Person Indexicals: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective

Instructor(s): Stephen Wechsler

The indexical first and second person pronouns, such as I, we, and you, have special properties that have long intrigued linguists, philosophers, and other scholars of language. This multi-disciplinary exploration of person indexicality uses material from a variety of sources: typological studies of person/number paradigms; the philosophical and semantics literature on indexicals and self-reference; and studies of personal pronoun use by both typical and autistic children. We will seek an account that does justice to the empirical observations from these disparate fields, and then explore the broader implications involving theory of mind, our cognitive ability to form models of each other's mental representations. The course is advanced, but no specific background knowledge is required, apart from some familiarity with syntax and formal semantics. It will be lecture-based. Students will write short answers to questions on each day's readings, and a longer essay on a topic of their choosing.

One course in syntax. One course in semantics.