Alexandros Kalomoiros will be defending their dissertation proposal on Friday, February 25 at 10:30 am. The defense will take place in person in the Linguistics department library, and on Zoom.

The proposal document can be found here; the abstract is included below.


Title: Presupposition and its (A)-symmetries

Dissertation supervisor: Florian Schwarz

Proposal committee: Julie Legate, Anna Papafragou, Martin Salzmann (chair)


The proposed dissertation aims to contribute to the investigation of the interaction between truth conditions and the asymmetries inherent in incremental interpretation, through the lens of the (a)-symmetries of presupposition projection.

The research is organised into two strands: First, taking advantage of recent ex-perimental successes in studying projection in conjunction (Mandelkern et al., 2020), we implement a series of experiments designed to investigate whether presuppositions project in an (a)-symmetric way uniformly across connectives. Our results show that disjunction displays symmetric behavior, and is crucially different from conjunction in this respect, the latter behaving asymmetrically. Based on these results, further experi- ments are proposed aiming to clarify the empirical landscape in the case of conditionals and coordinations of questions.

Second, building on insights from Schlenker (2009), we propose a novel family of formal theories of projection, dubbed Limited Symmetry, that derive the (a)-symmetry of a given connective from the way its underlying truth conditions interact with processes of incremental interpretation. Therefore, on our account, incrementality has a key role to play: it is the way incremental interpretation interacts with underlying truth-conditions that derives symmetry in certain limited cases. We then go on to experimentally test some novel predictions made by the system for the case of negated conjunctions, finding that the predictions are indeed substantiated by our data. Bolstered by these results, we propose to further investigate the predictions of the system through the aforementioned experiments on conditionals and questions, and develop formal extensions of it, to handle more complex languages that contain questions and quantifiers.