Proper nouns

Dissertation, Rutgers - New Brunswick (2007)
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Abstract

This dissertation is an experiment: what happens if we treat proper names as anaphoric expressions on a par with pronouns? The first thing to notice is that a name's 'antecedent' can occur in a discourse prior to the one containing the name. An individual may be introduced and tagged with a name in one context, and then retrieved using the name in a later context. To allow for discourse crossing anaphora, in addition to the usual cross-sentential anaphora, a revision of discourse semantics is in order. Essentially, we must countenance discourse referents that span contexts, and think of contexts, not as islands, but as nodes connected to each other by the discourse referents they share. Discourse semantics gives rise to a new notion of content determined by discourse reference rather than pure reference. In a space of contexts structured by shared discourse referents, discourse content becomes transmissable. For a piece of content may be sent from one context to another whenever the discourse referents bundled up in the content are held in common by the two contexts. The final step is to treat the cognitive state of an agent as just another kind of context, and so a potential recipient of discourse content. Discourse content is more fine-grained than traditional 'singular' content, and so is a better fit for our pretheoretic intuitions about communication and attitude reporting. This is illustrated by applying the theory to Frege's puzzle, a puzzle of Loar's about communication, Kripke's puzzle about belief, Geach's intentional identity and new breed of 'mixed' de re-de dicto sentence.

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Samuel John Cumming
University of California, Los Angeles

Citations of this work

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