We are happy to announce a talk by Florian Schwarz (University of Pennsylvania) at the Semantics Colloquium.

Please register beforehand (s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de) to receive the access data to zoom on Thursday shortly before the talk starts.

Title: Presupposition Projection and Linear Order – Variation Across Connectives

Date: May 27

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


The role of linear order for presupposition projection is a long-standing matter of theoretical controversy and empirical confusion. On the one hand, there’s a natural association of the `left-to-right’ unfolding of the linguistic signal and the gradual update of the contexts relative to which subsequent expressions are interpreted. On the other hand, connectives seem to display varying behavior in terms of whether later material can affect presuppositions of earlier expressions. In particular, conjunction has often been taken to be asymmetric with regards to projection, only allowing `left-to-right’ filtering (e.g., with the first conjunct supporting a presupposition in the second conjunct), whereas disjunction seems to also allow the reverse `right-to-left’ filtering (as in Partee’s `bathroom sentences’). But the validity of these generalizations has been challenged, too, e.g., by arguing that the apparent asymmetry of conjunction is due to certain confounds, or by appealing to other theoretical mechanisms, such as local accommodation, to explain away `right-to-left’ filtering with disjunction. The resolution of these issues is of central importance for theories of presupposition projection, as they bear on the key question of whether or not a general account of projection, e.g., along the lines of Schlenker (2009), can be maintained, or whether projection properties need to be tied to particular connectives.  I present a series of experimental investigations of projection from both conjunction and disjunction. The results show that projection from conjunction is genuinely asymmetric (i.e., limited to left-to-right filtering), and that projection from disjunction is genuinely symmetric (also allowing right-to-left filtering). This challenges a general account of projection like Schlenker’s Local Context approach, which predicts uniform effects of linear order on projection. In the final part of the talk, I present a sketch of an account, currently being developed by Alexandros Kalomoiros, that aims to maintain the generality and explanatory appeal of Schlenker’s approach, but allows for variation in the role of linear order for different connectives based on their truth-conditional profile.