Indexicals and Demonstratives

Eros Corazza
Table of contents

In thinking and talking about items in our surroundings, we often rely on the context of use and thought. We thus succeed in talking and thinking about something because we are in a given context. We are, we could say, context-bound creatures. We share that with other organisms. Yet language is species-specific. And natural languages such as French, English or Japanese, could not be conceived independently of the context in which utterances are produced. First of all, in natural languages we have tools whose specific function is to exploit the context of use in order to select the things we aim to talk about. We can use the very same words and yet refer to very different things, just as we can use the same hammer to nail different nails. When you use ‘I’ you refer to yourself, whereas when I use it, I refer to myself. I cannot refer to you using ‘I’. We use the very same linguistic expression with the same conventional meaning to refer to different individuals. It depends on who uses it that determines who the referent is.

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