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CUNY Colloq: Karen Lewis

March 22, 2017 @ 4:15 pm - 6:00 pm

Each colloquium will be held on Wednesday at 4:15 P.M in GC rooms 9204/9205, except as otherwise noted.

March 22nd • Jerrold Katz Memorial Lecture
Karen Lewis (Barnard/Columbia)
“Discourse Referents, D-type Pronouns, and Dynamic Pragmatics”

AbstractThere are two opposing strategies in accounting forunbound anaphora, the phenomenon exemplified by (1) and (2):

(1)  A woman walked in.  She ordered lunch.

(2)  If a farmer owns a donkey, he beats it. 

One is in the tradition of dynamic semantics and Discourse Representation Theory, which has it that indefinite descriptions introduce into the conversational context novel discourse referents, formal objects that represent the objects under discussion, while the semantic function of pronouns and definite descriptions is to update familiar discourse referents (those already in the context).  The other is the d-type theory of pronouns, which maintains a classical semantics, arguing that pronouns go proxy for definite descriptions like “the woman who walked in” and “the farmer who owns the donkey”.  I argue that aspects of these two strategies can be fruitfully combined to solve some of the problems that afflict each of the accounts. From the dynamic semantics/DRT tradition we should adopt the idea of a structured context that keeps track of discourse referents, and the idea that the semantics of pronouns are in some way sensitive to the discourse referents in the context.  But we should think of the introduction of discourse referents, and context change more generally, as a pragmatic phenomenon. We should maintain a static semantics that includes a d-type theory of pronouns, though the analysis of anaphoric definite descriptions should employ a notion of informational uniqueness rather than uniqueness in the world. 


March 22, 2017
4:15 pm - 6:00 pm
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