Lecturer: Philippe Schlenker, CNRS (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris)
Room: 1.401

Presuppositions are a central problem in natural language semantics, which centers around two main questions:

  1. Triggering Problem: why are the inferences triggered by some expressions treated as presuppositions rather than, say, at-issue entailments?
  2. Projection Problem: how are the presuppositions of complex sentences inherited from the presuppositions of their component parts and the way they are put together?

Most research has centered on the Projection Problem. In the 1980’s, the analysis of ‘presupposition projection’ led to the development of a new and more powerful type of semantics, called ‘dynamic semantics’. In recent years, various alternatives (some of them pragmatic, some of them not) were developed within non-dynamic semantics. We will provide an introduction to this debate, first by developing an explicit dynamic semantics for presuppositions, and then by considering various alternatives to it, including ones developed within bivalent or trivalent logics. The database will include traditional data, experimental data, and also gestural inferences that enrich the debate (they pertain to presupposition-like inferences that are arguably triggered by co-speech gestures).

We will then turn to the Triggering Problem, and we will discuss recent and ongoing attempts to derive the presuppositions of elementary expressions from their bivalent content (which only specifies of which they objects they are true vs. non-true, without further dividing ‘non-true’ into ‘false’ and ‘presupposition failure’). Here too, we will bring gestural data into the picture, arguing that the existence of presuppositions triggered by pro-speech gestures (i.e. speech-replacing gestures) that one may not have encountered before strongly argues for the existence of a ‘triggering algorithm’. Findings its precise form is thus an important challenge for contemporary research.
Course material

Mon Aug 5th

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    The Projection Problem: problems, data, experiments

Tue Aug 6th

Wed Aug 7th

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    Dynamic semantics

Thu Aug 8th

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    Transparency-based accounts

Fri Aug 9th

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    Trivalent and other accounts

Mon Aug 12th

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    The Triggering Problem I

Tue Aug 13th

Wed Aug 14th

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    The Triggering Problem II

Thu Aug 15th

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    Presuppositions vs. Cosuppositions

Fri Aug 16th

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