Research Article

Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 491-535

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Predicting the presuppositions of soft triggers

  • Márta AbrusánAffiliated withLichtenberg Kolleg, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen Email author 


The central idea behind this paper is that presuppositions of soft triggers arise from the way our attention structures the informational content of a sentence. Some aspects of the information conveyed are such that we pay attention to them by default, even in the absence of contextual information. On the other hand, contextual cues or conversational goals can divert attention to types of information that we would not pay attention to by default. Either way, whatever we do not pay attention to, be it by default, or in context, is what ends up presupposed by soft triggers. This paper attempts to predict what information in the sentence is likely to end up being the main point (i.e. what we pay attention to) and what information is independent from this, and therefore likely presupposed. It is proposed that this can be calculated by making reference to event times. The notion of aboutness used to calculate independence is based on that of Demolombe and Fariñas del Cerro (In: Holdobler S (ed) Intellectics and computational logic: papers in honor of Wolfgang Bibel, 2000).


Presuppositions Attention Soft triggers Aboutness Lexical semantics of verbs Factivity