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Vendler Reading Group Workshop on Pronouns and Reference


SATURDAY MARCH 11 | 10 AM - 3 PM, 12th Floor of the Social Sciences Building

For more information or to register your interest please contact - Dr. Nicole Wyatt, Department of Philosophy


10 am - 12 pm: Pranav Anand (UCSC)

12 pm - 1 pm: Catered Lunch

1 pm - 3 pm: Karen Lewis (Barnard)

Dr. Pranav Anand, “Perspectives for Pronouns and Reflexives”

Much work on binding theory has sought to capture the near-complementary distribution of reflexives and pronominals. In cases where both are allowed, there are interpretive effects --reflexives describe canonical actions, some deep notion of guise identity, or require de se interpretation. The aim of this talk is to derive this pattern, focusing on de re interpretation of pronominals and reflexives. I argue that doing so requires modeling perspectival dynamics, and discuss the extent to which such modeling needs to be syntactic, semantic, or pragmatic.


Dr. Karen Lewis, “Discourse Referents and D-type pronouns”

There are two opposing strategies in accounting for unbound anaphora, the phenomenon exemplified by (1) and (2):

(1) A woman walked in. She ordered lunch.

(2) If a farmer owns a donkey, he beats it.

One is in the tradition of dynamic semantics and Discourse Representation Theory, which has it that indefinite descriptions introduce into the conversational context novel discourse referents, formal tools that represent the objects under discussion, while the semantic function of pronouns and definite descriptions is to update familiar discourse referents (those already in the context). The other is the d-type theory of pronouns, which maintains a classical semantics, arguing that pronouns go proxy for definite descriptions like “the woman who walked in” (or simply “the woman”) and “the farmer who owns the donkey” (or “the farmer”). I argue that important aspects of these two strategies can be fruitfully combined to solve some of the problems that afflict each of the accounts. From the dynamic semantics/DRT tradition we should adopt the idea of a structured context that keeps track of discourse referents, and the idea that the semantics of pronouns are in some way sensitive to the discourse referents in the context. But we should think of the introduction of discourse referents, and context change more generally, as a pragmatic phenomenon. We should maintain a static semantics that includes a d-type theory of pronouns, though the analysis of anaphoric definite descriptions should employ a notion of informational uniqueness rather than uniqueness in the world.


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