Philosophical Studies

, Volume 125, Issue 1, pp 1–25 | Cite as

Conversational Implicature And The Referential Use of Descriptions

  • Thomas D. Bontly


This paper enters the continuing fray over the semantic significance of Donnellan’s referential/attributive distinction. Some holdthat the distinction is at bottom a pragmatic one: i.e., that the difference between the referential use and the attributive use arises at the level of speaker’s meaning rather the level of sentence-or utterance-meaning. This view has recently been challenged byMarga Reimer andMichael Devitt, both of whom argue that the fact that descriptions are regularly, that is standardly, usedto refer defeats the pragmatic approach. The present paper examines a variety of issues bearing on the regularity in question: whether the regularity would arise in a Russellian language, whether the regularity is similar to the standard use ofcomplex demonstratives, and whether the pragmatic approach founders on the problem of dead metaphors. I argue that the pragmatic approach can readily explain all of these facets ofthe referential use of descriptions.


Pragmatic Approach Conversational Implicature Semantic Significance Approach Founder Dead Metaphor 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Connecticut StorrsUSA

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