On denying presuppositions

Synthese 194 (6) (2017)
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Abstract

Strawson :96–118, 1964) argued that definite NPs trigger presuppositions as an aspect of their conventional meanings, and this semantic conception of presupposition triggers is incorporated into the binding theory of presuppositions. The phenomenon of presupposition denials, however, presents a problem for the semantic conception of presupposition triggers, for in such denials the alleged semantic presuppositions seem to be “cancelled” by a negation operator. Geurts :274–307, 1998; Presupposition and pronouns, 1999) attempts to solve this problem by utilizing the binding theory’s allowance for local accommodation. Geurts’ proposal, however, is inadequate, primarily because Geurts formulates the binding theory within discourse representation theory, which makes no allowance for the illocutionary force of denial. Asher and Lascarides’ segmented discourse representation theory, however, has the resources to account for the illocutionary force of denial. Utilizing a version of SDRT I demonstrate that the “cancelling” of a presupposition by echoic negation in presupposition denials crucially depends upon the denial of information that is pragmatically communicated by accommodation

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Lenny Clapp
Northern Illinois University