Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Necessary and sufficient for being an indexical

What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a lexical item's being an indexical? I'm thinking about this to answer a question that Bill Lycan raised in conversation. What differentiates an indexical from a deictic term more generally? Indexicals are a subset of deictic terms, but the converse is not true, i.e. they are not the same set. 'Come' is not an indexical, but it is deictic. This is an important question to answer for the debate about the semantics/pragmatics distinction. Maybe Ken Taylor is on the right track when he says that not all context-sensitivity is the same. There can be things that are context-sensitive, like 'I', which fall into the domain of logic and semantics. Then there are things that are speech situationally sensitive, like 'this', which fall into the domain of action and pragmatics. I don't quite understand what differentiates a speech situation from a context, but it seems like a promising idea. Perry makes a distinction along these lines. The discourse situaiton is the situation (in the situation semantics sense) in which a speaker makes an utterance. A resource situation is a situation that is salient and accessible that supplies information needed to understand (not sure if this is exactly right) the meaning of some of the terms of the utterance. Resource situations are needed to understand demonstratives, for example. The two sets of distinctions seem similar although Perry's distinctions are purely for semantic purposes while Taylor's are for pragmatics as well.

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