On the meaning of only

Journal of Semantics 25 (1):45-91 (2008)

Abstract
This paper investigates the semantics of the focus particle only and is primarily concerned with the relation between the exclusive proposition and the proposition expressed by the prejacent. We argue that, in a sentence of the form only A is B, only triggers the conditional presupposition that if something is B, A is B. We show that in a positive- only sentence, the prejacent is a conversational implicature and therefore it is cancellable. Instead, in a negative- only sentence the prejacent is shown to be entailed by any context that satisfies the conditional presupposition and to which the assertion is added. Hence, the prejacent of a negative- only sentence is not cancellable. The entailment analyses, the strong presupposition analyses and the weak presupposition analyses of only are discussed, together with the problems that each type of theories faces.
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Reprint years 2008
DOI 10.1093/jos/ffm010
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Economy and Embedded Exhaustification.Danny Fox & Benjamin Spector - 2018 - Natural Language Semantics 26 (1):1-50.
Principles of the Exclusive Muddle.Elizabeth Coppock & David I. Beaver - 2014 - Journal of Semantics 31 (3):fft007.

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