UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 11 (1999)

The referential-attributive distinction
- a cognitive account


In this paper I approach the referential-attributive distinction in the interpretation of definite descriptions, originally discussed by Donnellan (1966), from a cognitive perspective grounded in Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Theory. In particular, I argue that definite descriptions encode a procedural semantics which is neutral as between referential and attributive readings, with each reading arising as a result of the differing links that exist between different mental representations and the world, rather than as a result of the differing links between language and mental representations.

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