Philosophical Studies

, Volume 149, Issue 3, pp 355–366 | Cite as

Communication and indexical reference

  • Jonas Åkerman


In the debate over what determines the reference of an indexical expression on a given occasion of use, we can distinguish between two generic positions. According to the first, the reference is determined by internal factors, such as the speaker’s intentions. According to the second, the reference is determined by external factors, like conventions or what a competent and attentive audience would take the reference to be. It has recently been argued that the first position is untenable, since there are cases of mismatch where the intuitively correct reference differs from the one that would be determined by the relevant internal factors. The aim of this paper is to show that, contrary to this line of argument, it is the proponent of the second position that should be worried, since this position yields counterintuitive consequences regarding communicative success in cases of mismatch.


Reference Indexicals Demonstratives Communication Intentions 



I would like to thank Peter Pagin, Mikael Pettersson, and an anonymous referee for useful comments on earlier drafts.


  1. Åkerman, J. (Forthcoming). A plea for pragmatics. Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-008-9365-z.
  2. Bach, K. (1992). Paving the road to reference. Philosophical Studies, 67, 295–300. doi: 10.1007/BF00354541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Corazza, E., Fish, W., & Gorvett, J. (2002). Who is I? Philosophical Studies, 107, 1–21. doi: 10.1023/A:1013111419036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dummett, M. (1980). Frege’s distinction between sense and reference. In Truth and other enigmas (2nd ed.). London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  5. Evans, G. (1982). The varieties of reference. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  6. Gauker, C. (2008). Zero tolerance for pragmatics. Synthese, 165, 359–371. doi: 10.1007/s11229-007-9189-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gorvett, J. (2005). Back through the looking glass: On the relationship between intentions and indexicals. Philosophical Studies, 124, 295–312. doi: 10.1007/s11098-005-7780-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Heck, R. (1995). The sense of communication. Mind, 104, 79–106. doi: 10.1093/mind/104.413.79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kaplan, D. (1989). Demonstratives. In J. Almog, J. Perry, & H. Wettstein (Eds.), Themes from Kaplan (pp. 481–564). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Pagin, P. (2008). What is communicative success? Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 38, 85–116. doi: 10.1353/cjp.0.0011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Predelli, S. (1998). I am not here now. Analysis, 58(2), 107–115. doi: 10.1111/1467-8284.00110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Predelli, S. (2002). Intentions, indexicals and communication. Analysis, 62(276), 310–316. doi: 10.1111/1467-8284.00376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Quine, W. V. O. (1992). Pursuit of truth (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. Romdenh-Romluc, K. (2006). I. Philosophical Studies, 128, 257–283. doi: 10.1007/s11098-004-7792-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations