Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 299–340 | Cite as

Presuppositions of quantified sentences: experimental data

  • Emmanuel ChemlaEmail author


Some theories assume that sentences like (i) with a presupposition trigger in the scope of a quantifier carry an existential presupposition, as in (ii); others assume that they carry a universal presupposition, as in (iii).
  1. (i)

    No student knows that he is lucky.

  2. (ii)

    Existential presupposition: At least one student is lucky.

  3. (iii)

    Universal presupposition: Every student is lucky.

This work is an experimental investigation of this issue in French. Native speakers were recruited to evaluate the robustness of the inference from (i) to (iii). The main result is that presuppositions triggered from the scope of the quantifier aucun‘no’ are in fact universal. But the present results also suggest that the presuppositions triggered from the scope of other quantifiers depend on the quantifier. This calls for important changes in the main theories of presupposition projection.


Presupposition Scalar implicature Quantifier Experiment 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Atlas, J.D., and S.C. Levinson. 1981.It-clefts, informativeness, and logical form: Radical pragmatics (rev. standard version). In Radical pragmatics, ed. P. Cole, 1–61. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bard E., Robertson D., Sorace A. (1996) Magnitude estimation of linguistic acceptability. Language 72(1): 32–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beaver, D.I. 1994. When variables don’t vary enough. In Semantics and Linguistic Theory 4, ed. M. Harvey and L. Santelmann, 35–60. Cornell: CLC Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Beaver D.I. (2001) Presupposition and assertion in dynamic semantics. CSLI Publications, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck S. (2001) Reciprocals are definites. Natural Language Semantics 9(1): 69–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bott L., Noveck I.A. (2004) Some utterances are underinformative: The onset and time course of scalar inferences. Journal of Memory and Language 51(3): 437–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Breheny R., Katsos N., Williams J. (2005) Are generalised scalar implicatures generated by default? An on-line investigation into the role of context in generating pragmatic inferences. Cognition 20: 1–30Google Scholar
  8. Charlow, S. 2008. Strong ‘‘predicative’’ presuppositions. Ms., NYU.Google Scholar
  9. Chemla, E. 2008. Projecting presuppositions with scalar implicatures. In Proceedings of SuB 12, ed. A. Grønn, 81–91. Oslo: Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, University of Oslo.Google Scholar
  10. Chemla, E. 2009a. An anti-introduction to presupposition. In Presuppositions and implicatures, ed. P. É gré and G. Magri. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics (in press).Google Scholar
  11. Chemla, E. 2009b. An experimental approach to adverbial modification. In Semantics and pragmatics: From experiment to theory, ed. U. Sauerland and K. Yatsushiro. New York: Macmillan (in press).Google Scholar
  12. Chemla, E. 2009c. Similarity: Towards a unified account of scalar implicatures, free choice permission and presupposition projection. Semantics and Pragmatics (under revision).Google Scholar
  13. Cowart W. (1997) Experimental syntax: Applying objective methods to sentence judgments. Thousand Oaks, CA, SageGoogle Scholar
  14. Ducrot O. (1969) Présupposés et sous-entendus. Langue Francaise 4: 30–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Evans J., Barston J., Pollard P. (1983) On the conflict between logic and belief in syllogistic reasoning. Memory & Cognition 11(3): 295–306Google Scholar
  16. Gajewski, J.R. 2005. Neg-raising: Presupposition and polarity. PhD dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
  17. Gajewski J.R. (2007) Neg-raising and polarity. Linguistics and Philosophy 30(3): 289–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. George, B.R. 2008. Presupposition repairs: A static, trivalent approach to predict projection. Master’s thesis, UCLA.Google Scholar
  19. Geurts B. (1999) Presuppositions and pronouns. Elsevier, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Geurts B. (2003) Reasoning with quantifiers. Cognition 86(3): 223–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grice, H.P. 1967. Logic and conversation. The William James Lectures, delivered at Harvard University. Republished in Grice, H.P. 1989. Studies in the way of words. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Heim I. (1983) On the projection problem for presuppositions. Proceedings of WCCFL 2: 114–125Google Scholar
  23. Horn, L.R. 1972. On the semantic properties of logical operators in English. PhD dissertation, UCLA.Google Scholar
  24. Kadmon N. (2001) Formal pragmatics: Semantics, pragmatics, presupposition, and focus. Blackwell Publishers, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  25. Karttunen L. (1973) Presuppositions of compound sentences. Linguistic Inquiry 4: 169–193Google Scholar
  26. Karttunen L. (1974) Presupposition and linguistic context. Theoretical Linguistics 1: 181–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Löbner S. (2000) Polarity in natural language: Predication, quantification and negation in particular and characterizing sentences. Linguistics and Philosophy 23(3): 213–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Noveck I.A., Posada A. (2003) Characterizing the time course of an implicature: An evoked potentials study. Brain and Language 85(2): 203–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pérez Carballo, A. 2006. A first shot at the proviso problem. Ms., MIT.Google Scholar
  30. Schlenker, P. 2007, July. Anti-dynamics: Presupposition projection without dynamic semantics. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 16(3): 325–356.Google Scholar
  31. Schlenker P. (2008) Be articulate: A pragmatic theory of presupposition projection. Theoretical Linguistics 34(3): 157–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schlenker, P. 2009. Local contexts. Semantics and Pragmatics (in press).Google Scholar
  33. Schwarzschild R. (1993) Plurals, presuppositions and the sources of distributivity. Natural Language Semantics 2(3): 201–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Soames, S. 1989. Presupposition. In Handbook of philosophical logic, ed. D. Gabbay and F. Guenther, 553–616, Vol. 4. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  35. Stalnaker R.C. (1970) Pragmatics. Synthese 22(1): 272–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stalnaker R.C. (1973) Presuppositions. Journal of Philosophical Logic 2(4): 447–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stalnaker, R.C. 1974. Pragmatic presuppositions. In Semantics and philosophy, ed. M. Munitz and P. Unger, 197–214. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  38. van Rooij R. (2007) Strengthening conditional presuppositions. Journal of Semantics 24(3): 289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. van der Sandt R. (1992) Presupposition projection as anaphora resolution. Journal of Semantics 9: 333–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et PsycholinguistiqueEHESS/CNRS/DEC-ENSParisFrance

Personalised recommendations