The search for truth: Appositives weigh in


  • Margaret Kroll University of California Santa Cruz
  • Amanda Rysling University of California Santa Cruz



The semantic and pragmatic contribution of appositives to their containing sentence is a subject of continuing debate. While unidimensional semantic accounts propose that appositives contribute their truth conditions to their containing sentence, multidimensional accounts predict that they do not. In three experiments, we directly compared judgments of the truth of sentences containing appositives and sentences containing conjunctions. Our findings contribute both a methodological and a theoretical point. First, we show that no conclusions about the truth-conditional contributions of appositives can be drawn from experimental work without further investigation of how participants provide truth value judgments for complex sentences. Second, we show that while appositives appear to contribute truth values to their containing sentences, participants are highly sensitive to task features when they compute the truth value of sentences with appositives and also, crucially, with conjunctions. Specifically, we show that both sentences containing appositives and those containing conjunctions can be judged true even when the appositive or one conjunct is patently false. We conclude that it is unlikely that these results reflect semantic judgments, and suggest that they reflect truth only at the speech-act level.