LINGUIST List 12.2794
Thu Nov 8 2001
Review: King, Complex Demonstratives
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Yura Lander, review of King (2001)
Message 1: review of King (2001)
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 17:04:25 +1080000
From: Yura Lander <land_yumail.ru>
Subject: review of King (2001)
King, Jeffrey C. (2001) Complex Demonstratives: A
Quantificational Account. MIT Press, xiii+207pp, paperback
ISBN 0-262-61169-4, $18.00, Contemporary Philosophical
Monographs 2, A Bradford book.
Yury A. Lander, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow.
[This book was announced on LINGUIST at
For a long time demonstratives were considered as devices
which provide a direct reference to individuals existing
in the actual world. This view was based on that the
stereotypical use of demonstratives was accompanied by
speakers' demonstrations, which were thought to have a
determining role in a reference process. In his book,
Jeffrey King revolts against such theories and suggests
that complex demonstratives (of the form "that N'") are
in fact context-sensitive quantifiers rather than
This core idea is introduced in Chapter 1 ("Against
Direct Reference Accounts"). In order to challenge the
orthodox view, the author gives a number of examples
where complex demonstratives do not refer to a particular
individual the speaker has in mind. These cases are
further classified into "no demonstration no speaker
reference" (NDNS) uses like (1), "quantification in" (QI)
uses like (2), and "narrow scope" (NS) uses like (3):
(1) That hominid who discovered how to start fires was a
(2) Every father dreads that moment when his oldest child
leaves home. (p.10)
(3) That professor who brought in the biggest grant in
each division will be honored. In all ten professors
will be honored. (p.10-11)
All of these examples contradict the settled view in that
here 'that' phrases obviously cannot refer directly to
somebody/something familiar to a speaker and hence are
non-rigid, while the uses of demonstratives which were
usually considered by direct reference theorists were
certainly rigid. At the same time, King claims, we can
easily account for such utterances as (1-3) if we assume
that complex demonstratives are quantifiers. The latter
idea is further supported by accepted syntactic tests for
the quantifier raising which all corroborate that complex
demonstratives do undergo this sort of movement.
Chapter 2 ("Three Quantificational Accounts of 'That'
Phrases") is concerned with possible developments of the
ideas presented before. King argues that all possible
quantificational theories of complex demonstratives must
have in common that the interpretation of 'that' phrases
depends not on accompanying demonstrations (which can be
absent) but on a speaker's intentions, among which two
sorts are distinguished: perceptual (where the speaker
wants to talk about something s/he is/was perceiving) and
descriptive (where the speaker is going to talk about
something that - according to the speaker's beliefs -
uniquely possesses certain properties). King supposes
that these two sorts of intentions are different in that
how they affect the semantics of 'that' phrases. On the
one hand, although both sorts MUST provide some
restrictive property for the denotation of a complex
demonstrative, when a speaker has perceptual intention
this property is unequivocally 'being identical to the
object of intention' while when the intention under
discussion is descriptive the restricting property is
determined by the broad context and by default coincide
with the descriptive content of a 'that' phrase. This
results in that complex demonstratives are rigid if and
only if they are used with perceptual intention. On the
other hand, the "unique joint instantiation" of the
properties determined by the content of a complex
demonstrative and by a speaker's intention depends on the
context of utterance in the case of perceptual intention
but not in the case of descriptive intention.
In Chapter 3 ("Modality, Negation, and Verbs of
Propositional Attitude") the author discusses scope
interactions between complex demonstratives and various
operators. The general aim of this chapter is to show
that 'that' phrases can have narrow scope readings -
contra to what is predicted by direct reference theories.
King argues that although there are sentences where it is
hard to get the narrow scope reading (especially, in the
case of perceptual intentions), usually it is possible to
find a context where this reading becomes available.
Chapter 4 ("This and That: A Variety of Loose Ends") is
intended to discuss issues of King's theory which are not
raised in previous chapters. Two of these issues seems to
be most important here (and in fact, cover a large part
of the chapter).
First, the author discusses similarities and differences
between demonstratives and other determiners. King shows
that while having universal properties of determiners
(such as conservativeness in at least one of the possible
interpretations of this property), demonstratives are
closer to nonlogical determiners containing lexical items
(such as "every ... but John"). Further, when the
phenomenon of quantifier domain restriction is discussed,
it turns out that the domain of demonstratives is
restricted in the way other than that of other
determiners, and this generally supports King's view that
context-dependence (or to be more precise, intention-
dependence) is embedded in the semantics of
demonstratives and not in the pragmatics of their use.
The second important issue (which on King's confession
requires a separate monograph) concerns the
interpretation of simple 'that' (as in "Its pool is
behind that"). The author supposes that the simple 'that'
can be analyzed in the same way as complex demonstratives
are. That is, simple 'that' construction may contain an
empty N' constituent which still refer to the properties
determined by a speaker's intentions.
In Chapter 5 ("Against Ambiguity Approaches") King
defends a uniform analysis of complex demonstratives (vs.
an analysis which treats rigid and non-rigid uses of
'that' phrases as a reflection of the ambiguity of
'that'). Thus, rigid and non-rigid 'that' phrases are
opposed to definite phrases in the same respects, and
both types of complex demonstratives seem to undergo
quantifier raising - hence, an approach that treats rigid
and non-rigid 'that' phrases uniformly (such as King's
approach) is preferable.
Finally, the appendix contains a formal semantic
representation of King's theory.
This monograph is a serious and scrupulous investigation
which contains rich data and extensive discussion
(including answers to a lot of possible
counterarguments). Still, King's book is an exposition of
a SINGLE theory applied to a LIMITED collection of facts,
and this determines some of its shortcomings.
First, it is surprising that nothing is said about
semantic differences between various demonstratives (the
discussion is mainly devoted to the differences in use of
demonstratives). Perhaps, the difference between 'this'
and 'that', 'these' and 'those' is attributed exclusively
to pragmatic factors (such as, say, physical or
"conceptual" distance), but even if so, it needs to be
Second, since the author is concerned mainly with his own
theory, nothing (with the exception of some basic claims)
can be found here on how this theory is related to other
theories of quantification and context-dependence and how
the relevant data is related to similar phenomena.
Nevertheless, I am sure that a brief look on similar
phenomena could increase our knowledge of the deep
mechanisms described in the monograph. For example, a
reader acquainted to the long discussion of specificity
could find that the problems raised in King's book
regarding demonstratives resemble the problems arising
with the interpretation of 'certain' phrases including
their QI uses such as (4) discussed by Hintikka (1986)
and Enc (1991).
(4) According to Freud, every man unconsciously wants to
marry a certain woman -- his mother. (Hintikka 1986: 332)
Even more generally, one may relate the presented theory
to various treatments of context-dependency, especially
those which deal with binding implicit variables (e.g.,
Partee 1989) (since implicit property variables which
affect the semantics of demonstratives play an important
role in King's formal representation).
Note, however, that none of these remarks applies to
essentials of King's theory, to which I now turn. In
fact, I would like to discuss only few of important
claims forming basis of the theory introduced in the
1) Demonstratives are determiners (i.e. they "contribute
two-place relations between properties to propositions"
(p.24); note the non-standard view on determiners). King
argues for this claim mainly demonstrating certain
similarities between the behavior of complex
demonstratives and that of other quantifiers including
definite phrases. Note, however, that definite phrases
are not always thought to be quantifiers, especially when
their anaphoric use is emphasized (as in Heim's (1982)
theory of file change semantics). Unfortunately, the
anaphoric use of demonstratives escaped from King's
attention, so it is not clear how he treats it
(nevertheless, this sort of use seems to be very
important in typological perspective, since in many
languages demonstratives developed either to 3rd person
pronouns or to definite articles).
Still, this is not to say that the idea that
demonstratives are (semantic) determiners is wrong. The
only claim I would like to make here is that this idea is
theory-dependent to a considerable degree.
2) The interpretation of complex demonstratives requires
the presence of some (additional) restricting properties
uniquely instantiated in an object of a speaker's
intention. This idea seems to be a valuable gain, since
it not only contrast demonstratives with a number of
semantically close expressions, but also allows to
account for some interesting facts which turn out to be
quite far from the stereotypical use of demonstratives.
Let me give an example. Bowdle & Ward (1995) found out
that generic demonstratives (as in "Those Labradors make
great pets") are likely to be used with more specific
terms of kinds (cp. #"Those dogs make great pets").
King's theory can easily account for this: the more
specific a kind is the more likely its instances will
have some relevant unique property.
3) The distinction between perceptive and descriptive
uses of demonstratives also seems to be very useful not
only in the cases provided by King. Thus, it seems that
in many languages demonstratives are used both with
perceptive and descriptive intentions, although there can
be special (demonstrative-like) words used only with
descriptive intentions. And this could be another
argument against approaches postulating that
demonstratives are ambiguous between rigid (perceptive)
and non-rigid (descriptive) uses.
As I have already said, these are only some of important
topics touched upon in King's monograph. Many others
(such as the correlation between rigidness and a certain
sort of a speaker's intention) require great attention. In
any case, the theory proposed by King (unlike the "direct
reference" theory) does account for different uses of
demonstratives, and as such deserves consideration.
Bowdle, B. F. & G. Ward (1995) Generic demonstratives.
Proceedings of the 20th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley
Linguistic Society, Berkeley: BLS, 32-43.
En�, M. (1991) The semantics of specificity. Linguistic
Inquiry 22 (1), 1-25.
Heim, I. (1982) The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite
Noun Phrases. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of
Hintikka, J. (1986) The semantics of A CERTAIN.
Linguistic Inquiry 17 (2), 331-336.
Partee, B. H. (1989) Binding implicit variables in
quantified contexts. Papers from 25th Regional
Meeting, Chicago Linguistic Society, Chicago: CLS,
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
I am a research fellow in the Institute of Oriental Studies,
Moscow. My main interests include the typology of noun phrases,
quantification, and Austronesian and Slavic linguistics.