Dissatisfaction Theory

Semantics and Linguistic Theory 26:391-416 (forthcoming)
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I propose a new theory of semantic presupposition, which I call dissatisfaction theory. I first briefly review a cluster of problems − known collectively as the proviso problem − for most extant theories of presupposition, arguing that the main pragmatic response to them faces a serious challenge. I avoid these problems by adopting two changes in perspective on presupposition. First, I propose a theory of projection according to which presuppositions project unless they are locally entailed. Second, I reject the standard assumption that presuppositions are contents which must be entailed by the input context; instead, I propose that presuppositions are contents which are marked as backgrounded. I show that, together, these commitments allow us to avoid the proviso problem altogether, and generally make plausible predictions about presupposition projection out of connectives and attitude predicates. I close by sketching a two-dimensional implementation of my theory which allows us to make further welcome predictions about attitude predicates and quantifiers.

Author's Profile

Matthew Mandelkern
New York University


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