On the Meaning of 'Now'


According to the simple hypothesis, present in philosophical and linguistic tradition since at least Kaplan (1989) and Kamp (1971), 'now', like 'I', is a pure indexical: an expression who's linguistic meaning fully determines the referent on an occasion of use. Where the two expressions differ is in their linguistic meaning (Kaplanean character): 'I' picks out the speaker of the utterance, whereas 'now' picks out the time of the utterance. This paper argues that while the simple hypothesis gets the main insight right — 'now' really is a pure indexical — it posits the wrong linguistic meaning. The meaning of 'now' is not linked to any time, but rather to the most prominent state. We show how this view is compatible with a wide arrange of data and offer an analysis that adopts recent work on prominence by Stojnic et al. (2013), Stojnic et al. (2015) and Stojnic (2015). We note that our proposal indirectly contributes to a debate about the linguistic reality of underlying states.