This guide accompanies the following article: Lynsey Wolter. ‘Demonstratives in Philosophy and Linguistics’, Philosophy Compass 4 (2009): 451–68, doi: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2009.00205.x
Demonstrative noun phrases (e.g. this; that guy over there) are intimately connected to the context of use in that their reference is determined by demonstrations and/or the speaker’s intentions. The semantics of demonstratives therefore has important implications not only for theories of reference, but for questions about how information from the context interacts with formal semantics. First treated by Kaplan as directly referential, demonstratives have recently been analyzed as quantifiers by King, and the choice between these two approaches is a matter of ongoing controversy. Meanwhile, linguists and psychologists working from a variety of perspectives have gathered a wealth of data on the form, meaning, and use of demonstratives in many languages. Demonstratives thus provide a fruitful topic for graduate study for two reasons. On the one hand, they serve as an entry point to foundational issues in reference and the semantics–pragmatics interface. On the other hand, they are an especially promising starting point for interdisciplinary research, which brings the results of linguistics and related fields to bear on the philosophy of language.
Kaplan, David. ‘Demonstratives.’ 1977. Themes from Kaplan. Ed. J. Almong, J. Perry, and H. Wettstein. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. 481–563.
The seminal work on the semantics of demonstratives and indexicals, such as I, here, and now. Kaplan introduces a distinction between content (which maps from possible circumstances to extensions) and character (which maps from possible contexts to contents). He argues that demonstratives and indexicals are directly referential: given a possible context, their character fixes their extension.
Kaplan, David. ‘Afterthoughts.’Themes from Kaplan. Ed. J. Almong, J. Perry, and H. Wettstein. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. 565–614.
An elaboration on the theory developed in ‘Demonstratives.’ Kaplan considers the connection between direct reference and rigid designation; raises the issue of whether demonstratives depend on demonstrations or speaker intentions; and discusses implications of the analysis for formal semantics and for epistemology.
King, Jeffrey C. Complex Demonstratives. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
In perhaps the most influential challenge to date to the direct reference theory of demonstratives, King argues that complex demonstratives (i.e. demonstrative determiners with nominal complements) are best analyzed as quantifiers.
Braun, David. ‘Complex Demonstratives and Their Singular Contents.’Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2008): 57–99.
This recent Kaplanian analysis of complex demonstratives shows the ‘state of the art’ of direct reference approaches and responds to some of the objections to such approaches raised by King.
Elbourne, Paul. ‘Demonstratives as Individual Concepts.’Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2008): 409–466.
The most recent analysis of demonstratives as individual concepts, contrasting with both the direct reference and quantificational approaches.
Fillmore, Charles. Lectures on Deixis. Stanford, CA: CSLI, 1997.
In this collection of lectures, originally delivered in 1971, Fillmore considers demonstratives and indexical expressions in many languages to describe the types of information about the context (e.g. locations in space, time, and discourse) that are encoded in natural language.
Gundel, Jeanette K., Nancy Hedberg, and Ron Zacharski. ‘Cognitive Status and the Form of Referring Expressions in Discourse.’Language 69 (1993): 274–307.
Perhaps the most detailed pragmatic alternative to formal semantic theories of demonstratives and other referring expressions. The authors argue that demonstratives are best described as imposing a condition of use in which the referent of the demonstrative has a certain level of salience for the interlocutors.
Indexicals (David Braun)
Reference (Marga Reimer)
Rigid designators (Joseph LaPorte)
Online bibliography of papers on indexicals and demonstratives
The following syllabus can be used in entirety for a survey course on demonstratives; in addition, each of the three units is self-contained and can be used alone.
Unit 1: Demonstratives and Indexicality
Week 1: Indexicals
1. Kaplan, Demonstratives
2. Kaplan, Afterthoughts
Week 2: Issues for Indexical Reference
1. Reimer, Marga. ‘Do Demonstrations Have Semantic Significance?’Analysis 51 (1991): 177–83.
2. Bach, Kent. ‘Intentions and Demonstrations.’Analysis 52 (1992): 140–46.
3. Nunberg, Geoffrey. ‘Indexicality and Deixis.’Linguistics and Philosophy 16.1 (1993): 1–43.
Week 3: Optional detour: Monsters
1. Schlenker, Philippe. ‘A Plea for Monsters.’Linguistics and Philosophy 26 (2003): 29-120.
Week 4: Demonstratives as Quantifiers
1. King. Complex Demonstratives, chapters 1–3.
Week 5: Indexical and Non-Indexical Demonstratives
1. Braun, David. ‘Complex Demonstratives and Their Singular Contents.’Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2008): 57–99.
Optional additional reading
2. Roberts, Craige. ‘Demonstratives as Definites.’Information Sharing. Ed. Kees van Deemter and Roger Kibble. Stanford, CA: CSLI Press, 2002.
3. Wolter, Lynsey. ‘That’s That: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Demonstrative Noun Phrases.’ Diss. University of California, Santa Cruz, 2006, chapters 2–3.
4. Elbourne, Paul. ‘Demonstratives as Individual Concepts.’Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2008): 409–66.
Unit 2: Demonstratives, Proximity, Salience
Week 6: Demonstratives and Proximity
1. Fillmore, Charles. ‘Deixis I.’ in Lectures on Deixis. Stanford, CA: CSLI, 1997. 59–76.
2. Fillmore, Charles. ‘Deixis II.’ in Lectures on Deixis. Stanford, CA: CSLI, 1997. 103–26.
Optional additional reading
3. Prince, Ellen. ‘On the Inferencing of Indefinite-this NPs.’Elements of Discourse Understanding. Ed. Aravind K. Joshi, Bonnie L. Weber, and Ivan A. Sag. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. 231–50.
Week 7: Demonstratives and Salience
1. Gundel, Jeanette K., Nancy Hedberg, and Ron Zacharski. ‘Cognitive Status and the Form of Referring Expressions in Discourse.’Language 69 (1993): 274–307.
Optional additional reading
2. Brown-Schmidt, Sarah, Donna K. Byron, and Michael K. Tanenhaus. ‘Beyond Salience: Interpretation of Personal and Demonstrative Pronouns.’Journal of Memory and Language 53 (2005): 292–313. Note: readers new to psycholinguistics should concentrate on the Introduction.
Unit 3: Demonstratives and Copular Sentences
Week 8: Background on the Typology of Copular Sentences
1. Higgins, F. Roger. ‘The Pseudo-Cleft Construction in English.’ Diss. MIT, 1973, chapter 5.
Week 9: Demonstratives in Copular Sentences
1. Mikkelsen, Line. ‘Specifying Who: On the Structure, Meaning, and Use of Specificational Copular Clauses.’ Diss. University of California, Santa Cruz, 2004, chapter 8.2 (Truncated Clefts).
2. Heller, Daphna and Lynsey Wolter. ‘That is Rosa: Identificational Sentences as Intensional Predication.’Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 12. Ed. Atle Grønn. Oslo: Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, University of Oslo, 2008.
Week 10: Demonstratives, Copular Sentences, Modals
1. Birner, Betty J., Jeffrey P. Kaplan, and Gregory Ward. ‘Functional Compositionality and the Interaction of Discourse Constraints.’Language 83 (2007): 317–43.
1. Which of the following expressions are indexicals? Which are demonstratives? Why?
(a) a pencil
(b) the pencil
(c) this pencil
(d) Mary Smith
(e) Mary’s pencil
(f ) my pencil
2. Do demonstratives ever interact with scope-taking operators to give rise to two or more truth-conditionally distinct readings? If so, under what circumstances?
3. (a) If demonstratives (sometimes or always) interact with scope-taking operators to give rise to two or more truth-conditionally distinct readings, to what extent can a direct reference theory of demonstratives be maintained?
(b) If demonstratives never interact with scope-taking operators to give rise to two or more truth-conditionally distinct readings, to what extent can a quantificational theory of demonstratives be maintained?
4. What kind of thing is a demonstration? Is it a pointing gesture? An indication of the speaker’s focus of attention? Something more abstract?
5. What information do English demonstratives convey about proximity? What is ‘proximity’– physical closeness to the speaker, or something more abstract? What is the status of this information: is it entailed, presupposed, or something else?
6. Do demonstratives that are accompanied by a physical gesture of demonstration have the same semantic value as anaphoric demonstratives, such as that in (a)? Why or why not?
(a) John made a peanut butter sandwich and ate it quickly. Next he took an apple from the fridge. He ate that more slowly.