Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 11/18 — Mathieu Paillé

The next syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Monday (18/11) at 14:30 in room 002. 
Mathieu will be presenting work entitled: Contradiction in copular clauses
Abstract: Some copular clauses, like “This fork is a spoon,” appear to be contradictions. The effect appears specifically when the subject and predicate are thought of as forming a partition. Surprisingly, the effect is merely pragmatic: it is easily cancelled through clause-internal modifiers, as in “This fork is also a spoon” or “This fork is simultaneously a spoon” (i.e., it is a spork). I argue the effect arises from an Exh(austivity) operator (Chierchia et al., 2011) on copular clauses and its interaction with the predicate’s focus alternatives. This set of focus alternatives is necessarily small; many copular clauses are not contradictions, which means their subject and predicate do not come from the same set. The use of ‘also’ as a fix for contradictory copular clauses dovetails with Bade’s (2016) claim that the obligatory use of additive particles works to defeat exhaustivity implicatures.

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