Research

Publications:

Book Reviews:


Short abstracts of some articles that I am currently working on (for full drafts, email: MahantN@ceu.edu):

[Title Suppressed]

A distinctive and widely recognized feature of proper names is that, unlike other words, names can be used across languages without modification. Yet, this feature of names — the prevalence and acceptability of their ‘cross-linguistic’ uses — has been mostly overlooked within philosophy. This article highlights the theoretical importance of the cross-linguistic uses of names in the debate concerning their syntax and semantics. It identifies an anomalous phonological feature of names in their cross-linguistic uses and argues that the source of the anomaly is the widespread view that proper names are syntactically simple. It also argues that such uses provide evidence for the syntactic view that the phonological articulation of a name is mentioned and not used in the syntax — a view that is consistent with some but not all semantic views of names. By examining the hitherto overlooked cross-linguistic uses of names, this article provides new evidence in favour of a certain variety of metalinguistic views concerning the syntax and semantics of names.

[Title Suppressed]

In recent years, some hitherto ignored uses of proper names — particularly, uses of names other than their use to refer to objects — have received increased attention from semantic theorists. However, the lack of a principled basis for drawing the distinction between uses that a semantic theory of names must account for (‘literal’ uses) and uses that are not relevant for semantic theorizing about names (‘non-literal’ uses) represents an important deficiency in the debate. A prominent objection (‘Sceptic’s Challenge’) raised by some theorists against semantic views that take the predicative uses of names (e.g., uses like the use of the name ‘Alfred’ in ‘Some Alfreds are crazy’) to be relevant in semantic theorizing exemplifies the kind of problem that can result from this deficiency. This article proposes a general manner of drawing the line between literal and non-literal uses of names and by doing so, also provides a response to the Sceptic’s Challenge.

[Title Suppressed]

Metalinguistic views of proper names are sometimes written off on the ground that such views are ‘blatantly circular’ (Saul Kripke, Naming and Necessity, p. 72). This article exonerates metalinguistic views from the charge of circularity. I begin by distinguishing a word from its associated form: while words have semantic properties, forms—which are types of sounds, inscriptions, or signs—do not. Quotation marks can be used to form a quote-name of either a word or its associated form. I argue that the impression of circularity in metalinguistic views results from the decision to resolve the ambiguity of quotation in the metalinguistic specification of the meaning of a proper name in one way rather than the other—i.e., by taking quotation as forming quote-names of words. Metalinguistic views, however, are not committed to this understanding of quotation.