David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Semantics 26 (1):49-86 (2008)
This paper deals with a newly observed phenomenon which lies at the interface of the semantics and pragmatics of aspectual still (as in John is still asleep), namely the fact that still is infelicitous when it appears in past tense sentences whose reference time is not specified by some temporal adverbial or the utterance context. The main claim of the paper is that in such sentences, the truth of the assertion and that of the ‘prior time’ presupposition this particle triggers can be both inferred from the truth of the minimally contrasting still-less counterpart. Moreover, in such cases the presuppositional status of the ‘prior time’ claim is lost. Hence, the use of still in such sentences is uninformative and thus infelicitous. The analysis has several more general theoretical implications. Concerning the semantics of still, it shows that the novel data cannot be accounted for by using current definitions of the presupposition triggered by still. Instead, a modified definition of still is developed, which, following Ippolito (2007), uses one eventuality variable in both the assertion and the presupposition of sentences with still but, unlike this theory, does not require the denotation of this variable to be contextually salient. As for the analysis of tense and temporal structure of clauses, the interaction of still with frame adverbials supports the view that such adverbials denote intervals identical to the reference time of the sentence, rather than including it. In addition, the paper argues that the contrast between felicitous and infelicitous cases of still can only be explained if, contrary to many current analyses, we assume that past tense is not necessarily anaphoric but can be represented in some cases as a new variable bound by existential closure. Given the proposed analysis, the felicity or infelicity of still in past tense sentences can be seen as a diagnostic for determining whether or not the reference time in such sentences is anaphoric or not
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