Two experiments examined the creation of name expressions for reference, with specific regard to Olson’s (1970) “cognitive theory of semantics.” In the first experiment, subjects were merely asked to make up names for each of a series of abstract symbols embedded in displays. In the second experiment, subjects were asked to make up names in order to verbally distinguish between symbols in each display. Only under the second procedure were the predictions of Olson’s analysis confirmed. These results suggest that naming, and therefore reference in general, cannot be comprehensively treated in a theory that fails to explicitly deal with referential purposes.
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