According to the orthodox account developed by Kaplan, indexicals like I, you, and now invariably refer to elements of the context of speech. This essay argues that the orthodoxy is wrong. I, you, and the like are shifted by certain modal operators and hence can fail to refer to elements of the context, for example, I can fail to refer to the speaker. More precisely, indexicals are syntactically akin to logical variables. They can be free, in which case they work, roughly, on the Kaplan model. But they can also be bound: this happens, in a systematic fashion, when they are in the scope of epistemic modals or attitude verbs. The new view has two interesting philosophical consequences. First, it vindicates a broadly Fregean perspective on referential expressions, essentially refuting the idea that indexicals are rigid designators. Second, it suggests a new picture of the interaction between context and linguistic meaning: compositional semantics does not need to look at the context and hence has no need for a context parameter.
Paolo Santorio; Reference and Monstrosity. The Philosophical Review 1 July 2012; 121 (3): 359–406. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-1574427
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