Dorothy Ahn was recently invited to give a plenary talk at this year’s Syntax, Phonology and Language Analysis 14 (SinFonIJA 14). The talk was on Wednesday, September 22, 2021.
Title: “Indirectly Direct: An account of demonstratives”
There has been a long debate on whether demonstratives are directly referential as Kaplan originally argued, or indirectly referential like a definite description. In this talk, I propose a new analysis of demonstratives that combines intuitions from both direct and indirect approaches. The demonstrative is analyzed as an indirectly referential expression with a binary maximality operator that takes two arguments, where the second argument can be a deictic pointing, an anaphoric index, or a relative clause. Direct reference is encoded not in the meaning of the demonstrative but in the meaning contributed by the pointing gesture, thus capturing both direct and indirect uses. I further propose that some pronouns in English function as demonstratives, realizing the binary structure and competing with the demonstrative. The main advantages of this proposal include a) deriving the distribution of pronominal and adnominal demonstratives systematically; b) capturing the unique interaction that demonstratives have with a pointing gesture; and c) locating English demonstratives against a larger, cross-linguistic picture.