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Barbara Abbott (1943) is an American linguist. She earned her PhD in Linguistics in 1976 at the University of California at Berkeley. From 1976 through 2006 she was a Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages at Michigan State University, with a joint appointment in Philosophy[1]. She is now a Professor Emerita.

Her prolific research in areas of semantics and pragmatics examines topics in reference and noun phrase interpretation, looking at philosophically influenced aspects of word meaning, presupposition, and conditional sentences[2]. She has been pivotal in uniting formal semantics, which adapts analytical techniques from logic to natural languages, and analytical pragmatics in order to order clarify the workings of definite and indefinite noun phrases in English. Her work surveying the uses of definiteness in different languages shows how it has mainly seen in terms of familiarity or in terms of uniqueness[3]. Her book Reference, focusing on noun phrases as referring expressions, shows that the issue of how speakers use language forms to refer to entities has been at the heart of debate among linguists and philosophers for centuries[4].

In 1993 she received an Outstanding Faculty & Staff Award at MSU for "contributions to equal opportunities for achievement and providing an environment that encourages excellence"[5]. Abbot has served on the editorial board of academic journals including The Journal of Pragmatics[6], Natural Language and Linguisitic Theory[7], and Intercultural Pragmatics[8].

Upon retirement from MSU, Abbot and her husband, philosopher Larry Hauser, have been volunteering in ShareCare, a non-profit organization that provides Michigan residents with affordable assisted living services[9].



  • Reference. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010.

=Significant articles[]

Abbott, B. 2011. "Out of control: The semantics of some infinitival VP complements, " In Pragmatics and Autolexical Grammar: In honor of Jerry Sadock, edited by Etsuyo Yuasa, Tista Bagchi and Katharine Beals. pp. 229–242.

Abbott, B. 2010. “Where have some of the presuppositions gone?” Drawing the Boundaries of Meaning: Neo-Gricean Studies in Pragmatics and Semantics in Honor of Laurence R. Horn, B. Birner, G. Ward (eds.) Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Abbott, B. 2008. “Presuppositions and Common Ground,” Linguistics and Philosophy.

Abbott, B. 2006. “Definite and Indefinite," Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics.

Abbott, B. 2004. “Definiteness and Indefiniteness,” The Handbook of Pragmatics, L Horn and G. Ward (eds.) Malden. MA: Blackwell.

Abbott, B. 2003. "A reply to Szabo's "Descriptions and uniqueness," Philosophical Studies.

Abbott, B. 2003. "Some notes on quotation," Belgian Journal of Linguistics.

Abbot, B. 2002. "Definiteness and Proper Names: Some Bad News for the Description Theory," Journal of Semantics.

Abbot, B. 2002. "Donkey Demonstratives," Natural Language Semantics.

Abbott, B. 2000. “Presuppositions as nonassertions,” Journal of Pragmatics.

Abbott, B. 1999. "Support for a unique theory of definiteness," Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistics Theory (SALT) 9.

Abbott, B. 1997. “A note on the nature of 'Water'," Mind.

Abbott, B. 1997. “Definiteness and existentials,” Language.

Abbott, B. 1996. “Some remarks on specificity," Linguistic Inquiry.

Abbott, B. 1996. "Doing without a partitive constraint," In J. Hoeksema (ed.) Partitives: Studies on the Syntax and Semantics of Partitive and Related Constructions.

Abbott, B. 1995. "Some notes on specificity," Linguistic Inquiry.

Abbott, B. 1993. “A pragmatic account of the definiteness effect in existential sentences,” Journal of Pragmatics.

Abbott, B. 1976. "Right node raising as a test for constituenthood," Linguistic Inquiry.

  1. Reyes, Julie. "Contributing to the Love of Wisdom" (PDF). Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  2. "Barbara Abbot". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  3. Barker, Chris (2004). "Possessive Weak Definites". University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  4. "LINGUIST List 22.267: Philosophy of Language: Abbott (2010)". January 16, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  5. "Award Recipients RCPD". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  6. "Journal of Pragmatics Editorial Board". Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  7. "Editorial Note". Natural Language & Linguistic Theory. November 1989. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  8. "Front matter, Volume 11, number 3". Intercultural Pragmatics. 2014. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. Hubbell, Amy (August 16, 2012). "East Leland couple helps drive ShareCare". Leelanau Enterprise. Retrieved June 6, 2015.