Asymmetries in Language: Presuppositions and Beyond

Country: Germany

City: Berlin

Abstr. due: 15.03.2019

Dates: 01.07.19 — 03.07.19

Area Of Sciences: Humanities;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Matthew Mandelkern (University of Oxford), Jacopo Romoli (Ulster University), Uli Sauerland (ZAS) and Florian Schwarz (UPenn)


The goal of our workshop is to bring together researchers working on order effects arising from incremental interpretation, in particular in connection with presupposition projection and related phenomena, such as redundancy effects, epistemic modals, and anaphora, through theoretical, experimental, and/or cross-linguistic perspectives (full workshop description can be found here:

Linguistic utterances are processed incrementally as they unfold, resulting in a temporal asymmetry between the information coming before and after in a given expression. But are the observed asymmetries merely a superficial aspect of language use, or do they play a direct role in linguistic knowledge and representations? This bears on the general issue of how linguistic knowledge and other cognitive faculties interact. An important case study on potential order effects is that of presupposition. Traditional theories posit an asymmetry in the processing of presupposition: in particular, presuppositions must be supported by material that precedes the trigger, as in (1-a), not material that follows the trigger, as in (1-b):

a. Mary used to come to class and she stopped coming to class.
b. #Mary stopped coming to class and she used to come to class.

However, as theorists like Rothschild (2008) have pointed out, such contrasts may (in part) be due to independent factors, like redundancy constraints; likewise, as Schlenker (2008) has observed, they could reflect violable processing constraints rather than being hard-wired. The effect also may vary across connectives, e.g. they may differ for conjunction vs. disjunction vs. conditionals. Finally, data points such as (1) leave open whether linear order or hierarchical order is behind the effect. Thus, the issue of asymmetry in presupposition projection is far from resolved and calls for careful investigation, experimental and theoretical.
Parallel questions can, and should, be asked about redundancy effects, epistemic modals, anaphora and others. More in general, the domain of investigation we are focusing on here is how incremental processing interacts with different component of meanings.

Conference Web-Site: