Indefinites in Action

  • Hsiang-Yun ChenEmail author
Conference paper


Karen Lewis (Philos Stud, 158:313–342, 2012) argues that recognizing the importance of plans helps settle a debate regarding the semantics and pragmatics of indefinites. More specifically, Lewis argues against the dynamic approach (e.g., Kamp (In Groenendijk et al., Formal Methods in the Study of Language, pp. 277–322, Mathematics Center, Amsterdam, 1981), Heim (The semantics of definite and indefinite noun phrases, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1982), Groenendijk and Stokhof (Linguist Philos, 14:39–100, 1991), Kamp and Reyle (From Discourse to Logic, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1993), and Asher and Lascarides (Logics of Conversation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003)), according to which indefinite expressions are subject to a semantic Novelty condition. Drawing on data of the so-called summary uses, she claims that Novelty is best analyzed as a pragmatic, cancelable implicature. This chapter throws significant doubt on Lewis’ analysis. Not only is her objection in large part a misreading of dynamic semantics, but the proposed pragmatic account offers no real explanation of even the alleged counterexamples. Once we consider a wider range of linguistic phenomena involving indefinites, the verdict is on the side of the dynamic approach.


Local Plan Conversational Context Discourse Referent File Card Plan Recognition 
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.



The chapter benefits greatly from discussions with Josh Dever, Ray Buchanan, and Hans Kamp. I am also thankful for the very helpful comments from Kiki Linton Wang, as well as feedback from the audience at the IEAS conference on Language and Action. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCentenary College of LouisianaShreveportUSA

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