Presuppositions are Fast, whether Hard or Soft - Evidence from the visual world

Florian Schwarz


One focus of work on the processing of linguistic meaning has been the relative processing speed of different aspects of meaning. While much early work has focused on implicatures in comparison to literal asserted content (e.g., Bott & Noveck 2004, Huang & Snedeker 2009, among many others), the present paper extends recent efforts to experimentally investigate another aspect of meaning, namely presuppositions. It investigates the triggers again and stop using the visual world eye tracking paradigm, and provides evidence for rapid processing of presupposed content. Our study finds no difference in timing for the two triggers, which is of theoretical relevance given proposals for distinguishing classes of triggers, such as hard vs. soft (Abusch 2010). Whatever differences between these there may be are apparently not affecting the online processing time course. As a further comparison, again was also compared to twice, which expresses essentially the same meaning without a presupposition. Shifts in eye movements for these two cases also appear to be entirely on par, further supporting the notion that presupposed and asserted content are available in parallel early on in online processing.

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