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Deferred reference

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In natural language, a deferred reference is the metonymic use of an expression to refer to an entity related to the conventional meaning of that expression, but not denoted by it. Several types of deferred reference have been studied in the literature.



The following examples are from (Nunberg 1995):

  • (server to a co-worker in a deli) The ham sandwich is at table 7.
  • (restaurant patron to a valet, indicating a key) This is parked out back.
  • Yeats is still widely read.


  • Nunberg, Geoffrey (1979). "The non-uniqueness of semantic solutions: Polysemy". Linguistics and Philosophy. 3 (2): 143–184. doi:10.1007/BF00126509. ISSN 0165-0157. OCLC 3127141.
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey (1995). "Transfers of meaning" (PDF). Journal of Semantics. 12 (2): 109–132. doi:10.1093/jos/12.2.109. ISSN 0167-5133. OCLC 49846877. S2CID 29810216. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-12-28.
  • Ward, Gregory (2004). "Equatives and deferred reference" (PDF). Language. 80 (2): 262–289. doi:10.1353/lan.2004.0102. ISSN 0097-8507. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-03-25. Retrieved 2007-01-19.

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Deferred reference
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