Ambiguity and Indexicality

Scott Soames

in Beyond Rigidity

Published in print January 2002 | ISBN: 9780195145281
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833702 | DOI:
 Ambiguity and Indexicality

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In this chapter, the account of meaning and assertion developed in Ch. 3 is extended and refined in order to handle the ambiguity of many proper names, and the context sensitivity of indexicals. The notion of semantic content is explained, and distinguished (in the case of indexicals) from that of meaning. It is argued that the semantic content of an indexical in a context – that which it contributes to the proposition semantically expressed in the context by a sentence containing it – is its referent, and the principles relating semantic content to information asserted and conveyed in different contexts are modified to account for indexicality. On this picture, the semantic content of a sentence relative to a context is information that a competent speaker/hearer can confidently take to be asserted and conveyed by an utterance of the sentence in the context, no matter what else may be asserted, conveyed, or imparted. It is a sort of minimal common denominator determined by the linguistic knowledge shared by all competent conversational participants, around which they can structure the totality of information the sentence is used to communicate in the given situation.

Keywords: ambiguity; context; context sensitivity; indexicality; indexicals; linguistic knowledge; names; semantic content

Chapter.  6191 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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