The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 3/31 - Patrick Grosz

For the rest of the semester, the LFRG meeting time will alternate between the old slot on Monday, 11:30am, and the new slot on Wednesday at 4pm. So please double-check if a particular meeting you want to attend in on Monday or on Wednesday. The next week the meeting is on WEDNESDAY.

WHAT: Talk
WHO: Patrick Grosz
TITLE: German ‘doch’: An Element that Triggers a Contrast Presupposition
WHEN: March 31, Wednesday, 4PM – 5:30PM
WHERE: 32-D831

WHAT EXACTLY (abstract):

This talk investigates the German particle “doch”, contrasting it with the particle “ja” (Weydt 1969). I propose that in declaratives, “ja” and “doch” are weak and strong counterparts of each other, in the following sense. They share a core meaning component (uncontroversiality/familiarity, cf. Kratzer 1999), but “doch” has an additional meaning component (contrast/correction, cf. Thurmair 1991). It follows that “ja” and “doch” on their own are in competition. The particle “ja” is used when the presuppositions for “doch” are not met; in contrast, “doch” is used when its presuppositions are met, due to Maximize Presupposition (Heim 1991).

In my analysis of “doch”, I argue that the correction component operates on propositional alternatives (“doch” reinforces the modified proposition p in contrast to a contextually salient alternative q that contradicts p) and is presuppositional in nature. I argue that “doch” makes use of an alternative semantics, associating with focus. This predicts correctly that “doch” triggers intervention effects (Beck 2006): It cannot associate with the same focus as another focus-sensitive element, such as “nur” (‘only’). My analysis accounts for ordering restrictions, which permit “ja doch”, but rule out “doch ja”. Kratzer (1999) argues that “ja” operates on complete propositions and cannot occur between a quantifier and a variable that it binds. I show that “ja” also cannot intervene between a focus-sensitive particle, like “nur” (‘only’) and the focus. Given that “doch” is focus-sensitive, we correctly rule out “doch ja”, but not “ja doch”.


  • 4/5, Monday: Peter Graff and Greg Scontras, “Comparing Pluralities” (practice talk for CLS)
  • 4/12, Monday: DaeYoung Sohn and Yasutada Sudo