2007 Pragmatics of empty names Dialogue

Fred Adams and collaborators advocate a view on which empty-name sentences semantically encode incomplete propositions, but which can be used to conversationally implicate descriptive propositions. This account has come under criticism recently from Marga Reimer and Anthony Everett. Reimer correctly observes that their account does not pass a natural test for conversational implicatures, namely, that an explanation of our intuitions in terms of implicature should be such that we upon hearing it recognize it to be roughly correct. Everett argues that the implicature view provides an explanation of only some of our intuitions, and is in fact incompatible with others, especially those concerning the modal profile of sentences containing empty names. I offer a pragmatist treatment of empty names based upon the recognition that the Gricean distinction between what is said and what is implicated is not exhaustive, and argue that such a solution avoids both Everett’s and Reimer’s criticisms.