Friday, January 19: Julian Grove

Please join us this Friday as Julian Grove from the Linguistics Department presents more work on presuppositions.

Date and time: Friday, January 19, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Presuppositions as scope-takers


According to satisfaction-based accounts of presupposition, an expression’s presuppositions project out of a context surrounding the expression only if that context doesn’t satisfy (i.e., entail) the presuppositions. For example, the existence presupposition triggered by ‘his children’ in (1)

(1) If John has children, then his children are bald.

doesn’t project because the context provided by (1) itself is taken to include the information satisfying this presupposition contained in the antecedent.

One apparent difficulty for a standard satisfaction framework, like the one of Heim (1983; 1992), is that presuppositions are always assessed against their local contexts, which are determined through semantic compositional rules by the immediate syntactic contexts of their triggers. For example, apparently neither (2) nor (3) has presuppositions.

(2) Mary believes John read the book, and she believes he regrets reading it.

(3) John read the book, and Mary believes he regrets reading it.

But Heim (1992) predicts, based on the semantics alone, that the second conjuncts of (2) and (3) presuppose that Mary believes John read the book, not that he in fact read it; hence, while (2) should be presupposition-free, the same status for (3) requires extra explanation. Intuitively, we would like to say of the presuppositions in (3) that they are assessed, not in the local context provided by Mary’s beliefs, but against the common ground. It is as though they have QR’d:

[John read the book, and [“I’m the presupposition triggered by ‘regret’! Satisfy me here!”]_i [Mary believes he t_i regrets reading it]]

In this talk, I argue that the scope-taking behavior of presuppositions falls out naturally from a treatment of them in terms of graded monads. This treatment follows the work of Shan (2001; 2005) and Charlow (2014), who use (non-graded) monads in analyzing various other linguistic phenomena that appear to exhibit scopal side-effects. As a result, presuppositions can be handled through run-of-the-mill compositional principles (like functional application) enriched with a small set of operations for handling presupposition. I present analyses, within the monadic framework, of presupposition filtering in discourse-update and conditionals. Finally, I argue that allowing presuppositions to take scope allows for a natural response to Geurts’s (1996) “proviso problem”.

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