Friday, April 14: Jeffrey King

Please join us this Friday as Jeff King (Philosophy, Rutgers University) presents work on context-sensitivty.

Date and time: Friday, April 14, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Strong contextual felicity and felicitous underspecification


Consider the class of contextually sensitive expressions whose context independent meanings do not by themselves suffice to secure semantic values for those expressions in contexts.  Demonstratives and deictically used pronouns are the most obvious examples of such expressions.  But arguably gradable adjectives, modals, possessives, tense, quantifiers, expressions that take implicit arguments (‘ready’) and ‘only’ are examples as well.  I’ll call such expressions supplementives to highlight the fact that they need some sort of supplementation in contexts to acquire semantic values in those contexts.  The purpose of the present paper is to investigate two properties of at least some supplementives that prima facie seem to be in tension with one another.  On the one hand, in at least some cases in which a supplementive is used in context but there is insufficient information in the context for hearers to recover a unique semantic value for the expression, the result is infelicity.  On the other hand, in at least some cases a supplementive can be felicitously used in a case in which there is not enough information in the context to recover a unique semantic value for the expression.  I’ll argue that all supplementives have both kinds of uses; and I’ll suggest a way to reconcile the claims that supplementives possess each of these apparently conflicting properties.

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