Intention and Responsibility in Demonstrative Reference. A View From the Speech Act Theory


demonstrative reference
demonstrative gestures
directing intentions



Korta and Perry (2011) argue that the object a speaker refers to with a demonstrative expression combined with a pointing gesture is determined by her directing intention rather than by her demonstration. They acknowledge that our use of the ordinary concept of “what is said” is affected by our judgements about the speaker’s responsibility for the results of her careless pointing; however, they claim that the effects are perlocutionary and have no bearing on determining the referential content of the speaker’s act.

I argue that the consequences of careless pointing are illocutionary and play a role in determining demonstrative reference. I also distinguish between two types of referential content which are attributable to the speaker’s utterance and shape its discursive behaviour: what is intended, which is determined by the speaker’s directing intention, and what is public, which depends on what she can legitimately be held responsible for.



Asher, N., Lascarides, A. (2003). Logics of Conversation. Cambridge: CUP.

Austin, J. L. (1975). How to Do Things With Words. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.

Austin, J. L. (2013). Truth. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. The Virtual Issue, 1, 1–15.

Bach, K. (1992a). Intentions and Demonstrations. Analysis, 52(3), 140–146.

Bach, K. (1992b). Paving the Road to Reference. Philosophical Studies, 67(3), 295–300.

Bach, K. (2017). Reference, Intention, and Context: Do Demonstratives Really Refer? In M. de Ponte, K. Korta (Eds.), Reference and Representation in Thought and Language (pp. 57–72). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bach, K., Harnish, R. M. (1979). Linguistic Communication and Speech Acts. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Beaver D., Roberts C., Simons, M., Tonhauser, J. (2017). Question Under Discussion: Where Information Structure Meets Projective Content. Annual Review of Linguistics, 3, 265–284.

Ciecierski, T., Makowski P. T. (2022). Demonstrations as Actions. Synthese, 200(467), 1–25.

Forguson, L. W. (1973). Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts. In I. Berlin (Ed.), Essays on J. L. Austin (pp. 160–185). Oxford: The Clarendon Press.

García-Carpintero, M. (1998). Indexicals as Token-Reflexives. Mind, 107, 529–564.

Grice, P. H. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, Mass., London, England: Harvard University Press.

Hart, H. L. A. (1946). The Ascription of Responsibility and Rights. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 49(1), 171–194.

Heal, J. (2013). Illocution, Recognition and Cooperation. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, 87, 137–154.

Heck, R. G. (2014). Semantics and Context-Dependence: Towards a Strawsonian Account. In A. Burgess, B. Sherman (Eds.), Metasemantics: New Essays on the Foundations of Meaning (pp. 327–364). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kaplan, D. (1979). Dthat. In P. A. French, T. E. Uehling Jr., H. K. Wettstein (Eds.), Contemporary Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language (pp. 383–400). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Kaplan, D. (1989). Afterthoughts. In J. Almong, J. Perry, H. Wettstein (Eds.), Themes from Kaplan (pp. 567–614). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Korta, K., Perry, J. (2011). Critical Pragmatics: An Inquiry into Reference and Communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kripke, S. (1977). Speaker’s Reference and Semantic Reference. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2(1), 255–276.

Lepore, E., Stone, M. (2015). Imagination and Convention: Distinguishing Grammar and Inference in Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Leth, P. (2020). Speaker’s Referent and Semantic Referent in Interpretative Interaction. Studia Semiotyczne, 34(2), 65–80.

Leth, P. (2021). Utterance Interpretation and Actual Intentions. Axiomathes, 31, 279–298.

Matczak, M. (2016). Does Legal Interpretation Need Paul Grice? Reflections on Lepore and Stone’s Imagination and Convention. Polish Journal of Philosophy, 10(1), 67–87.

Matczak, M. (2019). Speech Act Theory and the Rule of Recognition. Jurisprudence, 10(4), 552–581.

McGowan, M. K. (2019). Just Words: On Speech and Hidden Harm. Oxford: OUP.

Mount, A. (2008). Intentions, Gestures, and Salience in Ordinary and Deferred Demonstrative Reference. Mind & Language, 23(2), 145–164.

Navarro-Reyes, J. (2010). Speech Acts, Criteria and Intentions. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, 6(1), 145–170.

Navarro-Reyes, J. (2014). Intention and Responsibility in Speech Acts. A Note on Alston. In Iwona Witczak-Plisiecka (Ed.), Cognitive and Pragmatic Aspects of Speech Actions (pp. 187–206). Frankfurt/New York: Peter Lang.

Paprzycka, K. (2014). The Social Re-Construction of Agency. In M. C. Galavotti, D. Dieks, W. J. Gonzalez, S. Hartmann, T. Uebel, M. Weber (Eds.), New Directions in the Philosophy of Science (pp 323–338). Cham, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer.

Perry, J. (2001). Reference and Reflexivity. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

Reimer, M. (1991a). Demonstratives, Demonstrations, and Demonstrata. Philosophical Studies, 63, 187–202.

Reimer, M. (1991b). Do Demonstrations Have Semantic Significance? Analysis, 51(4), 177–183.

Reimer, M. (1992). Three Views of Demonstrative Reference. Synthese, 93(3), 373–402.

Roberts, C. (1996). Information Structure in Discourse: Toward an Integrated Formal Theory of Pragmatics. In J.-H. Yoon, A. Kathol (Eds.), OSUWPL, (Vol. 49, pp. 91–136). The Ohio State University, Department of Linguistics.

Sbisà, M. (2002). Speech Acts in Context. Language & Communication, 22(4), 421–436.

Sbisà, M. (2006). Communicating Citizenship in Verbal Interaction. Principles of a Speech Act Oriented Discourse Analysis. In H. Hausendorf, A. Bora (Eds.), Analysing Citizenship Talk (pp. 151–180). Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Sbisà, M. (2007). How to Read Austin. Pragmatics, 17(3), 461–473.

Sbisà, M. (2009). Uptake and Conventionality in Illocution. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, 5(1), 33–52.

Sbisà, M. (2013a). Locution, Illocution, Perlocution. In. M. Sbisà, K. Turner (Eds.), Pragmatics of Speech Actions (pp. 25–76). Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter Mouton

Sbisà, M. (2013b). Some Remarks on Speech Act Pluralism. In A. Capone, F. Lo Piparo, M. Carapezza (Eds.), Perspectives on Pragmatics and Philosophy (pp. 227–244). Cham, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer.

Smit, J. P. (2012). Why Bare Demonstratives Need Not Semantically Refer. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 42(1), 43–66.

Smit, J. P. (2018). Speaker’s Reference, Semantic Reference and Public Reference. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics, 55, 133–143.

Thomason, R. H. (1990). Accommodation, Meaning and Implicature. In P. Cohen, J. Morgan, M. E. Pollack (Eds.), Intentions in Communication (pp. 325–363). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Tomasello, M. (2014). A Natural History of Human Thinking. Cambridge: HUP.

Witek, M. (2015a). An Interactional Account of Illocutionary Practice. Language Sciences, 47, 43–55.

Witek, M. (2015b). Linguistic Underdeterminacy: A View From Speech Acts Theory. Journal of Pragmatics, 76, 15–29.

Witek, M. (2015c). Mechanisms of Illocutionary Games. Language & Communication, 42, 11–22.

Witek, M. (2021). Illocution and Accommodation in the Functioning of Presumptions. Synthese, 198, 6207–6244.

Witek, M. (2022). An Austinian Alternative to the Gricean Perspective on Meaning and Communication. Journal of Pragmatics, 201, 60–75.

Witek, M. (in press). Interactional Negotiation. In: L. Caponetto, P. Labinaz, Paolo (Eds.), Sbisà on Speech as Action. London: Palgrave Macmillan.