Local accommodation is also backgrounded


  • Muffy Siegel
  • Florian Schwarz




Two generally agreed upon characteristics of presuppositions are projection and backgroundedness. Yet, presuppositions sometimes fail to project. To derive the necessary local interpretations, standard semantic local accommodation accounts posit an operation that, inside the scope of an embedding operator, turns content lexically marked as presupposed into non-backgrounded content and conjoins it with the clause’s entailed content (Heim 1983). Such accounts, as well as syntactic operator accounts descended from them (Beaver and Krahmer 2001), predict that locally accommodated presuppositions differ from projecting presuppositions in lacking not just projectivity, but also the second basic presuppositional property of backgroundedness. Recent pragmatic accounts arrive at a parallel prediction via their claim that all and only backgrounded material projects (Simons et al. 2010; Tonhauser et al. 2018). To date, though, this prediction, that non-projecting presuppositional content is also not backgrounded, has not been systematically tested, perhaps due to challenges in testing embedded material for backgroundedness directly. Using reduced cognitive salience as a proxy for presuppositional backgroundedness in a picture-matching task (Schwarz 2016), we test indirectly for differences in backgroundedness among the locally accommodated presupposition of 'also', its explicit, non-backgrounded conjunction paraphrase as posited by semantic/syntactic accounts, and equivalent non-presuppositional elisions. Standard local accommodation accounts predict equivalence among these three constructions. However, in two experiments, we find, to the contrary, that locally interpreted content contributed by also reflects greater presuppositional backgroundedness than equivalent explicit entailed content and, to a lesser degree, than more surface-similar elisions. Our task elicits a similar pattern with examples including global, rather than local, accommodation, supporting parallel backgroundedness across these cases. We briefly discuss the theoretical implications of these findings in general terms.




How to Cite

Siegel, M., & Schwarz, F. (2023). Local accommodation is also backgrounded. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 27, 609–624. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2023.v27.1089

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