Beyond Reference : Concepts, Procedures and Referring Expressions

Scott, Kate (2011) Beyond Reference : Concepts, Procedures and Referring Expressions. In: Escandell-Vidal, Victoria , Leonetti, Manuel and Ahern, Aoife, (eds.) Procedural Meaning: Problems and Perspectives. Bingley, U.K. : Emerald Group Publishing Limited. pp. 183-203. (Current Research in the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface, 25(25)) ISSN (print) 1472-7870 ISBN 9780857240934


This chapter focuses on the selection and interpretation of referring expressions. Working within the relevance theory pragmatic framework, I make two main claims. Firstly, by taking seriously the idea that referring expressions carry information which interacts with relevance theory principles, we can formulate an account of referring expression use that does not rely on a system of linguistic marking. I argue that whilst formulations of Accessibility, Givenness and so on may be descriptively useful, they are not necessary in an analysis which incorporates the notion of procedural meaning. Secondly, I argue that a relevance-theoretic analysis allows us to look beyond the mere act of referring and consider how referring expressions might contribute to what is implicated as well as what is explicitly expressed. This idea is missing from most accounts and it goes a long way towards explaining the choices made by speakers when selecting one referential expression rather than another. I focus on data comparing the acceptability of definite descriptions with complex demonstratives in various discourse contexts to explore this approach.

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