The Semantics and Pragmatics of Complex Demonstratives


Ernest Lepore and Kirk Ludwig




Complex demonstratives, expressions of the form ‘That F’, ‘These Fs’, etc., have traditionally been taken to be referring terms. Yet they exhibit many of the features of quantified noun phrases. For example, it is possible to quantify into and out of the nominal of a complex demonstrative, as in ‘All of the students in this room admire that man they are talking about’ and ‘That woman wearing the diamond pendant spent a fortune acquiring it.’  This has led some philosophers to suggest that demonstrative determiners are a special kind of quantifier, which can be paraphrased using a context sensitive definite description. Both these views contain elements of the truth, though each is mistaken. We advance a novel account of the semantic form of complex demonstratives that shows how to reconcile the view that they function like quantified noun phrases with the view that simple demonstratives function as context sensitive referring terms wherever they occur. The account treats complex demonstratives as quantified noun phrases in which a simple demonstrative appears in the nominal restriction, in effect, ‘That F is G’ is treated as sharing logical form with ‘The F which is that is G.’  Once this identification has been made, all of the puzzling phenomena accompanying the use of complex demonstratives fall into an intelligible pattern.