231.
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  5. Barbara Abbott, Definiteness and Indefiniteness.
    The prototypes of definiteness and indefiniteness in English are the definite article the and the indefinite article a/an, and singular noun phrases (NPs)1 determined by them. That being the case it is not to be predicted that the concepts, whatever their content, will extend satisfactorily to other determiners or NP types. However it has become standard to extend these notions. Of the two categories definites have received rather more attention, and more than one researcher has characterized the category of definite (...)
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  6. Peter Alexander (1958). MacKay on Complementary Descriptions. Mind 67 (267):379-381.
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  7. John Bacon (1973). Do Generic Descriptions Denote? Mind 82 (327):331-347.
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  8. Sigrid Beck (2001). Reciprocals Are Definites. Natural Language Semantics 9 (1):69-138.
    This paper proposes that elementary reciprocal sentences have four semantic readings: a strongly reciprocal interpretation, a weakly reciprocal interpretation, a situation-based weakly reciprocal reading, and a collective reading. Interpretational possibilities of reciprocal sentences that have been discussed in the literature are identified as one of these four. A compositional semantic analysis of all of these readings is provided in which the reciprocal expression is uniformly represented as 'the other ones among them' (recasting Heim, Lasnik and May 1991a, b). A reciprocal (...)
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  9. Hanoch Ben-Yami (2013). Higher‐Level Plurals Versus Articulated Reference, and an Elaboration of Salva Veritate. Dialectica 67 (1):81-102.
    In recent literature on plurals the claim has often been made that the move from singular to plural expressions can be iterated, generating what are occasionally called higher-level plurals or superplurals, often correlated with superplural predicates. I argue that the idea that the singular-to-plural move can be iterated is questionable. I then show that the examples and arguments intended to establish that some expressions of natural language are in some sense higher-level plurals fail. Next, I argue that these and some (...)
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  10. Adrian Brasoveanu & Donka F. Farkas, Exceptional Wide Scope as Anaphora to Quantificational Dependencies.
    The paper proposes a novel account to the problem of exceptional scope (ES) of (in)definites, e.g. the widest and intermediate scope readings of the sentence Every student of mine read every poem that a famous Romanian poet wrote before World War II. We propose that ES readings are available when the sentence is interpreted as anaphoric to quantificational domains and quantificational dependencies introduced in the previous discourse. For example, the two every quantifiers and the indefinite elaborate on the sets of (...)
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  11. Berit Brogaard (2010). Descriptions: An Annotated Bibliography. Oxford Annotated Bibliographies Online.
    Descriptions are phrases of the form ‘an F’, ‘the F’, ‘Fs’, ‘the Fs’ and NP's F (e.g. ‘John's mother’). They can be indefinite (e.g., ‘an F’ and ‘Fs’), definite (e.g. ‘the F’ and ‘the Fs’), singular (e.g., ‘an F’, ‘the F’) or plural (e.g., ‘the Fs’, ‘Fs’). In English plural indefinite descriptions lack an article and are for that reason also known as ‘bare plurals’. How to account for the semantics and pragmatics of descriptions has been one of the central (...)
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  12. Berit Brogaard (2007). Sharvy's Theory of Definite Descriptions Revisited. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 88 (2):160–180.
    The paper revisits Sharvy's theory of plural definite descriptions. An alternative account of plural definite descriptions building on the ideas of plural quantification and non-distributive plural predication is developed. Finally, the alternative is extrapolated to account for generic uses of definite descriptions.
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  13. Berit Brogaard (2007). The but Not All: A Partitive Account of Plural Definite Descriptions. Mind and Language 22 (4):402–426.
    A number of authors in favor of a unitary account of singular descriptions have alleged that the unitary account can be extrapolated to account for plural definite descriptions. In this paper I take a closer look at this suggestion. I argue that while the unitary account is clearly onto something right, it is in the end empirically inadequate. At the end of the paper I offer a new partitive account of plural definite descriptions that avoids the problems with both the (...)
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  14. Richard Brown (2008). Moogles, and Chocobos, and Kripke? Oh My! Some Basic Issues in Contemporary Philosophy of Language, Kupo! In Originally Written for Final Fantasy And Philosophy (ed.), but will remain unpublished.
    Everyone knows that moogles are disgustingly cute. I know people who would kill to be able to have one in real life, but could there really be moogles? Say, for instance, that archeologists discovered a species of animal in some remote land that completely resembled the chocobo in every way. Would that count as discovering that the beloved Final Fantasy creatures were real? Even if we don’t make such a discovery are chocobos and moogles metaphysically possible? That is, can we (...)
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  15. Helen Morris Cartwright (1993). On Plural Reference and Elementary Set Theory. Synthese 96 (2):201 - 254.
    The view that plural reference is reference to a set is examined in light of George Boolos's treatment of second-order quantification as plural quantification in English. I argue that monadic second-order logic does not, in Boolos's treatment, reflect the behavior of plural quantifiers under negation and claim that any sentence that properly translates a second-order formula, in accordance with his treatment, has a first-order formulation. Support for this turns on the use of certain partitive constructions to assign values to variables (...)
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  16. Charles B. Daniels (1968). 'I' as a Definite Description. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 46 (3):200 – 209.
  17. Michael Glanzberg, Descriptions, Negation, and Focus.
    One of the mainstays of the theory of definite descriptions since Russell (1905) has been their interaction with negation. In particular, Russellians, who advocate the view that definite descriptions are a kind of quantifier, point to these interactions as evidence in favor of the their view. The argument runs roughly as follows.
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  18. James Hudson & Michael Tye (1980). Proper Names and Definite Descriptions with Widest Possible Scope. Analysis 40 (1):63 - 64.
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  19. Nicky Kroll (2008). On Bishops and Donkeys. Natural Language Semantics 16 (4):359-372.
    The problem of indistinguishable participants is a well-known problem for D-type theories of donkey pronouns. Recently, Paul Elbourne has offered a D-type theory that purports to dissolve the problem of indistinguishable participants. I argue against Elboune’s solution.
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  20. Friederike Moltmann (2012). Tropes, Intensional Relative Clauses, and the Notion of a Variable Object. In Aloni Maria, Kimmelman Vadim, Weidman Sassoon Galit, Roloefson Floris, Schulz Katrin & Westera Matthjis (eds.), Proceedings of the 18th Amsterdam Colloquium 2011. Springer.
    NPs with intensional relative clauses such as 'the impact of the book John needs to write' pose a significant challenge for trope theory (the theory of particularized properties), since they seem to refer to tropes that lack an actual bearer. This paper proposes a novel semantic analysis of such NPs on the basis of the notion of a variable object. The analysis avoids a range of difficulties that an alternative analysis based on the notion of an individual concept would face.
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  21. Gary Ostertag (2005). Review of Anne Bezuidenhout (Ed.), Marga Reimer (Ed.), Descriptions and Beyond. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (8).
  22. Craige Roberts (2002). Demonstratives as Definites. In K. van Deemter & R. Kibble (eds.), Information Sharing: Reference and Presupposition in Language Generation and Interpretation. CSLI Press. 89-196.
  23. Anders J. Schoubye (2012). Against the Argument From Convention. Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (6):515-532.
    In recent years, a new argument in favor of Donnellan’s (Philos Rev 77: 281–304, 1966) semantic distinction between attributive and referential descriptions has been proposed by Michael Devitt and Marga Reimer. This argument is based on two empirical premises concerning regularity of use and processing ease. This paper is an attempt to demonstrate (a) that these empirical observations are dubious and fail to license the conclusion of the argument and (b) that if the argument were sound, it would severely overgenerate. (...)
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  24. Zsófia Zvolenszky (1997). Definite Descriptions: What Frege Got Right and Russell Didn’T. Aporia Undergraduate Philosophy Journal:1-16.
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