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Volume 43, Issue 1-2


Fictional Names in Psychologistic Semantics

Emar Maier
Published Online: 2017-06-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tl-2017-0001


Fictional names pose a difficult puzzle for semantics. How can we maintain that Frodo is a hobbit, while admitting that Frodo does not exist? To dissolve this paradox, I propose a way to formalize the interpretation of fiction as ‘prescriptions to imagine’ (Walton 1990) within a psychologistic semantic framework in the style of Kamp (1990). In the context of an information exchange, the interpretation of an assertion triggers a dynamic update of a belief component in the interpreter’s mental state, while in the context of a fictional narrative, a statement like Frodo is a hobbit triggers an update of an imagination component. In the computation of these updates, proper names – referential, empty, or fictional – are uniformly analyzed as presupposition triggers. The possibility of different attitude components in a single mental state sharing discourse referents and thereby referentially depending on each other ultimately allows us to account for the central paradox of fictional names and related puzzles.

Keywords: semantics; fiction; imagination; reference; (fictional) proper names; mental states; mental files; (propositional) attitudes; presupposition; Discourse Representation Theory


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-06-08

Published in Print: 2017-06-27

Citation Information: Theoretical Linguistics, Volume 43, Issue 1-2, Pages 1–45, ISSN (Online) 1613-4060, ISSN (Print) 0301-4428, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tl-2017-0001.

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