Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 483–503 | Cite as

The Processing Costs of Presupposition Accommodation

  • Filippo DomaneschiEmail author
  • Simona Di Paola


The present study investigates the processing of presupposition accommodation. In particular, it concerns the processing costs and the time-course of accommodation as compared to presupposition satisfaction. Data collected in a self-paced word-by-word reading times experiment support three results. First, independently on the presupposition trigger in use, accommodation is costlier than satisfaction. Second, presupposition accommodation takes places immediately just as the trigger becomes available and proceeds incrementally during the sentence processing. Third, accommodated information is harder to be recalled. The results offer evidence for the on-line processing of presuppositions and, consistently with the traditional semantic framework, support the idea that, presuppositions are semantic properties encoded in the lexical meaning of the presupposition triggers.


Experimental pragmatics Presupposition Accommodation Satisfaction Presupposition triggers 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the \(7^{th}\) Biennal XPrag Conference—June 21 to 23, 2017—University of Cologne (Germany); Workshop Context in Philosophy—20 to 21 June, 2017—Paris (France); Research Seminar—Laboratoire sur le Langage, le Cerveau et la Cognition—Lyon (France); Research Seminar—Department of Linguistics—University of Potsdam (Germany). The paper has greatly benefited from the discussion in all four occasions. In particular, we want to thank Ira Noveck, Richard Breheny, Josep Macià, Nausicaa Pouscoulous, Diana Mazzarella, Nadine Bade, Robert Reinecke, Jacques Jayez, Joseph P. DeVeaugh-Geiss and Malte Zimmermann.

Funding This study was funded by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research within the three-year project SIR_2014—EXPRESS—Experimenting on Presuppositions directed by Filippo Domaneschi, project code RBSI147WM0.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Abrusan, M. (2011). Predicting the presuppositions of soft triggers. Linguistics and Philosophy, 34(6), 491–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abusch, D. (2005). Triggering from alternative sets and projection of pragmatic presuppositions. Ms., Cornell University.
  3. Abusch, D. (2010). Presupposition triggering from alternatives. Journal of Semantics, 27(1), 37–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Altmann, G., & Steedman, M. (1988). Interaction with context during human sentence processing. Cognition, 38, 419–439.Google Scholar
  5. Amaral, P., & Cummins, C. (2015). A cross-linguistic study on information backgrounding and presupposition projection. In F. Schwarz (Ed.), Experimental perspectives on presuppositions (pp. 157–172). Springer International Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Bates, D., Mächler, M., Bolker, B., Walker, S., Christensen, R. H. B., Singmann, H., et al. (2015). L. Package ‘lme4’. Convergence, 12, 1.Google Scholar
  7. Chemla, E., Cummins, C., & Singh, R. (2017). Training and timing local scalar enrichments under global pragmatic pressures. Journal of Semantics, 34(1), 107–126.Google Scholar
  8. Chemla, E., & Singh, R. (2014). Remarks on the experimental turn in the study of scalar implicature—Part I & II. Language and Linguistic Compass, 8(9), 373–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cummins, C., Amaral, P., & Katsos, N. (2012). Experimental investigations of the typology of presupposition triggers. Humana Mente, 23, 1–16.Google Scholar
  10. Domaneschi, F., Carrea, E., Penco, C., & Greco, A. (2014a). The cognitive load of presupposition triggers: Mandatory and optional repairs in presupposition failure. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29(1), 136–146.Google Scholar
  11. Domaneschi, F., Carrea, E., Penco, C., & Greco, A. (2014b). Propositional attitudes towards presuppositions. An experimental approach. Pragmatics and Cognition, 22(3), 291–309.Google Scholar
  12. Domaneschi, F., Canal, P., Masia, V., Vallauri Lombardi, E., & Bambini, V. (2018). N400 and P600 modulation in presupposition accommodation: The effect of different trigger types. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 45, 13–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Donnellan, K. S. (1966). Reference and definite descriptions. The Philosophical Review, 75(3), 281–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frazier, L. (2006). The big fish in a small pond: Accommodation and the processing of novel definites. Amherst: University of Massachussetts (Unpublished manuscript).Google Scholar
  15. Glanzberg, M. (2003). Felicity and presupposition triggers. Michigan: University of Michigan Workshop in Philosophy and Linguistics.Google Scholar
  16. Haviland, S. E., & Clark, H. H. (1974). What’s new? Acquiring new information as a process in comprehension. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 13, 512–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heim, I. R. (1982). The semantics of definite and indefinite noun phrases. Amherst: University of Massachussetts (Doctral dissertation).Google Scholar
  18. Heim, I. R. (1983). On the projection problem for presuppositions. In M. Barlow, D. Flickinger, & N. Wiegand (Eds.),Proceedings of the WCCFL 2 (pp. 114–125). Stanford: Stanford University.Google Scholar
  19. Heim, I. (1990). Presupposition projection. In R. van der Sandt (Ed.), Reader for the Nijmegen workshop on presupposition, lexical meaning, and discourse processes. Nijmegen: University of Nijmegen.Google Scholar
  20. Kamp, H. (1981). A theory of truth and semantic representation. In J. A. G. Groenendijk, T. M. V. Janssen, & M. B. J. Stokhof (Eds.), Formal methods in the study of language. Mathematical centre tracts 135 (pp. 277–322). Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  21. Kamp, H., & Reyle, U. (1993). From discourse to logic. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  22. Karttunen, L. (1974). Presupposition and linguistic context. Theoretical Linguistics, 1, 181–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kratzer, A., & Heim, I. (1998). Semantics in generative grammar. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  24. Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Lewis, D. (1979). Scorekeeping in a language game. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 8, 339–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Loftus, E. F., & Zanni, G. (1975). Eyewitness testimony: The influence of wording of a question. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 5(1), 86–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schlenker, P. (2007). Anti-dynamics: Presupposition projection without dynamic semantics. Journal of Logic, Language and Information, 16(3), 325–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schlenker, P. (2008). Be articulate: A pragmatic theory of presupposition. Theoretical Linguistics, 34, 157–212.Google Scholar
  29. Schwarz, F. (2007). Processing presupposed content. Journal of Semantics, 24(4), 373–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schwarz, F. (Ed.). (2015). Experimental perspectives on presupposition, studies in theoretical psycholinguistics. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  31. Simons, M. (2001). On the conversational basis of some presuppositions. Semantics and Linguistic Theory, 11, 431–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Singh, R., Fedorenko, E., Mahowald, K., & Gibson, E. (2016). Accommodating presuppositions is inappropriate in implausible contexts. Cognitive Science, 40(3), 607–634.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Stalnaker, R. (1974). Pragmatic presuppositions. In M. Munitz & P. Under (Eds.), Semantics and philosophy (pp. 197–213). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Tiemann, S., Kirsten, M., Beck, S., Hertrich, I., & Rolke, B. (2015). Presupposition processing and accommodation: An experiment on wieder (‘again’) and consequences for other triggers, in Schwarz (2015), 39–65.Google Scholar
  35. Tiemann, S., Schmid, M., Bade, N., Rolke, B., Hertrich, I., Ackermann, H., et al. (2011). Psycholinguistic evidence for presuppositions: On-line and off-line data. In I. Reich, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sinn & Bedeutung, (Vol. 15, pp. 581–595). Saarbrücken: Saarland University Press.Google Scholar
  36. von Fintel, K. (2008). What is presupposition accommodation, again? Philosophical Perspectives, 22(1), 137–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zeevat, H. (1992). Presupposition and accommodation in update semantics. Journal of Semantics, 9, 379–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Psychology of Language, DISFOR - Department of Educational Sciences, Psychology UnitUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly

Personalised recommendations