Lingvisticae Investigationes: Fuzziness, vagueness and underdetermination in reference
Deadline for submission of proposals: 10 November 2023
Issue edited by
Laure GARDELLE & Frédéric LANDRAGIN
The act of reference links a linguistic expression, called a referring expression, to one or more entities that belong to the extralinguistic world or to a mental representation of a possible world. Most referring expressions, in their context of use, allow for the precise identification of a referent. But in a number of cases – which will be the focus of the present issue – it is not clear which referent(s) are really involved in the act of reference. This concerns, among others, the phenomena sometimes described as a case of fuzzy, vague or underdetermined reference, such as plural referents, evolving referents, human impersonal pronouns.
With these examples, the very nature of fuzzy reference challenges the principle of an absolute search for the exact referent. Why can we say ‘the Gauls invented many Celtic cosmetic instruments and products’, when it was not the same Gauls who invented each of the instruments or cosmetic products? Why choose ‘it’, not ‘them’, even though the referent is clearly in several pieces, and why is it that some languages, such as French, do not license a personal pronoun in an exact translation? Why does the language offer so many possibilities to switch from singular to plural (‘Paul bought a Toyota because they are sturdy’, Kleiber 2001), from part to whole (‘Brussels’… ‘the European Commission’), from a given referent to a near-identical one (Recasens et al. 2010), from several referents to resumptive anaphora capable of regrouping and recategorizing? Above all, why do these cases of vagueness and imprecision pose no problem at all for the recipient (Sanford et al. 2008), who interprets the message without wondering whether he/she has identified the referent(s) precisely and accurately?
- Deadline for submission: 10 November 2023
- Notifications to authors: 20 December 2023
- Submission of final versions: 10 February 2024
- Publication: the second half of 2024
(Posted 12 March 2023}