The problem of negative existentials does not exist: A case for dynamic semantics

Journal of Pragmatics 41 (7):1422-1434 (2009)
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Abstract

The problem of negative existentials arises because utterances of such sentences have the paradoxical feature of denying what they presuppose, thus undermining their own truth. There are only two general strategies for solving the problem within the constraints traditional static semantics, and both strategies attempt to explain away this paradoxical feature. I argue that both strategies are fundamentally flawed, and that an adequate account of negative existentials must countenance, and not explain away, this paradoxical feature. Moreover, I argue that a framework of dynamic semantics can achieve this result. Thus negative existentials provide a case in support of dynamic semantics.

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Lenny Clapp
Northern Illinois University

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