Lecturer: Philippe Schlenker, CNRS (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris)
Presuppositions are a central problem in natural language semantics, which centers around two main questions:
- Triggering Problem: why are the inferences triggered by some expressions treated as presuppositions rather than, say, at-issue entailments?
- Projection Problem: how are the presuppositions of complex sentences inherited from the presuppositions of their component parts and the way they are put together?
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.