November 17, 2006: Philippe Schlenker, Be Articulate: A Pragmatic Theory of Presupposition Projection

[Japanese | English]

4:30pm, November 17, 2006
Collaboration Room 4, 4th floor, Building 18, University of Tokyo Komaba campus.
Philippe Schlenker, UCLA & Institut Jean-Nicod
Be Articulate: A Pragmatic Theory of Presupposition Projection

In the 1980's, the analysis of presupposition projection contributed to a `dynamic turn' in semantics: the classical notion of meanings as truth conditions was replaced with a dynamic notion of meanings as Context Change Potentials (Heim 1983). We argue that this move was misguided, and we offer an alternative in which presupposition projection follows from the combination of a fully classical semantics and a new pragmatic principle, which we call 'Be Articulate'. In a nutshell, 'Be Articulate' requires that a meaning F conceptualized as involving a pre-condition p (its `presupposition') should be articulated as ... (p and F) ... (e.g. ... it is raining and John knows it...) rather than as ... F ... , *unless* the full conjunction is ruled out because the first or the second conjunct is semantically idle (in a sense to be defined). A sub-part of the theory derives the results of Heim 1983 in almost all cases (Schlenker 2006a); the full theory makes several new predictions, in particular concerning presupposition projection in quantified structures.

A draft of the paper (also entitled 'Be Articulate: A Pragmatic Theory of Presupposition Projection') is available at


Heim, I.: 1983, On the Projection Problem for Presuppositions. In D. Flickinger et al. (eds), Proceedings of the Second West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 114-125. Reprinted in Davis 1991: Pragmatics: A Reader, Oxford University Press.

Schlenker, P.: 2006a, Anti-Dynamics: Presupposition Projection Without Dynamic Semantics. Ms., UCLA & Institut Jean-Nicod. Available at

[this is a mathematical paper, which proves two results of equivalence between a sub-part of the 'Be Articulate' theory and Heim 1983; the paper entitled 'Be Articulate: A Pragmatic Theory of Presupposition Projection' is far less technical].

Semantics Research Group
Sponsored by the Center for Evolutionary Cognitive Sciences at the University of Tokyo


Philippe Schlenker will give a graduate-level lecture on presupposition on November 16, which anyone is welcome to attend. It will be from 1 pm till 4 pm, in Collaboration Room 2 on the same floor of the same building.

Last modified: 2006-11-07 10:53:15 JST