ROSE talk: Jacopo Romoli, University of Ulster, Thursday, 3 December, 2015

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Dear all,

We are happy to invite you to Jacopo Romoli’s (University of Ulster) talk as part of the ROSE seminar series, which will take place this coming Thursday, 3 December.  Jacopo’s talk is entitled “Presuppositions in quantified sentences: evidence for existential projection” (see below for abstract).

Date: Thursday, 3 December, 2015
Time: 15:00-17:00
Location: Utrecht, Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, Ravensteynzaal (1.06)

We hope to see you all there!

Best regards,
the ROSE team

Presuppositions in quantified sentences: evidence for existential projection

Jacopo Romoli – Ulster University

There is a long-standing debate in the presupposition literature surrounding the projection of presuppositions from the scope of quantifiers, and in particular of negative quantifiers such as none in (1). While some theories predict existential presupposition projection – see underlining in (1-a) (Beaver 1994, 2001; van der Sandt 1992, a.o.), others derive universal projection for all quantifiers, as in (1-b) (Heim 1983; Schlenker 2008, 2009, a.o.). Additionally, both views assume a mechanism of local accommodation, which gives rise to the presupposition-less interpretation in (1-c). Crucially, universal projection theories make the prediction in (2).

(1)  None of these three bears won the race.
a. Existential: At least one of these three bears participated and none of them won.
b. Universal: All of these three bears participated and none of them won.
c. Local accommodation: None of these three bears both participated and won.

(2)  A sentence like (1) may give rise to a universal projection reading (1-b) or to a local accom- modation reading (1-c), but does not allow for an existential projection reading (1-a).

Consistent with (2), Chemla (2009) provides evidence of universal projection from the scope of no, using an inferential task paradigm. Sudo et al. (2012), on the other hand, find preliminary evidence that at least for some speakers, non-universal projection from no is in fact possible. More recently, Geurts & van Tiel (2015) report evidence for non-universal projection from none-sentences, using a truth value judgment task. These previous studies, however, did not systematically compare the availability of the existential and universal projection readings, and therefore do not allow us to distinguish between true existential projection readings and local accommodation interpretations; that is, they do not test the prediction in (2) directly.

In this talk, I report on a study in collaboration with Florian Schwarz, Lyn Tieu, Cory Bill, and Jeremy Zehr, where we investigated the prediction in (2) by testing the interpretation of sentences like (1) in contexts that varied in whether none (existential) or only some of the bears participated (universal). If only (1-b) and (1-c) are possible readings, we should observe no effect of this variation, since both kinds of contexts are equally incompatible with (1-b) and equally compatible with (1-c). By contrast, if existential projection is indeed available, we expect to observe different responses in the two conditions.

In our results, participants rejected significantly more often in the Existential condition than in the Universal and Control True conditions. The Universal condition yielded a high rate of acceptance, and did not differ significantly from true controls. Finally, acceptance choices in the Existential condition, but not the Universal condition, yielded significantly slower Response Times (RTs) than in the Control True condition. All in all, our results provide robust evidence for the existence of an existential projection reading. In contrast, our participants did not appear to access a universal reading. This result runs counter to the prediction in (2), and is therefore problematic for theories that predict only universal projection.

Selected References: C., Bill, J. Romoli, F. Schwarz, & S. Crain. 2014. Presuppositions vs. scalar implicatures: The view from acquisition. • Chemla, E. 2009. Presuppositions of quantified sentences. • Sudo, Y., J. Romoli, D. Fox, & M. Hackl. 2012. Presupposition projection out of quantified sentences.


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