Professor Paul ElbourneBack to People

Subjects: Philosophy
Department: Philosophy
College appointment: Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy
Academic position: Professor of the Philosophy of Language
Officer: Clerk to the College


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 General Philosophy, Moral Philosophy (Mill), Ethics, Practical Ethics, Knowledge and Reality, General Linguistics, Wittgenstein, and the Philosophy of Logic and Language.  At the graduate level, I teach formal semantics and the philosophy of language.

Research Interests

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

Selected Publications

2022. Weather predicates, binding, and radical contextualism. Mind & Language 37(1): 56–72.

2021a. Evidence for generalized quantifier semantics in the interpretation of the English neuter singular pronoun. Natural Language Semantics. 29(4): 579–600.

2021b. Presupposition, assertion, and definite descriptions. Linguistics and Philosophy 44(6): 1215–1253.

2020. Literal vs enriched meaning: It’s raining. In The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics, edited by Daniel Gutzmann, Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann. Wiley. [Draft]

2019. Vagueness, contextualism, and ellipsis. Semantics and Pragmatics 12(22): 1–16.

2018. Definite descriptions and negative existential quantifiersPhilosophical Studies 175(7): 1597–1612.

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

2016b. Multi-sentential category mistakes. Inquiry 59(5): 542–558.

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.