The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Experimentalist Meeting 4/3 - Athulya Aravind (MIT) and Patrick Elliott (MIT)

Speaker: Athulya Aravind (MIT) and Patrick Elliott (MIT)
Title: Probing Projection
Time: Friday, April 3rd, 2pm – 3pm
Location: Zoom

Abstract: Theories of presupposition projection make differential predictions about quantificational sentences with a presupposition trigger in the nuclear scope, e.g. “Every boy rides his bike to school”. Some theories suggest that such sentences require the presupposition in the nuclear scope be true of every member of the domain (“universal projection”; Heim 1983, Schlenker 2008, Charlow 2009 a.o.). Others have argued instead for a weaker requirement that the presupposition be true for some member of the domain (“existential projection”; Beaver 2001 a.o.). Yet others take a more nuanced view, where the nature of the presupposition varies with the choice of quantifier (Chierchia 1995, George 2008a, 2008b, Fox 2012, a.o.).

A major challenge for evaluating these theories is that there is little-to-no consensus on what the empirical facts are. As demonstrated by Chemla (2009), judgments vary across speakers, and this variance may reflect appeals to additional pragmatic processes. Even when theories coincide with respect to the predicted projection pattern in a given environment, they often diverge regarding which reading is treated as “basic”, and which is to be derived via some additional process, such as accommodation. Putting theories to the test requires a methodology for probing the presence of costly “extra-grammatical” processes implicit in deriving a given reading. In this talk, we will discuss a first attempt at doing so.