A question about “you” and “I”.

Consider an utterance by me of (1), with “she” used to refer to some salient woman:
(1) She thinks that I was drinking a martini earlier.
According to many people, such an utterance of (1) imposes no special demands on how the referent of “she” needs to think of me in order for what is said in the utterance to be true: she might think of me as (in a way he would naturally express by using) “that man,” “the man in the corner smoking a pipe,” “Guy,” and so forth.
By contrast, consider an utterance by me of (2), in this case addressing the same woman as “you”:
(2) You think that I was drinking a martini earlier.
According to some people, (2) differs from (1) in that, although it allows an understanding on which, like (1), it will be true however the referent of “you” thinks of me, it also has a different reading. On the second reading, some people hold that “I” is forced (in effect) to take narrow scope, so that in uttering (2) I would say something true only if the referent of “you” thought of me in a particular way, namely as (in a way he would naturally express by uttering) “you”. On this view, we can disambiguate (2) into wide scope (3) (with (4) indicating one amongst other ways in which the referent of “you” might express the reported psychological state) and narrow scope (5) (with (6) indicating the most natural way in which the referent of “you” would express the reported state of mind).
(3) You think that I<wide> was drinking a martini earlier.
(4) He was drinking a martini earlier.
(5) You think that I<narrow> was drinking a martini earlier.
(6) You were drinking a martini earlier.
I have three questions about (2).
Q1. Is it true that (2) has a narrow scope reading, or is it rather, for example, that in some cases in which (2) is natural, it will be natural to expect the referent of “you” to express their thought via (6) rather than (4)?
Q2. Is it true that (1) has no such narrow scope reading?
Q3. Assuming that something like the narrow scope reading is available in English, though not marked in articulation, are there any human languages that mark the distinction between wide and narrow readings? (Perhaps, for example, there are human languages in which analogues of (3) and (5) differ in structure; or perhaps there are such languages in which different (or differently pronounced) expressions would be used to translate “I” in order to readings (3) and (5) respectively.
I’m grateful to unpublished work by M. G. F. Martin for drawing my attention to this issue, which has also been discussed, as he notes, by Mark Richard, and John Perry and Mark Crimmins.
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5 comments
  1. Arash Thomas Afsahi said:

    It seems to me Guy that the distinction lies in thought directed @someone and thought re: someone!

    Thought directed @someone is re: someone, however, thought re: someone might not be @someone…

    In the @ case one is addressing them, hence ‘you’ is suitable for use. In the re: case one is not and so ‘he’ is in use.

    The question is important grounded on the case that one can address another in thought, have thought directed @them, without the other knowing or it being intended to be known by this other. Imaginary address. Grrreat!

    • Arash Thomas Afsahi said:

      I have thought of a further nuanced point.

      I am sitting at my table thinking in my head to myself: ‘you were drinking a martini earlier’. This could be me imagining actually saying it to you, or it could be a more introverted thought in which I am not imagining saying it to you.

      The distinction between using ‘he’ or ‘you’ may be made in this case but holding the position that there is an address of the other in one’s thought, but with no imaginary expression of the thought to the other.

      Not only does one not intend the other to know one’s thought directed @ them but furthermore one does not imagine an expression of the thought to them (even with the same lack of intention of expression).

      In the ‘he is drinking a martini case’ even if one begins to imagine to oneself expressing one’s idea to them, if I am right, at that point of imagination the ‘he’ must become a ‘you’.

      It will be difficult to come up with a situation where this is not true. E.g. talking about it to the surrounding tables with the drinker in earshot. It would require extreme mental compliancy not to think of them in expressing the thought.

      • Arash Thomas Afsahi said:

        When beginning to imagine expressing to him that he was drinking a martini earlier the ‘he’ becomes a ‘you’ when imaginining the ‘actual’ expression, at which point one is necessarily addressing them, be this as indirect an address as one can imagine…

  2. I believe food was to be a regular part of this blog, but I’m getting the feeling that summertime was more a time for food indulgence than food reflection as might have appeared in this blog. There are many possible topics. I continue to want to see something on the potato top pie and whether or not it can properly be considered a desert because it is so delicious and rewarding.

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