Quantifiers and Referential Use

  • Mario Gómez-TorrenteEmail author
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 373)


Referential uses of quantified determiner phrases other than descriptions have not been extensively considered. In this paper they are considered in some detail, and related to referential uses of descriptions. The first aim is to develop the observation that, contrary to the currently received view that it is only for descriptions that referential uses are frequent and standard, arising in run-of-the-mill contextual scenarios, this is in fact the case for all usual kinds of quantifier phrases. A second aim is to offer a preliminary discussion of how these data about quantifier phrases other than descriptions constrain the feasible extensions of theories of descriptions to cover the referential uses of quantifier phrases in general. I argue that the data don’t support a semantic explanation of referential uses of descriptions, and in fact suggest problems for several semantic theories of referential uses of quantifier phrases in general. I also argue that pragmatic theories of referential uses of quantifier phrases in general might plausibly explain standard referential uses as involving a genus of particularized conversational implicatures in which no conversational maxims are “flouted” or even violated, rather than generalized implicatures or particularized implicatures of Grice’s “exploitative” type. I nevertheless emphasize that I don’t take the dispute between semantic and pragmatic theories of referential use to have been satisfactorily resolved.


Definite Description Contextualist Theory Definite Article Pragmatic Theory Pragmatic Explanation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Research supported by the Mexican CONACyT (CCB 2011 166502) and by the Spanish MICINN and MINECO (research projects FFI2008-04263 and FFI2011-25626).


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones FilosóficasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMéxico D.F.Mexico

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