Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 177–226 | Cite as

Incremental vs. symmetric accounts of presupposition projection: an experimental approach

  • Emmanuel ChemlaEmail author
  • Philippe Schlenker


The presupposition triggered by an expression E is generally satisfied by information that comes before rather than after E in the sentence or discourse. In Heim’s classic theory (1983), this left-right asymmetry is encoded in the lexical semantics of dynamic connectives and operators. But several recent analyses offer a more nuanced approach, in which presupposition satisfaction has two separate components: a general principle (which varies from theory to theory) specifies under what conditions a presupposition triggered by an expression E is satisfied; and an ‘incremental’ component specifies that the principle must be checked on the basis of information that comes before E. Several researchers take this incremental component to be a processing bias, which can be overcome at some cost. If so, it should be possible, though costly, to satisfy presuppositions ‘symmetrically’, i.e. by taking into account linguistic material that comes both before and after the presupposition trigger. We test this claim with experimental means. Using inferential (and to some extent acceptability) tasks involving the anaphoric trigger aussi (‘too’) in French, we argue that symmetric readings are indeed possible (albeit degraded) in environments involving the connectives if, or, and unless.


Presupposition projection Symmetry Incremental Processing Experiment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et PsycholinguistiqueCNRS, EHESS, IECParisFrance
  2. 2.LSCP, Ecole Normale SupérieureParisFrance
  3. 3.Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS, EHESS, IECParisFrance
  4. 4.New York UniversityNew York CityUSA

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