Last fall, I went to CSSP in Paris to present some work I had done with Eric McCready on an expressive/use-conditional approach to referentially used descriptions. The ideas for this go back to an exchange Eric and I had at the Frankfurt main station in March 2013 (after my defense). Since then, we managed to developed those ideas first into a talk and now a paper which we submitted to the CSSP proceedings aka Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 10, which again are edited by Chris Piñon.
Abstract Referential uses of descriptions have been extensively studied from both semantic and pragmatic perspectives. This paper proposes a new treatment of this phenomenon which uses the multidimensional tools developed to account for what now goes under the label of expressive or use-conditional meaning. The basic idea is to treat the “descriptive content” of referential descriptions as use-conditional. We show that doing so allows a satisfying explanation of their meaning and use. From the semantic side, the theory brings out interesting parallels to appositive constructions and theories of proper names; from the pragmatic side, it allows an explanation of their use as reference vehicles and of the cooperative aspects of misdescriptions.
Any comments on the manuscript are very much welcome!
Download the manuscript on its publication page.