Unit 4 - Referring Expressions

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Adapted from: Semantics: A Coursebook by JAMES R. HURFORD, RENDAN HEASLEY, MICHAEL B. SMITH

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Unit 4 - Referring Expressions

  1. 1. 1. Develop the notion of reference  by considering the range of expressions that speakers may use to refer to some object or person in the world.Referringexpression
  2. 2.  Some expressions:1. can only be used as referring expressions2. can never be used as referring expressions3. can be used to refer or not, depending on the kind of sentence they occur in.4. Introduce the notion (equative sentence) which is closely bound up with the idea of referring expressions.
  3. 3.  A REFERRING EXPRESSION is any expression used in an utterance to refer to something or someone (or a clearly delimited collection of things or people), i.e. used with a particular referent in mind.
  4. 4.  A REFERRING EXPRESSION is any expression used in an utterance to refer to something or someone (or a clearly delimited collection of things or people), i.e. used with a particular referent in mind. ‘Fred hit me’  the speaker has a particular person in mind  ‘Fred’ is a referring expression. ‘There’s no Fred at this address’  the speaker would not have a particular person in mind  ‘Fred’ is not a referring expression 37
  5. 5.  The same expression can be a referring expression or not = may or may not have a ‘referring interpretation’ depending on the context. This is true of indefinite noun phrases. 37
  6. 6.  The linguistic context  often gives a vital clue  as to whether the indefinite noun phrase  was a referring expression or not. The linguistic context  does not always give a clear indication. 38
  7. 7. 38How can one resolve the ambiguities in these examples ?? by the use of the word certain immediately following the indefinite article a Indefinite noun phrases can be referring expressions. Whether an expression is a referring expression is heavily dependent on linguistic context and on circumstances of utterance.
  8. 8. come in various kinds: 39 proper names (e.g. John) personal pronouns (e.g. he, it) Longer descriptive expressions (e.g. The man who unified the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) can all be used as referring expressions most frequently are used as referring expressions. But there are examples in which they are not (or not clearly) referring expressions.
  9. 9.  The notion ‘referring expression’ is not always easy to apply. Part of the difficulty encountered stems from the fact that it is not clear what we mean when we say that a speaker must have a particular individual in mind in order to refer. But note that in the case of definite noun phrases also, the question of whether they are used as referring expressions is very much dependent on the context and circumstances of use.
  10. 10.  Definiteness is a condition of the referring expression. Yes/No Indefiniteness indicates that a language expression is not a referring expression. Yes/No ‘The boy is honest’ ‘The boy may get sick as the girl’ ‘Look there! I see a boy climbing the tree’ ‘A boy must have broken the window’
  11. 11.  ‘Definite’ and ’indefinite’ are grammatical terms not directly parallel to the semantic terms ‘referring expression and ‘non-referring expression. Definite & indefinite noun phrases can be used as referring expressions depending on the context and circumstances of use. Yes/No
  12. 12.  A referring expression can be one word or more. ‘Paris’ ‘The boy under the tree’
  13. 13.  Not all language expressions are referring expressions. T/F Every referring expression is a language expression. T / F The cat in ‘The cat looks like the tiger’ is a referring expression. T / F The cat in ‘Have you seen the cat?’ is a referring expression. T / F The tree in ‘The tree may be evergreen or not’ is a referring expression. T / F The referring expression has one word only. T / F
  14. 14. A different topic: starting with consideration of definite noun phrases & eventually indefinite noun phrases. Introduce the notions (opaque context) & (equative sentence) which are closely bound up with the idea of referring expressions. 39
  15. 15.  Normally, one expects that utterances which differ only in that they use different expressions referring to the same thing (or person) will have the same meaning. ‘John looks as if he’s about to faint’ ‘The person in the corner looks as if he’s about to faint’ But there is a class of exceptions to this generalization. This is the class of examples involving opaque contexts.
  16. 16.  An OPAQUE CONTEXT is a part of a sentence which could be made into a complete sentence by the addition of a referring expression, but where the addition of different referring expressions, even though they refer to the same thing or person, in a given situation, will yield sentences with DIFFERENT meanings when uttered in a given situation. OC is a linguistic context in which it is not always possible to substitute "co-referential" expressions (expressions referring to the same object) without altering the truth of sentences. So, substitution of co- referential expressions into an opaque context does not always preserve truth. (Wikipedia)
  17. 17. Part of Referring Sentencesentence expression Uttered in a given situationOpaque Same Differentcontext referent meaning Part of Referring Sentencesentence expression
  18. 18. "Lois Lois Uttered in a given situation believesbelieves X Superman Superman is a hero is a hero"Opaque Same Differentcontext referent meaning "Lois Lois believesbelieves X Clark Kent Clark Kent is a hero is a hero"
  19. 19. Q: 1,2,3, P: 40 ‘DickDick believes believesthat . . . killed John that John Smith Uttered in a given situation killed Smith’ Opaque Same Different context referent meaning the ‘Dick believesDick believes person in that the personthat . . . killed the in the corner Smith corner killed Smith’
  20. 20.  ‘Opaque’ is especially appropriate because these contexts seem to ‘block our view’ through them to the referential interpretations (referents) of referring expressions. Opaque contexts typically involve a certain kind of verb, like want, believe, think, and wonder about. Note that it was often in the context of such opacity-creating verbs that indefinite noun phrases could be ambiguous between a referring and a non-referring interpretation, as in ‘Nancy wants to marry a Norwegian’.
  21. 21.  An EQUATIVE SENTENCE is one which is used to assert the identity of the referents of two referring expressions, i.e. to assert that two referring expressions have the same referent. Tony Blair is the Prime Minister  TB = PM That woman over there is my daughter’s teacherTony Blair  { } the Prime Minister
  22. 22.  A feature of many equative sentences is that the order of the two referring expressions can be reversed without loss of acceptability. The Prime Minister is Tony Blair.  equative  reversible + acceptable However, the ‘reversal test’/ ‘inversion test’ is not a perfect diagnostic for equative sentences. What I need is a pint of Guinness  reversible + not a referring expression  has no particular referent in mind  not equative That is the man who kidnapped my boss  equative + not reversible  unacceptable.
  23. 23. • Semantics: A Coursebook by JAMES R. HURFORD ,RENDAN HEASLEY, MICHAEL B. SMITH• Opaque context – Wikipedia•Opaque context, equative sentence and predicator

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