On Problems with Descriptivism: Psychological Assumptions and Empirical Evidence

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Abstract:

We offer an empirical assessment of description theories of proper names. We examine empirical evidence on lexical and cognitive development, memory, and aphasia, to see whether it supports Descriptivism. We show that description theories demand much more, in terms of psychological assumptions, than what the data suggest; hence, they lack empirical support. We argue that this problem undermines their success as philosophical theories for proper names in natural languages. We conclude by presenting and defending a preliminary alternative account of reference from a developmental perspective.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0017.2010.01410.x

Affiliations: Department of Psychology Department of Linguistics University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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