Could evoke possibly mean just 'to register something in your mind (for the first time)' and not 'to summon up what has registered in your memory'? I just couldn't make sense out of this explanation below if it only meant the latter. Or, I say it should include both calling up memories, or better yet bringing up what has registered in your mind to a conscious level, and registering new information to make this sentence coherent.

(1) a. In her talk, Baldwin introduced the notion that syntactic structure is derivable from pragmatic principles.

A Heim-style approach to definiteness, where use of a definite noun phrase is felicitous just in case its referent has been previously evoked (...), provides neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for the felicitous use of the definite article.

For instance, in the example given above in (1a), the notion that syntactic structure is derivable from pragmatic principles is felicitous even when the claim in question represents brand-new information (...). Crucially, however, it also represents information that is uniquely identifiable, in that there is exactly one notion that is denoted by the noun phrase. Thus, the noun phrase itself uniquely specifies the claim in question. (Uniqueness, Familiarity, and the Definite Article in English by Betty Birner and Gregory Ward)

The thing is you don't have to have previously evoked something to say 'the something' the second time or later. Granted unless you are aware of it at the time of citing it, or so the speaker thinks, he/she cannot use 'the.' But it doesn't have to be 'summoned up' before it is mentioned with 'the.' Someone just says it and it stays in your conscious mind, and the speaker refers to it with 'the.' This is not evoking it, isn't it?

  • You do not seem to be selecting any answers ever for the questions that ytou ask ... :) Might be helpful if you did ... – Araucaria Dec 17 '15 at 13:25

I would suggest this is a malapropism and the authors meant invoke instead of evoke.


Bring or recall (a feeling, memory, or image) to the conscious mind:
the sight evoked pleasant memories of his childhood
Elicit (a response):
the Green Paper evoked critical reactions from various bodies



to use a law in order to achieve something, or to mention something in order to explain something or to support your opinion or action (my emphasis);
to request help from someone, especially a god , when you want to improve a situation :
Their sacred dance is performed to invoke ancient gods


This would make the sentence "... where use of a definite noun phrase is felicitous just in case its referent has been previously mentioned ..." or "brought to bear" or even "called on".

Evoke is derived from (and literally means) "calling-out", the calling of a memory into being from the recesses of the mind. Invoke is the opposite: to call upon something which exists, in order to make use of it.


I can see how the word might apply to what I myself would prefer to call the initial nominating of something or someone. Per OED, the oldest sense refers to a magical act of summoning or calling-forth, and the more familiar sense derives from that.

OED s.v. evoke, v., 2. transf. and fig., b.:

To call (a feeling, faculty, manifestation, etc.) into being or activity. Also, To call up (a memory) from the past.

The initial nomination or introduction of something or someone in discourse is not, as our questioner objects, necessarily calling up in the audience a memory from yet earlier in the discourse or from other earlier experience; yet it does call that something or someone, or the idea thereof, into being or activity within the mind of the hearer or reader.

Particularly from a metaphysically idealist perspective, in which ideas in the mind are the most real of entities, this may seem an act of quasi magical power, akin to the calling-into-existence of light in Genesis 1.3.

  • But for something to be (magically or not) summoned or called forth, it needs to exist somewhere first. I'm not sure you directly answered the OP's question, but if I'm interpreting your answer correctly, I'd say you're inferring that "evoke" cannot mean the initial registering of information in the brain, rather it's the recollecting or summoning of something that's already there. – Kristina Lopez Jul 10 '14 at 16:40
  • @KristinaLopez: Where was light before Yahweh said "Let there be light"? And what I am saying is that evoke need not, by the definition quoted, mean only the recollecting of something already in memory, though that definition explicitly includes that sense. – Brian Donovan Jul 10 '14 at 16:54
  • Presumably Yahweh already had "light" in his mind when he evoked it into reality. ;-) I'm interpreting the definition to mean that the "feeling, faculty or manifestation" already existed in mind before being recollected or called into another form. – Kristina Lopez Jul 10 '14 at 17:05
  • And the realization was not perfectly simultaneous with the initial divine conception, will, and articulation, @KristinaLopez? Ah, lass, they're piling up the faggots for thee! As to the definition, the Also seems to demarcate two rather different senses from one another. – Brian Donovan Jul 10 '14 at 17:19

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