Professor Paul ElbourneBack to People

Department: Philosophy
College appointment: Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy
Academic position: Professor of the Philosophy of Language


I read Greats and took an MPhil in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology at Oxford before doing my PhD at MIT. There I followed the interdisciplinary PhD programme in semantics, which involves training in linguistics and philosophy. Before coming to Magdalen, I taught at Marlboro College, New York University, and Queen Mary, University of  London.


I give undergraduate tutorials and classes in Logic, General Philosophy, Ethics, Knowledge and Reality, General Linguistics, and the Philosophy of Logic and Language.  At the graduate level, I teach philosophy of language.

Research Interests

My main research interests lie in natural language semantics and the philosophy of language. I also have interests in metaethics and metaphysics.

Selected Publications

Forthcoming.   Literal vs enriched meaning: It’s raining. In The Wiley Companion to Semantics, edited by Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann. Wiley.

2017. Definite descriptions and negative existential quantifiersPhilosophical Studies. DOI: 10.1007/s11098-017-0925-2.

2016.  Incomplete descriptions and indistinguishable participantsNatural Language Semantics 24(1): 1-43

2013. Definite Descriptions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2011. Meaning: A Slim Guide to Semantics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2010a. The existence entailments of definite descriptions. Linguistics and Philosophy 33(1): 1–10.

2010b. On bishop sentences. Natural Language Semantics 18(1): 65–78.

2010c. Why propositions might be sets of truth-supporting circumstancesJournal of Philosophical Logic 39(1): 101–111.

2008a. The argument from binding. Philosophical Perspectives 22: 89–110.

2008b. Demonstratives as individual concepts. Linguistics and Philosophy 31(4): 409–466.

2005. Situations and Individuals. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

2001. E-type anaphora as NP-deletion. Natural Language Semantics 9(3): 241–288.1