The Syntax of Assertion and Presupposition

Kajsa Djärv


This paper addresses the question of how assertion and presupposition
are reflected in the grammar. Since Kiparsky & Kiparsky (1970) and Hooper &
Thompson (1973), it’s often been suggested that these notions provide the semanticpragmatic
underpinning for a range of complementation patterns, including the
licensing of so-called Main Clause Phenomena [MCP]. This paper presents a new
large-scale experimental study, investigating the lexical and semantic-pragmatic
licensing conditions of four types of MCP (Verb Second [V2], topicalization, speech
act adverbs, and scene setting adverbs) in English, Swedish, and German. The
central contribution of this paper is demonstrating what precise dimensions of
assertion and presupposition are reflected in the grammar: for embedded V2, what
matters is the discourse status of the embedded proposition as new vs. Given (in
the sense of Schwarzschild 1999); a dimension which cross-cuts both factive and
non-factive verbs. The other MCP investigated show no sensitivity to either of the
lexical or pragmatic factors investigated. We further show that Givenness is not
reflected in a (null) DP-layer, contrary to previous claims.

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