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Two methods to find truth-value gaps and their application to the projection problem of homogeneity


Presupposition, vagueness, and oddness can lead to some sentences failing to have a clear truth value. The homogeneity property of plural predication with definite descriptions may also create truth-value gaps: The books are written in Dutch is true if all relevant books are in Dutch, false if none of them are, and neither true nor false if, say, half of the books are written in Dutch. We study the projection property of homogeneity by deploying methods of general interest to identify truth-value gaps. Method A consists in collecting both truth judgments (completely true vs. not completely true) and, independently, falsity judgments (completely false vs. not completely false). The second method, employed in experiment series B and C, is based on one-shot ternary judgments: completely true vs. completely false vs. neither. After a calibration of these methods, we use them to demonstrate that homogeneity projects out of negation, the scope of universal sentences and the scope of non-monotonic quantifiers such as exactly two, to some extent (i.e., in two out of three conceivable kinds of gap situations). We assess our results in light of different theoretical approaches to homogeneity—approaches based on presuppositions, scalar implicatures, and something like supervaluations, respectively. We identify free parameters in these theories and assess various variants of them based on our results. Our experimental paradigms may be of broader significance insofar as they can be applied to other phenomena which result in the failure of a sentence to have a definite truth value.

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Correspondence to Manuel Križ.

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Križ, M., Chemla, E. Two methods to find truth-value gaps and their application to the projection problem of homogeneity. Nat Lang Semantics 23, 205–248 (2015).

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  • Plurals
  • Homogeneity
  • Presupposition projection
  • Scalar implicatures
  • Truth-value gaps
  • Experimental pragmatics