Following Kaplan, call expressions like ‘I’,  ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’, and ‘now’ that seem to be associated with easily stateable rules by means of which they secure semantic values in context pure indexicals; and call expressions like ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘you’ and ‘that’ used demonstratively demonstratives.  For lack of a better term, call both pure indexicals and demonstratives indexicals.  Though these expressions all have uses where they are used to talk about particular people, times, places and so on (e.g. the indexicals in a normal use of ‘I am hungry, so let’s eat now.’), as Nunberg [1993] pointed out, they also have uses in which they allow the sentences they occur in to convey claims that don’t seem to be about particular people, times, places and so on:

 

1. (uttered by Glenn standing at the newly opened door, scolding Tracy for opening the door so readily when she heard the doorbell) ‘I could have been a murderer!’

 

2. (uttered pointing at the Pope) ‘He is usually Italian.’

 

3. (uttered by a condemned prisoner) ‘I am traditionally allowed to order whatever I want for my last meal.’

1 has a use on which it conveys something like the claim that the person at the door could have been a murderer instead of Glenn.  2 has a use on which it conveys something like the claim that more often than not the Pope is Italian.  3 has a use on which it can be true even though the relevant traditions say nothing about the speaker.  Call these the descriptive readings of 1-3.  In the present work I criticize Nunberg’s account of how descriptive readings arise and propose an alternative account.