The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 2/21 - Itai Bassi (MIT)

Speaker: Itai Bassi (MIT)
Title: Redefining EXH
Date and time: Wednesday February 21, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

One of the challenges for the grammatical theory of Scalar Implicatures (SIs), which takes SIs to arise as a result of an operator EXH in the syntax, is to explain their rather restricted distribution under negation (Fox and Spector 2013). For example, (1) might be analyzed as involving embedded SI, but this meaning requires a distinguished pitch contour (Meyer 2016). 
1) Debbie didn’tH* talk to her mother ORL+H* her father… she talked to both.
(coherent only under or-but-not-and meaning for “or”; infelicitous if default intonation is used instead)
In the first part of the talk I will suggest a way to understand the limited distribution of embedded SIs under negation. My proposal is based on the observation (Horn 1989) that presupposition cancellation under negation exhibits a similar pattern:
2) Mary isn’tH* late to the meeting AGAINL+H* … she has never been late before!
3) Mary didn’tH* STOPL+H* smoking… she never used to!
4) Mary can’tH* possibly climb THEL+H* tree in the garden… because there are two of them!
Capitalizing on this observation, I’ll propose to reduce (1) to (2-4). I redefine EXH in a trivalent setting to represent that it carries a presupposition, and I assume that a ‘local accommodation’ operation (Heim 1983) can neutralize the presupposition of EXH locally, but that this possibility is not freely available.
In the second part of the talk I will show that my proposal accounts for a seemingly unrelated phenomenon in the realm of SIs which is considered problematic for current theories and has been discussed in Chierchia (2004).