Gutzmann, Daniel and Eric McCready. 2014. Using descriptions. Submitted to Empirical Issues in Syntax and Semantics 10.


Referential uses of descriptions have been extensively studied from both semantic and pragmatic perspectives. This paper proposes a new treatment of this phenomenon which uses the multidimensional tools developed to account for what now goes under the label of expressive or use-conditional meaning. The basic idea is to treat the “descriptive content” of referential descriptions as use-conditional. We show that doing so allows a satisfying explanation of their meaning and use. From the semantic side, the theory brings out interesting parallels to appositive constructions and theories of proper names; from the pragmatic side, it allows an explanation of their use as reference vehicles and of the cooperative aspects of misdescriptions.

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