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date: 14 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews aspects of the way we use linguistic expressions (primarily noun phrases, NPs) to talk about things. After reviewing various types of NPs with respect to their possible use in referring (e.g. proper names, demonstratives, pronouns, definite descriptions, indefinite descriptions, generics), we turn to what it is that speakers are referring to, distinguishing real world from hypothetical and discourse referents. Figures of speech such as metonymy are briefly considered. Another important issue concerns choice of NP; for any given referent there are typically many possible expressions that could be used, and much research has concerned how the choices among them are made. Finally we consider the perspective of the addressee, and what factors (such as new and old information) play a role in interpreting intended referents.

Keywords: discourse referents, proper names, demonstratives, pronouns, definite descriptions, indefinite descriptions, generics, new information, old information

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