chapter  Chapter 8
18 Pages

Pronouns, Variables, and Bound Anaphors

WithHanoch Ben-Yami

Before proceeding to a comparison of pronouns and variables, I shall note another distinction between the referring expressions of the predicate calculus and those of natural language, a distinction that I shall use shortly. While the latter can have descriptive content, the former lack it. By 'descriptive content' I mean what Strawson (1950, p. 21) characterized as conventional limitation of reference to things of a certain general kind, or possessing certain general characteristics. 1 The rule for the referential use of the expression 'tall man' is that it should be used to refer to tall men, of 'I' that it should be used to refer to the speaker, of 'these children' that it should be used to refer to children, and so on. (Excepting cynical, metaphorical, or other secondary uses, where the reference is to particulars of which the descriptive content of the expression, although still relevant to what is conveyed, is not true.) By contrast, the proper names and variables of the predicate calculus can be used to refer to anything, be it a person, an object, an event or what have you. (Referring expressions with descriptive content can be added to the calculus – the iota operator, for instance, introduces such expressions; but given my purpose in the discussion below, it is important to note that they are not part of the standard version of the calculus.)