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Title: Contextualism challenged : three puzzles concerning indexicality and context-sensitivity
Author: Petzolt, Sebastian
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 0424
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis contains three papers, Indexicality and Co-Reference, Subtle Indexicals: Kaplanian Semantics and the Answering Machine Paradox, and Compounds in Context. Each paper presents a set of linguistic data that challenges our understanding of context-sensitivity. The first two papers consider certain utterances of indexical-containing sentences and show that Kaplan's theory of indexicals cannot assign the correct content to the utterances in question. The third paper rebuts an argument according to which a certain version of Contextualism is incoherent with the Principle of Compositionality. Indexicality and Co-Reference considers sentences in which a given indexical occurs multiply, such as 'The man I see now is younger than the man I see now'. While there are true utterances of this sentence, Kaplan's account implies that all of the sentence's utterances are false. Although Kaplan's theory can be revised so as to avoid the problem, the revised theory is substantially less attractive than the original theory. Subtle Indexicals presents and ultimately strengthens the so-called Answering Machine Paradox. Roughly, while Kaplan's theory implies that utterances of 'now' and 'here' always refer to the time and place of the utterance, there is linguistic evidence to the contrary, including instances of the so-called historic present: 'It is 14 July 1789. Now the partisans storm the Bastille.' Several solutions to the paradox are considered, but it is argued that they are unsuccessful. Compounds in Context takes a more positive stance. The paper notes that noun-compounds like 'carbon filter' and 'fish van' are intuitively context-sensitive. Then an argument is presented according to which Contextualism about noun-compounds is inconsistent with the Principle of Compositionality. The argument is rebutted and a Contextualist semantic theory for noun-compounds is developed. In sum, each paper starts from linguistic intuitions, shows that taking these intuitions at face value leads to a puzzle about context-sensitivity, and asks whether a semantic theory can be developed that solves the puzzle.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available