Skip to main content

The Pragmatics of Empty Names

  • Nicole Wyatt (a1)

Fred Adams and collaborators advocate a view on which empty-name sentences semantically encode incomplete propositions, but which can be used to conversationally implicate descriptive propositions. This account has come under criticism recently from Marga Reimer and Anthony Everett. Reimer correctly observes that their account does not pass a natural test for conversational implicatures, namely, that an explanation of our intuitions in terms of implicature should be such that we upon hearing it recognize it to be roughly correct. Everett argues that the implicature view provides an explanation of only some of our intuitions, and is in fact incompatible with others, especially those concerning the modal profile of sentences containing empty names. I offer a pragmatist treatment of empty names based upon the recognition that the Gricean distinction between what is said and what is implicated is not exhaustive, and argue that such a solution avoids both Everett's and Reimer's criticisms.

Hide All
Adams F., and Dietrich L. A. 2004What's in a (n Empty) Name?Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 85: 125–48.
Adams F., Fuller G., and Stecker R. 1997The Semantics of Fictional Names.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 78: 128–48.
Adams F., and Stecker R. 1994Vacuous Singular Terms.” Mind and Language, 9, 4: 387401.
Adams F., Stecker R., and Fuller G. 1992The Semantics of Thought.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 73: 375–89.
Bach Kent 1994Conversational Impliciture.” Mind and Language, 9, 2: 124–62.
Bach Kent 2001a “Speaking Loosely: Sentence Nonliterality.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 25: 249–63.
Bach Kent 2001b “You Don't Say?Synthese, 128: 1544.
Bach Kent 2002 “Seemingly Semantic Intuitions.” In Meaning and Truth. Edited by Campbell J. Keim, O'Rourke M., and Shier D.. New York: Seven Bridges Press, pp. 2133.
Bezuidenhout A. 2002Truth-Conditional Pragmatics.” Philosophical Perspectives, 16: 105–34.
Braun David 1993Empty Names.” Noûs, 27: 449–69.
Braun David 2005Empty Names, Fictional Names, Mythical Names.” Noûs, 39: 596631.
Cappelen H., and Lepore E. 1997On an Alleged Connection between Indirect Speech and the Theory of Meaning.” Mind and Language, 12: 278–96.
Cappelen H., and Lepore E. 2005a Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism. Maiden, MA: Blackwell.
Cappelen H., and Lepore E. 2005b “Radical and Moderate Pragmatics: Does Meaning Determine Truth Conditions?” In Semantics versus Pragmatics. Edited by Szabó Z. Gendler. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 4571.
Carston R. 1988 “Implicature, Explicature and Truth-Theoretic Semantics.” In Mental Representations: The Interface between Language and Reality. Edited by Kempson R.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 155–81.
Carston R. 2002Linguistic Meaning, Communicated Meaning, and Cognitive Pragmatics.” Mind and Language, 17, 1/2: 127–48.
Carston R. 2004 “Explicature and Semantics.” In Semantics: A Reader. Edited by Davis S. and Gillon B.. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 817–45.
Everett Anthony 2003Empty Names and ‘Gappy’ Propositions.” Philosophical Studies, 116: 136.
Recanati F. 1989The Pragmatics of What Is Said.” Mind and Language, 4: 295329.
Recanati F. 1993 Direct Reference: From Language to Thought. Oxford: Blackwell.
Recanati F. 2001 ldquo;Literal/Nonliteral.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 25: 264–74.
Reimer Marga 2001The Problem of Empty Names.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 79, 4: 491506.
Salmon Nathan 1998Nonexistence.” Nous, 32, 3: 277319.
Soames Scott 2005 “Naming and Asserting.” In Semantics versus Pragmatics. Edited by Szabó Z. Gendler. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 356–82.
Travis Charles 1985On What Is Strictly Speaking True.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 15: 187229.
Travis Charles 1996Meaning's Role in Truth.” Mind, 105: 451–66.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 22 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 247 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.