Person, context and perspective

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It is argued that the indexicality of first person pronouns arises from a restriction on the pronouns themselves, as opposed to any operator that binds them. The nature of this restriction is an asyntactic constant function selecting an entity or entities from the context of utterance (following Kaplan 1989). Constant function pronouns do not require an antecedent, neither an operator nor an argument, although this does not prevent them from participating in bound readings if an appropriate antecedent is introduced. The notion that agents of contexts and agents of propositional attitudes are versions of the same operator-variable relation is thus rejected, along with certain less fine-grained versions of the nature of de se interpretation. Consequently, indexical pronouns such as first person ones contrast with logophoric pronouns, which are necessarily operator-bound by perspectival operators introduced by propositional attitude verbs. Scope-sensitive properties of operator-binding and the perspectival interpretations that are imposed on logophoricity distinguish the latter from constant function phenomena, which are sensitive neither to scope, as it is usually treated, nor perspectival shifts. Constant function phenomena are also detectable as restrictions on third person forms, and two such examples are lightly explored: the English generic pronoun one and the proximate/obviative distinction in languages like Fox.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-153
Number of pages47
JournalItalian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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