Demonstratives, definite descriptions and non-redundancy

  • Kyle Hammet BlumbergEmail author


In some sentences, demonstratives can be substituted with definite descriptions without any change in meaning. In light of this, some have maintained that demonstratives are just a type of definite description. However, several theorists have drawn attention to a range of cases where definite descriptions are acceptable, but their demonstrative counterparts are not. Some have tried to account for this data by appealing to presupposition. I argue that such presuppositional approaches are problematic, and present a pragmatic account of the target contrasts. On this approach, demonstratives take two arguments and generally require that the first, covert argument is non-redundant with respect to the second, overt argument. I derive this condition through an economy principle discussed by Schlenker (in: Maier, Bary, Huitink (eds) Proceedings of Sub9, 2005).


Demonstratives Definite descriptions Presupposition Minimize Restrictors! 



Versions of this paper were presented at a department colloquium at the University of the Witwatersrand, at a meeting of the junior reading group at Institut Jean Nicod, and at a semantics seminar run by Philippe Schlenker. I would like to thank all of the participants at those presentations for their feedback. Thanks to Chris Barker, Manuel Križ, Murali Ramachandran, Daniel Rothschild and Yael Sharvit for helpful discussion of various points. Also, Ben Holguín, Ethan Nowak, James Pryor, Stephen Schiffer and Philippe Schlenker provided useful comments on earlier drafts. Finally, I would especially like to thank Cian Dorr for his continued encouragement, and for providing valuable feedback at every stage of the project’s development.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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