Suppose I am talking to an English friend of mine and I say, "Boston is in Massachusetts." Since I am referring to the American city, I consider this sentence to be true. My friend evaluates the sentence as false, since she takes the English town of Boston in Lincolnshire to be the referent of the name "Boston."

My question is: according to which philosophical theories of meaning, if any, would the meaning of this sentence be threatened by the ambiguity of the referent?

Semantics is not an area I'm especially well-versed in, but I'm wondering if Russellian, Fregean, mentalist, etc. theories would interpret this sentence (in this context) to be lacking meaning in some way.

Note that, although I use such terms in the example, I don't think this problem necessarily depends on a truth-evaluable view of language.

  • 1
    Resolution of ambiguities by context is a question of pragmatics rather than semantics, one does not get to interpreting sentences semantically until ambiguities, in proper names in particular, are resolved, see SEP:"Near-side pragmatics includes, but is not limited to resolution of ambiguity and vagueness, the reference of proper names, indexicals and demonstratives, and anaphors, and at least some issues involving presupposition."
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 19:49
  • @Conifold And also indefinite articles like "a" which can result in amphibolies.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 19:59


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