Referential use

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Referential use is the use that a speaker makes of a definite noun phrase when he uses the content of the noun phrase to identify an individual. The definite noun phrase in The murderer of Smith is insane is used referentially when the speaker intends to refer to a particular person which he knows to be the murderer of Smith. Donnellan (1966) distinguishes the referential use of definite noun phrases from their attributive use.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Donnellan, K. 1966. Reference and definite descriptions, Philosophical Review 75, pp.281-304