The Reference of Proper Names: Testing Usage and Intuitions

Cognitive Science 42 (5):1552-1585 (2018)
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Experiments on theories of reference have mostly tested referential intuitions. We think that experiments should rather be testing linguistic usage. Substantive Aim (I): to test classical description theories of proper names against usage by “elicited production.” Our results count decisively against those theories. Methodological Aim (I): Machery, Olivola, and de Blanc (2009) claim that truth-value judgment experiments test usage. Martí (2012) disagrees. We argue that Machery et al. are right and offer some results that are consistent with that conclusion. Substantive Aim (II): Machery et al. provide evidence that the usage of a name varies, being sometimes descriptive, sometimes not. In seven out of eight tests of usage, we did not replicate this variation. Methodological Aim (II): to test the reliability of referential intuitions by comparing them with linguistic usage. Earlier studies led us to predict that we would find those intuitions unreliable, but we did not. Our results add to evidence that tests of referential intuition are susceptible to unpredictable wording effects.



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Author Profiles

Michael Devitt
CUNY Graduate Center
Nicolas Porot
Mohammed VI Polytechnic University

References found in this work

Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Philosophy 56 (217):431-433.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Critica 17 (49):69-71.
Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language.William P. Alston - 1970 - Philosophical Quarterly 20 (79):172-179.
Speech Acts.J. Searle - 1969 - Foundations of Language 11 (3):433-446.

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