The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Semantics Talks 6/3 - Patrick Elliott and Yasutada Sudo

Date/Time: Tuesday, Jun 3, 1:30pm
Location: 32-D461

Speaker: Patrick Elliott (University College London)
Title: Illusory Repair and the PF-Theory of Islands

In this talk (based on joint work with Matt Barros & Gary Thoms) we argue against the proposal that island violations are repaired by ellipsis. Building on Merchant (2001), we develop an approach to repair-effects based on a number of distinct evasion strategies, which involve a degree of non-isomorphism between the ellipsis site and its antecedent. Island-violations are side-stepped, just so long as a non-island-violating evasion source is available. When non-isomorphism is controlled for, island effects re-emerge. We show this for both sluicing (widely assumed to be island-insensitive) and fragment answers (widely assumed to be island-sensitive). Only the evasion approach can account for the whole set of facts. We conclude: (i) the conjecture that island conditions are fundamentally phonological in nature is incorrect (ii) islands provide a strong argument for silent syntactic structure.

Speaker: Yasutada Sudo (University College London)
Title: How Scalar Implicatures and Presupposition Interact

(Joint work with Benjamin Spector.)

We investigate the interactions between scalar implicatures and presuppositions in sentences involving both a presupposition trigger and a scalar item, e.g. “John is (un)aware that some of the students smoke”. We first discuss Gajewski & Sharvit’s (2012) account and point out empirical problems for it. Then we present an alternative analysis which is a very natural extension of ‘standard’ treatments of scalar implicatures. We show that it nicely explains the data that is problematic for Gajewski & Sharvit, but claim that it fails to account of the full range of data. This discussion leads us to pursue a view where two distinct strengthening mechanisms are at play. Our key data involves what we call “presupposed ignorance”.