Against intentionalism: an experimental study on demonstrative reference

Linguistics and Philosophy 45 (5):1027-1061 (2022)
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In this paper, we present two experimental studies on reference of complex demonstratives. The results of our experiments challenge the dominant view in philosophy of language, according to which demonstrative reference is determined by the speaker's intentions. The first experiment shows that in a context where there are two candidates for the referent—one determined by the speaker’s intention, the other by some “external” factors—people prefer to identify the referent of a demonstrative with the latter object. The external factors for which this prediction has been confirmed include the speaker’s demonstration and the descriptive content of a demonstrative. The second experiment shows that while this preference can be explained in terms of the speakers’ having different sorts of referential intentions, the relevant kind of intentions are fully opaque to the subjects. At the end of our paper, we point to some alternative accounts of demonstrative reference, including a pluralistic and hybrid approach, which can accommodate our experimental results.



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Bartosz Maćkiewicz
University of Warsaw

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References found in this work

Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
Thought and Reference.Kent Bach - 1987 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Speaker’s Reference and Semantic Reference.Saul A. Kripke - 1977 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2 (1):255-276.
Scorekeeping in a Language Game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (3):339.

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