Yu Izumi 和泉悠

I'm a philosopher working on questions that have to do with human natural language. My research ares include philosophy of language, philosophy of linguistics, epistemology, natural language semantics, and pragmatics.

I earned PhD in Philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before that I did my undergraduate work at Osaka University, a large public school in the southwest of Japan, where a Merleau-Ponty scholar was its president until recently. My senior thesis advisor was a Fichte/Hegel scholar. I still believe I could toil through Kant's Critiques with a gigantic German dictionary and luxurious time. I also spent three quarters at the University of California, Los Angeles as a visiting student. 

Recent Activities

『名前と対象:固有名と裸名詞の意味論』(勁草書房より発売中 サンプル公開されています)

Definite Descriptions and the Alleged East-West Variation in Judgments about Reference (forthcoming in Philosophical Studies)

Yu Izumi, Masashi Kasaki, Yan Zhou, Sobei Oda


Machery et al. (2004) presented data suggesting the existence of cross-cultural variation in judgments about the reference of proper names. In this paper, we examine a previously overlooked confound in the subsequent studies that attempt to replicate the results of (Machery et al., 2004) using East Asian languages. Machery et al. (2010; 2015) and Sytsma et al. (2015) claim that they have successfully replicated the original finding with probes written in Chinese and Japanese, respectively. These studies, however, crucially rely on uses of articleless, 'bare noun phrases' in Chinese and Japanese, which according to the linguistic literature are known to be multiply ambiguous. We argue that it becomes questionable whether the extant studies using East Asian languages revealed genuine cross-cultural variation when the probes are reevaluated based on a proper linguistic understanding of Chinese and Japanese bare noun phrases and English definite descriptions. We also present two experiments on native Japanese speakers that controlled the use of ambiguous bare noun phrases, the results of which suggest that the judgments of Japanese speakers concerning the reference of proper names may not diverge from those of English speakers.





"There is no problem for Predicativism to be solved by Predicativism" With Kent Erickson (日本科学哲学会第49回年次大会)

According to Predicativism, proper names as such are predicates that are semantically on a par with common nouns, referring to no particular individuals. A typical occurrence of a proper name within a sentence, however, constitutes a rigidified incomplete definite description together with an overt determiner that is analogous to the definite article the. In her 2015 Analysis article, “A problem for predicativism solved by predicativism,” Fara attempts to answer an objection to Predicativism raised by Hawthorne and Manley (2012), in which they compare the following pair of sentences:
(1) In every race, John won.
(2) In every race, the John won.
Imagine that, in all the contextually salient races, exactly one competitor is named “John,” and each John wins each race. (2) seems acceptable in this scenario: it can mean that, for each race, the unique person named “John” in that race won. On the other hand, Hawthorne and Manley claim, an analogous bound-into reading of (1) “is (at best) much harder to access” (p. 236). On the standard Predicativist semantic analysis, John in (1) is preceded by a silent determiner, the function of which is presumably identical to the definite article the. If Predicativism is correct, then a bound-into reading must be available to (1). Fara acknowledges the observed contrast between (1) and (2), and she presents a syntactic account that prevents (1) from having a bound-into reading. Schoubye (2016) criticizes Fara’s account as an empirically false claim.
In this paper, we present experimental data that show that a bound-into reading is indeed available to (1). We conducted a truth-value judgment task on native English speakers, asking them whether a given sentence is true, false, or neither against a vignette similar to the scenario above. For both (1) and (2), over 90% of the participants judged them true (N=60 for each condition). It is plainly false that a bound-into reading of (1) is harder to access. Based on these results, we argue that the debate between Fara and Schoubye is wrongheaded, and that a possible contrast between (1) and (2) must be accounted for in a different way.

Lukas Rieser, Yu Izumi, Magdalena Kaufmann, Stefan Kaufmann, and Muyi Yang, "What -tai teaches us about wanting,” (Poster Presentation) 

2016 京都大学アカデミックデイ 「研究者と立ち話」コーナーにポスター出展しました 版権らしきものを除いたポスターはこちら (pdf 3.7 MB)


According to “Predicativism” about proper names, names are predicates that are semantically on a par with common nouns, but they form singular expressions together with an overt or covert determiner in an argument position of a sentence (Burge 1973; Elbourn 2005; Fara 2015). A Predicativist analysis of names adequately explains many important characteristics of names (e.g. rigidity). 
Predicativism has a serious challenge that has not been addressed in previous research. García-Ramírez and Shatz (2011) argue that, from the vantage point of developmental psychology, any forms of Descriptivism about proper names as well as Predicativism fail to account for some of the well-documented facts about the early development of child language and cognition. First, there is evidence that infants show comprehension of proper names at 6 months of age, earlier than they start learning common nouns. Second, infants at the early stage of development do not show an understanding of property concepts; for example, 12-months-olds are unable to distinguish two objects differing in color, shape, etc.
Since the Predicativist theorist typically treats proper and common nouns on a par and analyzes a name as signifying a metalinguistic property (e.g. “being called ‘Mary’”), Predicativism seems incompatible with these developmental facts that indicate there is a fundamental distinction between proper and common nouns. The goal of this paper is to formulate and defend a simpler version of Predicativism, “Minimal Predicativism,” that can accommodate these facts about child development.
Within the framework of generative linguistics, each common noun as an item in the lexicon can be understood as a pair of semantic and phonetic features. For example, the noun tree can be described as <\ˈtrē\, T(x)>, where \ˈtrē\ stands for its phonological characteristics and T(x) its semantic characteristics. T(x) is a conceptually rich monadic predicate that appropriately applies only to trees. Minimal Predicativism states that the semantic feature of a proper name lacks a conceptually rich content: it merely expresses the bare minimum structural information of a monadic predicate. For example, Mary is analyzed as <\ˈmer-ē\, F(x)>, where F(x) appropriately applies to every object in the domain. Since the presence of the form F(x) is a prerequisite for the acquisition of any conceptually rich predicate, such as T(x), the acquisition of proper names is expected to precede that of common nouns. Furthermore, the presence of F(x) does not require a grasp of a conceptual property. For these reasons, Minimal Predicativism answers the objection raised by García-Ramírez and Shatz.
According to this proposal, the semantic content of each proper name is the same as the rest. The differing phonetic features of names, however, explain why names can be used differently to refer to different individuals. When a proper name is used within an utterance, the fact that a name with a particular sound was used can be included in the common ground of a conversation (Stalnaker 2014), and the individual uniquely associated with that sound can be contextually determined. Thus, Minimal Predicativism is as descriptively adequate as the extant Predicativist analyses of names.

CONTACT: yuizumi [at] gmail [dot] com