Skip to main content

Dorothy Ahn published in Linguistics and Philosophy

Prof. Dorothy Ahn has a new article published in Language and Philosophy: Indirectly direct: An account of demonstratives and pointing

Congratulations, Dr. Ahn!

Here is her abstract for this paper:

There has been a long debate on whether demonstratives are directly referential as Kaplan originally argued, or indirectly referential like a definite description. 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.