SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

An Inquisitive Approach to Anaphoric Reference
(Philosophy of Language, )

The phenomenon of anaphoric reference has proven to attract significant attention from both the philosophical and the linguistic community (Quine 1960, Geach 1967, Kamp 1981, Heim 1983). Prevalent issue that is raised by them seems to be the one concerning the choice of formal tool that, on one hand will be a neat logical system in which the relation between anaphor and its antecedents is clearly represented, and on the other will capture the subtleties of how anaphoric reference actually works in natural language.

One feature that is present in almost all of the formal approaches to anaphora is the assumption that the coreference between the anaphor and its antecedent is given; the two are usually represented in the formal analysis as variables sharing the same index.

Following Bittner (2011), I want to challenge this assumption. In my talk I claim that all anaphora, alike in many aspects to indexicals, is ambiguous and that language users have to resort to metalinguistic knowledge in order to resolve this ambiguity. In most cases this resolution is pretty straightforward and automatic, however the existence of ambiguous anaphora proves that it is not always the case.

The framework which I chose for elucidating this idea is the one of inquisitive semantics (Ciardelli et al. 2018), and more precisely dynamic inquisitive semantics (Dotlačil & Roelofsen 2019) as dynamic theories are best suited to deal with anaphora. Inquisitive semantics proposes that there are in fact two kinds of semantic content -- informative and inquisitive one. Some sentences, such as most declaratives, have only informative content, others, such as most interrogatives -- only inquisitive one. Moreover, there are sentences, such as certain disjunctions or questions which carry presuppositions, that have both kinds of content. I propose to also classify the sentences containing anaphoric reference as having both informative and inquisitive content.

Finally, I put forward a proposal of a method of explaining why in most cases this ambiguity is visible only in the logical form of the sentences and is readily resolved in the surface form by appealing to the notion of attention.

Chair: Gabriel Levc
Time: 18:50-19:20, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.007
Remark: (Online Talk)

Antonina Jamrozik 
(University of Warsaw, Institute of Philosophy, Poland)

Antonina Jamrozik is a PhD student at University of Warsaw. Her interests lay on the intersection of philosophy of language and linguistics. Her work mainly concerns semantics of interrogatives and theories of presuppositions.

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