The Meaning of Us

Kepa Korta
2016 Zenodo  
In this paper, I offer a content–pluralistic account of the meaning of the first–person plural pronoun «we», building upon John Perry's (2006, 2012 and forthcoming) view on indexicals and demonstratives. I argue that (i) unlike «I», «we» is not a pure (Kaplan) or automatic (Perry) indexical: i.e., it is an indexical whose referents are partly determined by the speaker's intention; and that (ii) it's not wholly discretionary either, since its character or meaning does require that the speaker be
more » ... part of its referent. In this sense, «we» is not just the plural counterpart of «I», but is closer to «now» and «here». I consider an alternative approach defended by Vallée (1996) that takes the meaning of «we» as reducible to the meaning of «I» plus the different combinations of «you» singular, «he/she», «you» plural, and «they». I argue that, other things being equal, a basic economy principle of meaning favors my approach, and that the cases of co–reference and anaphora posed by Vallée himself and Nunberg (1993) are better explained by it. Besides, I discuss seemingly non referential uses of «we», as in Nunberg's cases of «we [the condemned prisoners]», in which besides referring to herself the speaker does not seem to have any other particular individual in mind to whom she intends to refer. I contend that my approach provides a natural account of these cases.
doi:10.5281/zenodo.3551848 fatcat:wgtfhv6b5rhexaf4h2oebwvu3i