S-Space Language Education Institute (언어교육원) Language Research (어학연구) Language Research (어학연구) Volume 11 Number 1/2 (1975)
Interpretation of Indexical Sentences
- Lee, Kiyong
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 언어교육원
- 어학연구, Vol.11 No.1, pp. 45-55
- Natural languages such as English abound in examples of indexical sentences, sentences that cannot be interpreted without knowing their contexts of utterance: the time and place of their utterance as well as their speakers and listeners. Consider:
(1) Ice floats on water.
(2) The snow is melting.
(3) 1 voted for you.
While sentence (l) can be understood as a general statement about the property of ice being lighter than water without any reference to its context of utterance, the interpretation of sentence (2) requires one's knowledge of when and where it was spoken. What is being stated by (2) is not a general fact about the melting property of the snow. It states that the snow is melting at the time near the speaker's vicinity. To understand sentence (3), one again has to have extralinguistic knowledge: he has to know who its speaker and listener are. Only then can he identify which individuals are referred to by the expression "I" and by "you" and determine whether or not sentence (3) is a true statement. Accordingly, one could suggest that each sentence be implemented with such contextual information. Sentences (2) and (3) would then be represented:
(4) [Aug. 31, 1973, Austin]: The snow is melting.
(5) [Pat Nixon said to Richard Nixon]: I voted for you.
These sentences may now be replaced by non-indexical sentences:
(6) The snow was melting on Aug. 31, 1973, in Austin.
(7) Pat Nixon voted for Richard Nixon.
Sentences (4) and (5) would, then, be interpreted as equivalent to sentences (6) and (7), respectively.