Presupposition projection from the scope of None: Universal, existential, or both?

Jérémy Zehr, Cory Bill, Tieu Lyn, Romoli Jacopo, Schwarz Florian


The nature of presupposition projection from the scope of quantificational expressions, particularly negative ones, continues to be both theoretically and empirically controversial. We experimentally investigate the interpretation of sentences like None of the bears won the race, which could in principle be associated with three projection options, giving rise to: an existential reading, on which at least one of the bears participated and none won; a universal reading, on which all of the bears participated and none won; and a presuppositionless reading on which none of the bears both participated and won. We used a covered box task to investigate English-speaking adults’ and children’s interpretations of such sentences. The results from the adult participants provide empirical evidence for all three readings; the results from the child participants, however, reveal no evidence for the existential reading. We discuss our results in light of competing theoretical accounts, focusing on options for reconciling the theories with the experimental data from both adults and children.

Full Text:



Barr, Dale J., Roger Levy, Christoph Scheepers & Harry J. Tily. 2013. Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language 68(3). 255–278. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2012.11.001.

Beaver, David. 1994. When variables don’t vary enough. In Mandy Harvey & Lynn Santelmann (eds.), Proceedings of SALT IV, 35–60. Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications.

Bill, Cory, Jacopo Romoli, Florian Schwarz & Stephen Crain. 2016. Scalar im- plicatures versus presuppositions: The view from acquisition. Topoi 35(1). 57–71.

Charlow, Simon. 2009. "Strong" predicative presuppositional objects. In Proceedings of ESSLLI 2009, Bordeaux.

Chemla, E. 2009a. Similarity: Towards a unified account of scalar implicatures, free choice permission and presupposition projection. Under revision for Semantics and Pragmatics.

Chemla, Emmanuel. 2009b. Presuppositions of quantified sentences: Experimental data. Natural Language Semantics 17(4). 299–340.

Chemla, Emmanuel. 2010. Similarity: towards a unified account of scalar impli- catures, free choice permission and presupposition projection. Unpublished manuscript.

Chemla, Emmanuel & Lewis Bott. 2013. Processing presuppositions: Dynamic semantics vs pragmatic enrichment. Language and Cognitive Processes 38(3). 241–260.

Chemla, Emmanuel & Philippe Schlenker. 2012. Incremental vs symmetric accounts of presupposition projection: an experimental approach. Natural Language Semantics 20(2). 177–226.

Chierchia, Gennaro. 1995. Dynamics of Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Chierchia, Gennaro. 2010. NPIs. Unpublished manuscript.

Fox, Danny. 2008. Two short notes on schlenker’s theory of presupposition projection. Theoretical Linguistics 34(3). 237–252.

Fox, Danny. 2011. Lecture notes. Pragmatics Class, MIT.

Fox, Danny. 2012. Cancelling the maxim of quantity: another argument for a grammatical derivation of scalar implicatures. Unpublished manuscript MIT/HUJI.

George, Benjamin. 2008. Presupposition Repairs: a Static, Trivalent Approach to Predicting Projection. UCLA MA thesis.

Geurts, Bart. 1998. Presuppositions and anaphors in attitude contexts. Linguistic and Philosophy.

Geurts, Bart & Bob van Tiel. 2015. When “all the five circles” are four: New exercises in domain restriction. Topoi [Advance Access]. doi:10.1007/s11245-014-9293-0.

Heim, Irene. 1983. On the projection problem for presuppositions. In Daniel P. Flickinger (ed.), Proceedings of WCCFL 2, 114–125. Stanford University, Stanford, California: CSLI Publications.

Huang, Yi Ting, Elizabeth Spelke & Jesse Snedeker. 2013. What exactly do numbers mean? Language Learning and Development 9(2). 105–129.

Karttunen, Lauri. 1974. Presupposition and linguistic context. Theoretical Linguistics 1. 181–194.

Karttunen, Lauri & Stanley Peters. 1979. Conventional implicature. Syntax and Semantics 11. 1–56.

Mandelkern, Matthew. 2016. Dissatisfaction theory. In Procedings of SALT26,.

Mayr, Clemens & Uli Sauerland. 2016. Accommodation and the strongest meaning hypothesis. In Preproceedings of the Amsterdam Colloquium 2016.

Romoli, Jacopo. 2012. Soft but strong: Neg-raising, soft triggers, and exhaustification: Harvard University PhD dissertation.

Romoli, Jacopo. 2014. The presuppositions of soft triggers are obligatory scalar implicatures. Journal of Semantics 1–47.

Romoli, Jacopo & Florian Schwarz. 2014. An experimental comparison between presuppositions and indirect scalar implicatures. In F. Schwarz (ed.), Experi- mental Perspectives on Presuppositions Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics, Dordrecht: Springer.

Schlenker, Philippe. 2008. Presupposition projection: the new debate. SALT proceedings.

Schlenker, Philippe. 2010. Local contexts and local meanings. Philosophical Studies 151(1). 115–142.

Stalnaker, Robert. 1970. Pragmatics. Synthese.

Stalnaker, Robert. 1974. Pragmatic presuppositions. In M. Munitz & D. Unger (eds.), Semantics and Philosophy, 197–213. New York University Press.

Sudo, Yasutada. 2012. On the semantics of phi features on pronouns. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD thesis.

Sudo, Yasutada, Jacopo Romoli, Danny Fox & Martin Hackl. 2012. Variation of presupposition projection in quantified sentences. In Proceedings of the 18th Amsterdam Colloquium, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

van der Sandt, Rob. 1992. Presupposition projection as anaphora resolution. Journal of Semantics 9. 333–377.


Add comment