Satisfaction and its Discontents

Lecturer: Patrick D. Elliott (LZAS)

Presupposition is a phenomenon at the very heart of the semantics-pragmatics interface, and has been a central concern of linguists and philosophers since at least the 1970s. In this course, we'll be focusing on how presuppositions project in complex sentences. Consider, for example, the contrast between (1) and (2) (after Partee). The second disjunct in both cases - "the bathroom is in a funny place" - contains a presupposition trigger: the definite description "the bathroom". In isolation, the second disjunct presupposes that a bathroom exists. (2) inherits the presupposition of the second disjunct - it presupposes that a bathroom exists; (1), however, does not. A theory of presupposition projection should explain how the presuppositions of complex sentences relate to the presuppositions of their parts.

(1) Either there is no bathroom or the bathroom is in a funny place.

(2) Either there is no kitchen or the bathroom is in a funny place.

The main goal of this course will be to provide an introduction to one of the most influential theories of presuppositon projection - Heim's (1983) satisfaction theory. The core intuition behind the satisfaction theory is that presuppositions must be redundant in a given context. In other words, "The bathroom is in a funny place" can only be felicitously uttered in a context which entails that there is a bathroom. The satisfaction theory, couched in dynamic semantics, develops the idea that it's not just the global context that can render a presupposition redundant, but also the local context of a given constituent. Time permitting, we'll also discuss alternatives to satisfaction theory, such as Schlenker's local contexts.

  • Lecture 1: Presupposition projection and the dynamic turn
  • Lecture 2: Accommodation and the proviso problem
  • Lecture 3: Schlenker's local contexts