Situations and Individuals

From Current Studies in Linguistics

Situations and Individuals

By Paul D. Elbourne





In Situations and Individuals, Paul Elbourne argues that the natural language expressions that have been taken to refer to individuals—pronouns, proper names, and definite descriptions—have a common syntax and semantics, roughly that of definite descriptions as construed in the tradition of Frege. In the course of his argument, Elbourne shows that proper names have previously undetected donkey anaphoric readings.This is contrary to previous theorizing and, if true, would undermine what philosophers call the direct reference theory (which holds that the sole contribution of a proper name to the truth conditions of a sentence is an individual) as well as the related doctrine that proper names are rigid designators. Elbourne begins by addressing donkey anaphora, relating other concerns about pronouns to the solution of this notorious problem. His subsequent argumentation provides a unified semantics for the donkey anaphoric and bound and referential uses of pronouns and discusses the prospect of unifying the syntax and semantics of pronouns with the syntax and semantics of normal definite descriptions. Elbourne's aim is not only to advance his proposal of a unified syntax and semantics but also to urge linguists and philosophers dealing with pronoun interpretation to consider a wider range of theories than they do at present, and to test the competing claims of description-based theories and dynamic semantics against the data.


$75.00 X ISBN: 9780262050807 280 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 2 illus.


$32.00 X ISBN: 9780262550611 280 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 2 illus.


  • A sparkling contribution to the linguistic and philosophical literature on anaphora and descriptions. Original, thorough, well-presented, and immensely thought-provoking—in short, required reading.

    Stephen Neale

    Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University

  • Paul Elbourne's work is the latest, and in several areas likely the last, word on several issues in the interpretation of nominal anaphora. As he stresses, the great variety of phenomena from several languages that can now be discussed at a high level call for a detailed discussion of critical examples. This Elbourne provides for us, now and for the future.

    James Higginbotham

    Linda Hilf Chair in Philosophy and Professor of Linguistics, University of Southern California

  • Situations and Individuals takes on an ambitious task: to present a unified analysis of proper names and all kinds of pronouns. Subtle linguistic facts are brought to bear on old and new debates in linguistics and philosophy. Elbourne's book combines the best of both disciplines.

    Angelika Kratzer

    Professor of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts Amherst