, Volume 80, Supplement 2, pp 363–404 | Cite as

Referentialism and Predicativism About Proper Names

  • Robin JeshionEmail author
Original Article


The debate over the semantics of proper names has, of late, heated up, focusing on the relative merits of referentialism and predicativism. Referentialists maintain that the semantic function of proper names is to designate individuals. They hold that a proper name, as it occurs in a sentence in a context of use, refers to a specific individual that is its referent and has just that individual as its semantic content, its contribution to the proposition expressed by the sentence. Furthermore, a proper name contributes its referent to the proposition expressed by virtue of mechanisms of direct reference to individuals, not by virtue of expressing properties. Predicativists embrace an opposing view according to which proper names are just a special kind of common noun. Their semantic function is to designate properties of individuals. A proper name, as it occurs in a sentence in a context of use, expresses a property, and that property is its contribution to the proposition...


Semantic Theory Singular Term Common Currency Proper Noun Common Noun 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Warm thanks to Michael Glanzberg and Karen Lewis for their exceptionally sharp comments, both critical and constructive, on my presentations at the Ohio Reference Workshop and Pacific APA, respectively. Three anonymous referees offered extensive incisive comments on a previous draft that contributed to major improvements. For helpful feedback and discussion, thanks also to Ashley Atkins, Delia Fara, Simon Goldstein, Hans Kamp, Jeff King, Ora Matushansky, Michael Nelson, Geoffrey Nunberg, Dolf Rami, Francois Recanati, Josef Stern, and Ken Taylor.


  1. Ariel, M. (2001). Accessibility theory: An overview. In T. Sanders, J. Schliperoord, & W. Spooren (Eds.), Text Representation (pp. 29–87). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boër, S. (1975). Proper names as predicates. Philosophical Studies, 27, 389–400.Google Scholar
  3. Burge, T. (1973). Reference and proper names. Journal of Philosophy, 70, 425–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Elbourne, P. (2005). Situations and individuals. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Elugardo, R. (2002). The predicate view of proper names. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (Eds.), Logical form and language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Fara, D. G. (2011). Names as predicates.
  8. Fara, D. G. (2014a). ‘Literal’ uses of proper names. In A. Bianchi, (Ed.), On Reference (pp. 249–277). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Fara, D. G. (2014b). Names are predicates. Philosophical Review.Google Scholar
  10. Green, J. (2006). An Abundance of Katherines. New York: SPEAK.Google Scholar
  11. Gundel, J. K., Hedberg, N., & Zacharski, R. (1993). Cognitive status and the form of referring expression in discourse. Language, 69, 274–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jeshion, R. (2014a). Names not predicates. In A. Bianchi (Ed.), On Reference (pp. 223–248). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Jeshion, R. (2014b). A Rejoinder to Fara’s “’Literal’ uses of proper names”. In A. Bianchi, (Ed.), On Reference (pp. 278–292). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Kaplan, D. (1990). Words. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 64, 93–119.Google Scholar
  15. Kibrik, A. (2011). Reference in discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. King, J. (2006). Singular terms, reference, and methodology in semantics. Philosophical Issues, 16, 141–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Leckie, G. (2013). The double life of proper names. Philosophical Studies, 165, 1139–1160.Google Scholar
  18. Matushansky, O. (2005). Call me Ishmael. In: E. Maier, C. Bary, J. Huitink (Eds.), Proceedings of sinn und bedeutung 9. Google Scholar
  19. Matushansky, O. (2006). Why rose is the rose: on the use of definite articles in proper names. In: O. Bonami, P. Cabredo Hofherr (Eds.), Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 6: 285–307.Google Scholar
  20. Matushansky, O. (2014). The other Francis bacon: On non-bare proper names.Google Scholar
  21. Nunberg, G. (2004). The pragmatics of deferred interpretation. In L. Horn, G. Ward (Eds.), The handbook of pragmatics (pp. 344–364). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Rami, D. (2013) On the unification argument for the predicate view of proper names. Synthese, 1–22.Google Scholar
  23. Rami, D. (2014). The use-conditional indexical conception of proper names. Philosophical Studies, 168, 119–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sainsbury, M. (ms). Proper names in contexts created by intensional verbs.Google Scholar
  25. Sawyer, S. (2010). A modified predicate theory of proper names. In S. Sawyer (Ed.), New Waves in Philosophy of Language (pp. 206–225). Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire.Google Scholar
  26. Segal, G. (2001). Two theories of names. Mind and Language, 15, 547–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sloat, C. (1969). Proper Nouns in English. Language, 45(1), 26–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stanley, J. (2002). Nominal restriction. In G. Preyer & G. Peter (Eds.), Logical Form and Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Stanley, J., & Szabo, Zoltan Gendler. (2000). On quantifier domain restriction. Mind and Language, 15, 219–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations