We are happy to announce a talk by Jan Köpping (Bochum) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place on campus in IG 4.301.

Title: (Non-)Existence entailments of predicates (joined work with Dolf Rami)

Date: June 15, 2023

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Based on systematic observations of entailments in natural language, we argue for the distinction of three different types of predicates: existence entailing, (existence) neutral, and nonexistence entailing predicates. Existence entailing predicates are those predicates that can only truthfully apply to existent entities, while nonexistence entailing predicates can only truthfully apply to nonexistent objects. Existence neutral predicates truthfully apply to both kinds of entities, thus do not give rise to (non-)existence entailments. We provide linguistic tests as well as examples to motivate this distinction.  In order to do so, we need to argue for a certain perspective e.g. on the alleged truth of sentences featuring in fiction. Then, we develop a multi-domain predicate logic inspired by certain versions of free logics in order to represent these entailments in a formal way. The language we are using allows for proper names referring to nonexistent objects as well as a existence neutral (and therefore less ontological committal) quantificational theory, including an iota-operator to form definite descriptions.  We then show how our theory is able to deal with a multitude of problematic data both known from the literature as well as new.