1   Reference

Reference is a relation between expressions and the universe.

1.1   Theories

1.1.1   Direct reference theory (Referentialism)

A direct reference theory is a theory of language that claims:

  • The meaning of a word lies in what it points out in the world

John Stuart Mill was one of the earliest modern advocates of a direct theory beginning in 1843.

In 'A System of Logic', Mill introduced a distinction between connotation and denotation.

Connotation is a relation between a name and one more more attributes.

Example: "Widow" denotes widows and connotes the attribute of being female and of having been married to someone who is now dead.

If a name is connotative, its denotation is in virtue of objects predicable of the attributes it connotes. Connotation thus determines denotation.

A name can have connotation but no denotation.

According to Mill, connotation of a name can be taken to be its meaning.

1.1.2   Indirect (Mediated) Reference Theory

An indirect reference theory is a semantic theory that posits:

  1. Words refer to something in reality
  2. There is more to meaning of a name than simply the object to which it refers

Frege is the most famous advocate.


# Conceptualism

  • Plato
  • Locke
  • Meinong


Semantics of direct reference: theories of meaning according to which certain singular terms refer directly without the meditation of (Fregean) sense as meaning. If there are such terms then the proposition expressed by a sentence contains such a term would involve individuals directly rather by the way of the "individual concepts" or "manners of presentation" I had been taught to expect.

A term is a direct referential term iff ...

A proposition is singular if ...

  • Even if English contained no such singular terms who proper semantics was one of direct reference, could we determine to introduce such terms?
  • Even if we had no directly referential terms and introduced needs, is there a need or use of singular propositions?

A value for a variable is an individual drawn from the universe over which the variable is take to range.[1]

A variable's first and only meaning is it value.[1]

If we are to associate a proposition (not merely a truth-value) with a formula containing a free variable, that proposition seems bound to be singular.[1]

[1]"Kaplan, 1977, 'Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics, and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals"

1.2   Puzzles

1.2.1   Frege's Puzzle

Frege's Puzzle is a puzzle of identity that demonstrates that proper names connote, a claim associated with John Stuart Mill.

The puzzle appears in the beginning of "On Sense and Reference".

Claim: A name is proper if it is singular and non-connotative.
Example: "Aristotle" is proper, because it is singular and has no connotation; "Aristotle" denotes Aristotle, but does connote "the author of Metaphysics" Example: "The author of Metaphysics" is not proper, because it denotes Aristotle but connotes "The author of Metaphysics"
s = Hesperus t = Phosphorous
  1. "Hesperus is Hesperus"
  2. "Hesperus is Phosphorus"
    1. and (2) are true.
  • The identity of Hesperus and Phosphorus is the same (the planet Venus).
    1. and (2) have the same meaning by the definition of proper names.
The two statements seem to have different "cognitive value". That is, a person could believe (1) and deny (2).
  1. is analytic (tautological and contains no information
  2. is synthetic and seems to contain information
Proper names must connote.

1.2.2   Russel's Puzzle of Informative Identity

Russel's Puzzle of Informative Identity demonstrates that proper definite descriptions are not proper names.

The puzzle in appears in "On Denoting".


If A is identical with B, whatever is true of one if the true of the other:

(forall (s)
    (forall (t)
        (if (id s t)
            (forall (P)
                    (== (P s)
                        (P t))))))`
In any proposition, substituting a term for an identical term does not alter the truth or falsehood of that proposition.
s = Scott t = the author of Waverly (id s t)
"Is Scott the author of Waverly?" means the same as "Is Scott Scott?"

"Scott is the author of Waverly" is false if:

  • Multiple authors wrote Waverly
  • Waverly was never written
"Scott is Scott" is analytic (tautological) and contains no information. "Scott is the author of Waverly" is synthetic and seems to contain information. It is not a statement of identity.
Objection (Russell):

A denoting phrase is a part of a sentence and has no significance on its own account.

@ME: It's unclear if:

(== (meaning "Scott is a man")
    (man Scott))


(== (meaning "Scott is a man")
    (exists (x)
            (and (man x)
                 (id Scott x))))

The following two are true:

(== (meaning "The author of Waverly is a man")
    (exists (x)
            (and (uniquely (author Waverly) x)
                 (man x)))
(== (meaning "Scott is the author of Waverly.")
    (exists (x)
        (and (uniquely (author Waverly) x)
             (id Scott x)))

It is evident that "Scott was the author of Waverly" written out unabbreviated does not contain any constituent the author of Waverly for which we could substitute Scott.

This does interfere with the truth of inferences resulting from the make the verbal substitution of Scott for so long as the author of Waverly has primary occurrence in the proposition.

1.2.3   Russel, Problem of non-denoting phrases



(forall (s)
        (forall (P)
                (either (P s)
                        (not (P s)))))`
s = the present King of France P = is bald
Neither the extension of bald nor the extension of not-bald contain the present King of France.

1.2.4   Russel, Problem of empty logical subjects

  1. A difference between A and B subsists.

(if (not (== A B)) (exists (A - B)))

  1. A difference between A and B does not subsist.

(if (== A B) (not (exists (A - B))))

How can a non-entity be the subject of a proposition as in (2)?
Objection (Frege):

We distinguish in a denoting phrase two elements: the meaning and the denotation.

In the statement, "A difference between A and B does not subsist", "A difference" does not denote, but it has meaning.

The meaning of the proposition is composed of the meaning (not the denotation) of the constituents.

Hence, (2) is a meaningful proposition.

Rebuttal (Russel):

"The King of France is bald" does not seem to be a statement about the complex meaning of "The King of France"; it seems to be about denotation.

Frege can reply in two ways:

  1. It's nonsense. But this doesn't work, because the statement is simply false.
  2. We conventionally assign the denotation of "The King of France" to the null class, so that the statement is false. But this is artificial, and does not given an exact analysis of the matter.

Either way, this distinction of sense and reference is hard to obviously undesirable.

# Theory of language

A theory of language is ...

A semantic theory tries to explain what meaning is.

The purpose of a semantic theory is:

  • To give an account of how meanings of complex expressions are determined by the meanings of their simplest meaningful constituents.
  • To describe what is and what is not a meaningful expression
  • To describe the system relations between words and what they mean
  • To explain what meanings are

The principal semantic notions are truth and reference.

# Use-mention distinction

Word are used in such a way that the word itself is not the primary object of interest.

However, it is possible for words to be used to mention or talk about themselves.

  1. Cicero was a Roman senator
  2. Cicero is a word with six letters
  3. "Cicero" was a Roman senator
  4. "Cicero" is a word with six letters

Typically, we use single quotation marks to mention a word or phrase and double quotes to quote the words of someone else.

Example: 'Cicero' is a word with six letters.

The use-mention distinction can be generalized in a certain way to distinguish between using a language and mentioning a language.

This is the distinction between metalanguage adn object language.

Linguistics and philosophy of language are unusual in that language is used to talk about language.

We can distinguish then between the language used to express the science or philosophy and the language that is studied.

Since the language being studied is the object of study, it is called the object language.

Since the language used to express the study is in a sense higher than the language being studied, it is called he metalanguage.

When the metalanguage and the object language are different, there is relativelylittle risk of confusion.

The identity of metalanguage and object language raises philosophical problems.

Philip sheers of language distinguish between sentences, meanings, statements, and propositions.

Example: "John is a bachelor" and "John is an unmarried adult male" are different sentences that have the same meaning. Example: English "it is raining" means the same as Italian "Piove"

Sentences do not have truth value.

Example: "I am a bachelor". The truth value depends on context.

Propositions are distinct from statements


  1. "I state that John will be at the party."
  2. "I promise that John will be at the party."
  3. "I question whether John will be at the party."
  4. "I order you, John, to be at the party."

All of them can be used to express the same proposition.

  1. has the potential force to make a statement directly.
  2. has the potential to promise the proposition will be made true
  3. to question whether it is true
  4. to order that it will be made true

The same proposition can be expressed with sentences.

Example: "John is the son of Jack" and "Jack is the father of John"

A proposition has a truth value without any special force attached to it.

A statement is a proposition the truth of which the speaker has committed himself to on the basis of sufficient evidence.

The distinction between propositions and statements is explained by John Sealre in "What is a Speech Act?"

## Type-token distinction

## Corner quotes

Corner quotes function similar quotation marks, except that whereas quotation marks mention all the symbols inside of them, corner quotes mention symbols selectively; they mention all the words inside of the, but not other symbols.

Example: The X tree where X is a sequence of words

# Classification

## Verificationist theory of meaning

The verificationist theory meaning states to say an expression is meaningful is to say that there are some conditions of experience that could exist to show that the expression is true.

Note; Russel, Frege, and the Vienna Circle were proponents of this way of thinking

## Semantic Theory of Truth

The semantic theory of truth states that meaning costs of a recursive set of rules

The semantic theory of truth was produced by Alfred Tarski for formal semantics.

## Truth-conditional semantics

2   Literary Model

Traditionally, philosophers, linguistics, and psychologists have presupposed a literary model of definite reference.

Example: When Elizabeth select the noun phrase "the clown with a red nose" in talking to Sam, the assumption is that she intends it to enable him to identify the clown uniquely. Sam hears the definite description as if were reading it and, if successful, infers the identity of the referent.

The literary model make several tacit idealizations:

  1. The reference is expressed linguistically with one three standard type of noun phrase:
    .1 A proper noun ("Napoleon", "King George") 2. A definite description ("this year", "the man") 3. A pronoun ("he", "this", "they")
  2. The speaker uses the noun phrase intending the addressee to be able to identify the referent uniquely against their common ground
  3. The speaker satisfies her intention simply by the issuing of that noun phrase
  4. The course of the process is controlled by the speaker a lone


  1. In conversation, unlike writing, speakers have limited time for planning and revision. They need to overcome this limitation, and in doing so may exploit techniques possible only in conversational setting.
  2. Speech is evanescent. The listener has to attend to, hear, and try to understand an utterance at virtually the same it is being issued, which requires a type of process synchronization not found in reading.
  3. Listeners in conversation aren't mute or invisible during an utterance. Speakers may alter what they say midcourse based on what addresses say and do.

2.1   Eight Problems of the literary model

  1. Self-corrected noun phrases
  2. Expanded noun phrases
  3. Episodic noun phrases
  4. Other-correct noun phrases
  5. Trial noun phrases
  6. Installment noun phrases
  7. Dummy noun phrases
  8. Proxy noun phrases

In the first four cases, the speakers change the course of their reference after uttering an initial noun phrase, in reaction to both their own and their addressee's judgment of inadequacy or error.

In the second four cases, speakers are not merely reactive; they bring addresses into the referential process by the very design of their utterance.

The total make it clear that a conversational model of the referential process must be quite different from the literary model.

  1. Many noun phrases are distinctly nonliterary in form or nonstandard in intonation
  2. The process takes a very different course in conversation than in literature

In each case, speakers went beyond the issuing of standard noun-phrases. In three cases, speakers deliberately drew addresses into the process. In three cases, they began by knowingly issuing a question or inadequate non phrase.

In each case, the speaker and addressee put in a joint effort to make sure the reference has been understood.

### Self-corrected noun phrases

Consider a self-initiated repair:

Example: "She was giving me all the people that were gone this year I mean this quarter y'know"

The referential process clearly isn't cotemporal with one particular noun phrase, since two noun phrases were uttered in secession.

It it more naturally described as a process in which the speaker decided midcourse to repair the initial noun phrase, her change with "I mean", and then uttered "this quarter.

### Expanded noun phrase

A: Take the spout -- the little one that looks like the end of an oil can --- B: Okay A: -- and put that on top of the opening in the other large tube. With the round top.

A judged "the spout" insufficient for J to pick out the referent and expanded on it with the parenthetical noun phrase. Ordinarily, parenthetical phrases are nonrestrictive - not needed for identifying the referent. Here the parenthetical noun phrase was deem necessary.

### Episodic noun phrases

A: Take the spout -- the little one that looks like the end of an oil can --- B: Okay A: -- and put that on top of the opening in the other large tube. With the round top.

Once A completed "the other large tube" he judged that to be insufficient as well and added the phrase "with the round top" under a separate intonation contour as part of a new tone group.

He produced a single noun phrase, but intonationally, he divided it into two information units.

### Other-corrected noun phrases

A: How long y'gonna be here? B: Uh- not too long. Uh just til uh Monday. A: Til- oh yih mean like a feww f'm tomorrow. B: Yah A: [Continues]

B initiated the referential process by uttering Monday. Uncertain of the intended referent, A offered a correction, which B accepted, all before A proceeded.

### Trial noun phrases

Some noun phrases are uttered with a 'try marker' or rising intonation.

A: Okay now, the small blue cap we talked about before? B: Yeah. A: Put that over the hole on the side of that tube-- B: Yeah A: --that is nearest to the top, or nearest to the red handle.

With "the small blue cap we talked about before?", A asks B whether or not he has understood A's reference.

The process begins with A utters the phrase and ends only with B's "Yeah".

If B had not confirmed, A might expanded the noun phrase until B implicates he identified the referent.

### Installment noun phrases

Speakers can utter noun phrases in installments and invite addresses to affirm their understanding of each installment.


A: Put that over the hole on the side of that tube-- B: Yeah A: --that is nearest to the top, or nearest to the red handle.

As with the trial noun phrase, A made the course of his reference contigent on that addressee's midcourse response.

### Dummy noun phrases

Speakers sometimes initiate the referential process with dummy nouns.


  • "What's-his-name"
  • Whatchamacallit"
  • "Whatzit"
  • "Thingamabob"

The speaker recognizes these are inadequate as a definite description.

Example: "If he puts it into the diplomatic bag, as um--what's-his-name, Micky Cohn, then it's not so bad"

Dummy noun phrases are not standard and when speakers use them they do not intend them to enable their addressees to identify the referent uniquely. Dummy noun phrases are uttered only as part of a more extended process.

### Proxy noun phrases

In some cases, the speaker makes it clear that a noun phrase it to come next, but the addressee actually utters it.


A: That tree has, uh, uh, ... B: tentworms. A: Yeah B: Yeah

A initiated the referential process by halting at a place where he needed a noun phrase and uttering two 'uhs'. B helped out by offering a proxy or stand-in noun phrase she thought appropriate. A confirmed the proxy with "Yeah" and then B responds to A's full assertion. B took part in the process from the very beginning.