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Doc’in Nicod : V. Mongelli (CogMaster) How hard are hard triggers ?


Our first speaker of the year will be Valeria Mongelli (M1 Cogmaster) who will talk about a work in experimental linguistics she conducted with Jacques Jayez (ENS Lyon).

Title: "How hard are hard triggers?"
Date, Time, Place: 18/10/2012, 6pm, Salle de réunion du Pavillon Jardin

Abstract: It has been argued by Abusch (2002, 2010) that presupposition triggers behave in different ways with respect to local accommodation. Look, for instance, at the  difference between sentences (1) and (2): soft triggers like win can be easily suspended and then locally accommodated, whereas hard triggers like too are more resistant to local accommodation.

(1) I don’t know whether John participated in the race, but if he won he must be very happy.
(2) ?? I don’t know whether John read the letter. But if Mary read it too, let’s ask her to be discreet about the content.
(3) I don’t know whether Paul will go to the party, because if Mary goes too it will be embarrassing.

But look at sentence (3): its structure is the same as (2) but, in this case, local accommodation seems to be possible. In our study we explore the interaction between presupposition accommodation and the hardness of triggers, and we analyze contexts that seem to permit the local accommodation of hard triggers. In order to test speakers’ intuitions about presupposition triggering we made two experiments, based on judgments tasks on a seven point numerical scale. Our results suggest that Abusch is not completely wrong, since there are situations in which hard triggers are indeed hard to be accommodated; on the other hand, we found cases where hard and soft triggers behave in the same way. That is why we hypothesize that the local accommodation of hard triggers is influenced by the type of reasoning conveyed by the discourse marker. This framework is partially compatible with Abusch’s theory, but it finds different reasons for the phenomenon she accounts for.

Abusch D. (2002),  Lexical alternatives as a source of pragmatic presuppositions, In Jackson & Brendan (eds.), “Proceedings of SALT XII”, Ithaca, NY, CLC Publications: 1-20.
Abusch D. (2010), Presuppositions triggering from alternatives, “Journal of Semantics” 27(1): 1-44.