Indexicality and presupposition : explorations beyond truth-conditional information

Dissertation, St. Andrews (2010)
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This thesis consists of four essays and an introduction dedicated to two main topics: indexicality and presupposition. The first essay is concerned with an alleged problem for the standard treatment of indexicals on which their linguistic meanings are functions from context to content. Since most indexicals have their content settled, on an occasion of use, by the speaker’s intentions, some authors have argued that this standard picture is inadequate. By demonstrating that intentions can be seen as a parameter of the kind of context that characters operate on, these arguments are rejected. In addition, it is argued that a more recent, variable-based framework is naturally interpreted as an intention-sensitive semantics. The second essay is devoted to the phenomenon of descriptive uses of indexicals on which such an expression seems to contribute, not its standard reference as determined by its character, but a property to the interpretation. An argument that singular readings of the cases in question are incoherent is shown to be incorrect, and an approach to descriptive readings is developed on which they arise from e-type uses akin to other well known cases. Further, descriptive readings of the relevant kind are seen to arise only in the presence of adverbs of quantification, and all sentences in which such an adverb takes scope over an indexical are claimed to be ambiguous between a referential and an e-type reading. The third essay discusses a version of the variable analysis of pronouns on which their descriptive meanings are relegated to the so-called phi-features – person, gender and number. In turn, the phi-features are here seen as triggering semantic presuppositions that place constraints on the definedness of pronouns, and ultimately of sentences in which they appear. It is argued that the descriptive information contributed by the phi-features diverges radically from presuppositional information of both semantic and pragmatic varieties on several dimensions of comparison, and instead the main role of the phi-features is seen to be that of guiding hearers’ attempts to ascertain the speaker’s intentions. The fourth essay addresses an issue concerning the treatment of presuppositions in dynamic semantics. Representing a semantic treatment of pragmatic presuppositions, the dynamic framework is shown to incorrectly regard conversational infelicity as sufficient for semantic undefinedness, given the standard way of defining truth in terms of context change. Further, it is shown that a proposal for a solution fail to make correct predictions for epistemic modals. A novel framework is developed on which context change potentials act on contexts that have more structure than the contexts usually countenanced by dynamic semantics, and it is shown that this framework derives truth from context change while making correct predictions for both presuppositions and modals.



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Andreas Stokke
Uppsala University

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