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Descriptive indexicals: a semantic-pragmatic study

Grant number: 16/01185-2
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2016
Effective date (End): March 31, 2018
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Linguistics - Linguistic Theory and Analysis
Principal researcher:Renato Miguel Basso
Grantee:Felipe Manca Dal Ava
Home Institution: Centro de Educação e Ciências Humanas (CECH). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil


This project aims to investigate the so-called "descriptive indexicals" which are indexical items that have an interpretation similar to that of defined descriptions. Such an interpretation and availability go against the main theories about indexicals items to consider them as items directly referential, based on original ideas by Kaplan (1989). As an example of descriptive indexical, we can take the sentence below:(said by Dilma Rousseff in 2015): (1) The Constitution of Brazil gives me the final word. In (1) the item 'me' should be interpreted as the description "Brazil's president" and not simply as Dilma Rousseff. This project will investigate the availability of such interpretations, their semantic and/or pragmatic nature, articulating theories that are presented in the semantics of the classic spectrum, as a theory of dynamic semantics (as Discourse Representation Theory (DRT)). In addition to the empirical research, the debate proposed in this project is meta-theoretical, bringing the evidence of descriptive indexicals in the foreground, in order to evaluate how a theory about indexicals can handle these interpretations without regard them simply as the result of coercion or reinterpretations. Beyond the theoretical confrontation (and relatively independent of it), we also portray a dispute over which linguistic-epistemological level the phenomenon must be dealt with, as there are good arguments so we can sustain the emphasis for the semantic level or the pragmatic one. (AU)

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