We give a simplified version of the system introduced in ‘Non-Redundancy’, presented here as a Modal Logic whose primitive elements are finite sequences. It includes a treatment of Condition C, Condition B, Condition A, and the Locality of Variable Binding, but disregards quantification and Weak and Strong Crossover effects, which are treated in the longer paper.
Abstract: In the 1980s, the analysis of presupposition projection contributed to a ‘dynamic turn’ in semantics: the classical notion of meanings as truth conditions was replaced with a dynamic notion of meanings as Context Change Potentials (Heim 1983). We argue that this move was misguided, and we offer an alternative in which presupposition projection follows from the combination of a fully classical semantics and a new pragmatic principle, which we call Be Articulate. This principle requires that a meaning pp’ conceptualized (...) as involving a pre-condition p (its ‘presupposition’) should be articulated as … (p and pp’) … (e.g. … it is raining and John knows it…) rather than as … pp’ …, unless the full conjunction is ruled out because the first or the second conjunct is semantically idle. In particular, … (p and pp’)… is infelicitous - and hence … pp’ … is acceptable - if one can determine as soon as p and is uttered that no matter how the sentence ends these words could be eliminated without affecting its contextual meaning. An equivalence theorem guarantees that this condition suffices to derive Heim’s results in almost all cases. Extensions of the condition lead to several new predictions, in particular concerning some ‘symmetric readings’ (e.g. If the bathroom is not hidden, this house has no bathroom), as well as presupposition projection in quantified structures, which displays a complex interaction between the nature of the trigger and the monotonicity of the quantifier. (shrink)
Potts (2005, 2007) has argued that expressives such as honky must be analyzed using an entirely new dimension of meaning. We explore a more conservative theory in which expressives are presuppositional expressions [Macià 2002] that are indexical and attitudinal (and sometimes shiftable): they predicate something of the mental state of the agent of the context (and this need not always be the agent of the actual context). Following Stalnaker’s recent work on informative presuppositions (2002), we argue that the presuppositions triggered (...) by expressives are automatically satisfied (= ’self-fulfilling’), hence the impression that they are not standard presupposition triggers. (shrink)
It has been argued that an objectual semantics for plurals falls victim to Russell’s paradox, and that a nominalistic semantics should therefore be preferred (Boolos 1984); similar considerations have sometimes been extended to other types of abstract reference, in particular to property talk. We suggest that this line of argument is mistaken: deeply entrenched features of ordinary language guarantee that property and plural talk do give rise to paradoxes. In the case of properties, the grammar of English is untyped, which (...) makes it straightforward to generate a paradox. In the case of plurals, it is badly typed, which means that paradoxes can be generated, but in complicated ways. In both cases, the problem is not to avoid paradoxes but to model them. We conclude that an objectual semantics is entirely in order, but that it must be developed within a trivalent semantics suited to a paradoxical object language. (shrink)
The presupposition triggered by an expression E is generally satisfied by information that comes before rather than after E in the sentence or discourse. In Heim’s classic theory (1983), this left-right asymmetry is encoded in the lexical semantics of dynamic connectives and operators. But several recent analyses offer a more nuanced approach, in which presupposition satisfaction has two separate components: a general principle (which varies from theory to theory) specifies under what conditions a presupposition triggered by an expression E is (...) satisfied; and an ‘incremental’ component specifies that the principle must be checked on the basis of information that comes before E. Several researchers take this incremental component to be a processing bias, which can be overcome at some cost. If so, it should be possible, though costly, to satisfy presuppositions ‘symmetrically’, i.e. by taking into account linguistic material that comes both before and after the presupposition trigger. We test this claim with experimental means. Using inferential (and to some extent acceptability) tasks involving the anaphoric trigger aussi (‘too’) in French, we argue that symmetric readings are indeed possible (albeit degraded) in environments involving the connectives if, or, and unless. (shrink)
Recent semantic research has made increasing use of a principle, Maximize Presupposition, which requires that under certain circumstances the strongest possible presupposition be marked. This principle is generally taken to be irreducible to standard Gricean reasoning because the forms that are in competition have the same assertive content. We suggest, however, that Maximize Presupposition might be reducible to the theory of scalar implicatures. (i)First, we consider a special case: the speaker utters a sentence with a presupposition p which is not (...) initially taken for granted by the addressee, but the latter takes the speaker to be an authority on the matter. Signaling the presupposition provides new information to the addressee; but it also follows from the logic of presupposition qua common belief that the presupposition is thereby satisfied (Stalnaker, Ling Philos 25(5–6):701–721, 2002). (ii) Second, we generalize this solution to other cases. We assume that even when p is common belief, there is a very small chance that the addressee might forget it (‘Fallibility’); in such cases, marking a presupposition will turn out to generate new information by re-establishing part of the original context. We also adopt from Raj Singh (Nat Lang Semantics 19(2):149–168, 2011) the hypothesis that presupposition maximization is computed relative to local contexts—and we assume that these too are subject to Fallibility; this accounts for cases in which the information that justifies the presupposition is linguistically provided. (iii) Finally, we suggest that our assumptions have benefits in the domain of implicatures: they make it possible to reinterpret Magri’s ‘blind’ (i.e. context-insensitive) implicatures as context-sensitive implicatures which just happen to be misleading. (shrink)
There are two main approaches to the problem of donkey anaphora (e.g. If John owns a donkey , he beats it ). Proponents of dynamic approaches take the pronoun to be a logical variable, but they revise the semantics of quantifiers so as to allow them to bind variables that are not within their syntactic scope. Older dynamic approaches took this measure to apply solely to existential quantifiers; recent dynamic approaches have extended it to all quantifiers. By contrast, proponents of (...) E-type analyses take the pronoun to have the semantics of a definite description (with it ≈ the donkey, or the donkey that John owns ). While competing accounts make very different claims about the patterns of coindexation that are found in the syntax, these are not morphologically realized in spoken languages. But they are in sign language, namely through locus assignment and pointing. We make two main claims on the basis of ASL and LSF data. First, sign language data favor dynamic over E-type theories: in those cases in which the two approaches make conflicting predictions about possible patterns of coindexation, dynamic analyses are at an advantage. Second, among dynamic theories, sign language data favor recent ones because the very same formal mechanism is used irrespective of the indefinite or non-indefinite nature of the antecedent. Going beyond this debate, we argue that dynamic theories should allow pronouns to be bound across negative expressions, as long as the pronoun is presupposed to have a non-empty denotation. Finally, an appendix displays and explains subtle differences between overt sign language pronouns and all other pronouns in examples involving ‘disjunctive antecedents’, and suggests that counterparts of sign language loci might be found in spoken language. (shrink)
In the last thirty years, the problem of presupposition projection has been taken to provide a decisive argument for a dynamic approach to meaning, one in which expressions are not evaluated with respect to the ‘global’ context of utterance, but rather with respect to a ‘local context’ obtained by updating the global one with expressions that occur earlier in the sentence. The computation of local contexts is taken by dynamic analyses to follow from a generalization of the notion of belief (...) update. I argue that the dynamic approach is faced with a dilemma: in its pragmatic incarnation (Stalnaker), it is explanatory but not general; in its semantic incarnation (Karttunen and Heim), it is general but not explanatory. I suggest that the dilemma stems for a faulty understanding of ‘local contexts’, and I offer a new reconstruction of this notion which eschews belief update but offers a general and fully precise solution to the projection problem. (shrink)
Stalnaker ( 1978 ) made two seminal claims about presuppositions. The most influential one was that presupposition projection is computed by a pragmatic mechanism based on a notion of ‘local context’ . Due to conceptual and technical difficulties, however, the latter notion was reinterpreted in purely semantic terms within ‘dynamic semantics’ (Heim 1983 ). The second claim was that some instances of presupposition generation should also be explained in pragmatic terms . But despite various attempts, the definition of a precise (...) ‘triggering algorithm’ has remained somewhat elusive. We discuss possible extensions of both claims. First, we offer a reconstruction of ‘local contexts’ which circumvents some of the difficulties faced by Stalnaker’s original analysis. We preserve the idea that local contexts are computed by a pragmatic mechanism that aggregates the information that follows from an incomplete sentence given the global context; but we crucially rely on a modified notion of entailment (‘R-entailment’), whose plausibility should be assessed on independent grounds. Second, we speculate that local contexts might prove necessary (though by no means sufficient) to understand how some presuppositions are triggered. In a nutshell, we suggest that a presupposition is triggered when the semantic contribution of an expression to its local context is in some sense ‘heterogeneous’. Without giving an analysis of the latter notion, we note that this architecture implies that presuppositions should be triggered on the basis of the meaning that an expression has relative to its local context (what we call its ‘local meaning’); we sketch some possible consequences of this analysis. (shrink)
Kripke’s theory of truth succeeded in providing a trivalent semantics for a language that contains its own truth predicate and means of self-reference; but it did so by radically restricting the expressive power of the logic. In Kripke’s analysis, the Liar (e.g. This very sentence is not true) receives the indeterminate truth value; but the logic cannot express the fact that the Liar is something other than true: in order to do so, a weak negation not* would be needed, but (...) it would also make the logic inconsistent (because the ‘Super Liar’ This very sentence is not* true could not be assigned any truth value). Taking a hint from the quantificational form of the problematic sentences (… is something other than true), we define a hierarchy of negations which each quantifies over a domain of truth values, assimilated to ordinals. The resulting logic has as many negations and truth values as there are ordinals. Unlike Kripke’s logic, it enjoys a form of expressive completeness. And although the logic is not monotonic, we show that under broad conditions we can construct a variety of fixed points; one of them emulates Kripke’s ‘least fixed point’, while another one assigns a different truth value to each Super Liar. (shrink)
We argue that Anselm’s ontological argument (or at least one reconstruction of it) is based on an empirical version of Berry’s paradox. It is invalid, but it takes some understanding of trivalence to see why this is so. Under our analysis, Anselm’s use of the notion of existence is not the heart of the matter; rather, trivalence is.
Although it was traditionally thought that self-reference is a crucial ingredient of semantic paradoxes, Yablo (1993, 2004) showed that this was not so by displaying an infinite series of sentences none of which is self-referential but which, taken together, are paradoxical. Yablo’s paradox consists of a countable series of linearly ordered sentences s(0), s(1), s(2),... , where each s(i) says: For each k (...) class='Hi'>> i, s(k) is false (or equivalently: For no k > i is s(k) true). We generalize Yablo’s results along two dimensions. First, we study the behavior of generalized Yablo-series in which each sentence s(i) has the form: For Q k > i, s(k) is true, where Q is a generalized quantifier (e.g., no, every, infinitely many, etc). We show that under broad conditions all the sentences in the series must have the same truth value, and we derive a characterization of those values of Q for which the series is paradoxical. Second, we show that in the Strong Kleene trivalent logic Yablo’s results are a special case of a more general fact: under certain conditions, any semantic phenomenon that involves self-reference can be emulated without self-reference. Various translation procedures that eliminate self-reference from a non-quantificational language are defined and characterized. An Appendix sketches an extension to quantificational languages, as well as a new argument that Yablo’s paradox and the translations we offer do not involve self-reference. (shrink)
Heim 1983 suggested that the analysis of presupposition projection requires that the classical notion of meanings as truth conditions be replaced with a dynamic notion of meanings as Context Change Potentials. But as several researchers (including Heim herself) later noted, the dynamic framework is insufficiently predictive: although it allows one to state that, say, the dynamic effect of F and G is to first update a Context Set C with F and then with G (i.e., C[F and G] = C[F][G]), (...) it fails to explain why there couldn’t be a ‘deviant’ conjunction and* which performed these operations in the opposite order (i.e., C[F and* G] = C[G][F]). We provide a formal introduction to a competing framework, the Transparency theory, which addresses this problem. Unlike dynamic semantics, our analysis is fully classical, i.e., bivalent and static. And it derives the projective behavior of connectives from their bivalent meaning and their syntax. We concentrate on the formal properties of a simple version of the theory, and we prove that (i) full equivalence with Heim’s results is guaranteed in the propositional case (Theorem 1), and that (ii) the equivalence can be extended to the quantificational case (for any generalized quantifiers), but only when certain conditions are met (Theorem 2). (shrink)
We provide a systematic recipe for eliminating self-reference from a simple language in which semantic paradoxes (whether purely logical or empirical) can be expressed. We start from a non-quantificational language L which contains a truth predicate and sentence names, and we associate to each sentence F of L an infinite series of translations h 0(F), h 1(F), ..., stated in a quantificational language L *. Under certain conditions, we show that none of the translations is self-referential, but that any one (...) of them perfectly mirrors the semantic behavior of the original. The result, which can be seen as a generalization of recent work by Yablo (1993, Analysis, 53, 251–252; 2004, Self-reference, CSLI) and Cook (2004, Journal of Symbolic Logic, 69(3), 767–774), shows that under certain conditions self-reference is not essential to any of the semantic phenomena that can be obtained in a simple language. (shrink)
In the tradition of quantified modal logic, it was assumed that significantly different linguistic systems underlie reference to individuals, to times and to 'possible worlds'. Various results from recent research in formal semantics suggest that this is not so, and that there is in fact a pervasive symmetry between the linguistic means with which we refer to these three domains. Reference to individuals, times and worlds is uniformly effected through generalized quantifiers, definite descriptions, and pronouns, and in each domain grammatical (...) features situate the reference of terms as near, far or 'further' from the actual or from a reported speech act. We outline various directions in which a program of ontological symmetry could be developed, and we offer in the Appendix a symmetric fragment developed in a logic that can be seen as a compromise between an extensional and an intensional system. (shrink)
Kaplan claims in Demonstratives that no operator may manipulate the context of evaluation of natural language indexicals. We show that this is not so. In fact, attitude reports always manipulate a context parameter (or, rather, a context variable). This is shown by (i) the existence of De Se readings of attitude reports in English (which Kaplan has no account for), and (ii) the existence of a variety of indexicals across languages whose point of evaluation can be shifted, but only in (...) attitude reports. We develop an alternative account within an extensional framework with overt quantification over times, worlds and contexts. Various typological facts are discussed, esp. the distinction between English, Amharic and Ewe pronouns, and that between English and Russian tenses. (shrink)