Iconic Presuppositions
Philippe Schlenker
July 2018

Why are some linguistic inferences treated as presuppositions? This is the 'Triggering Problem', which we attack from a new angle: we investigate highly iconic constructions in gestures (speech-replacing gestures or 'pro-speech gestures') and in signs (classifier predicates in ASL) and show that some regularly trigger presuppositions. These iconic constructions can be created and understood 'on the fly', with two advantages over lexical words: they suggest the existence of a productive 'triggering algorithm', since presuppositions can arguably be generated with no prior exposure to the iconic construction; and they make it possible to minimally modify the target constructions to determine which do and which don't generate presuppositions. Our investigation does not just target standard presuppositions, but also 'cosuppositions', initially defined as conditionalized presuppositions triggered by co-speech gestures. We show that pro-speech gestures and classifier predicates alike can trigger cosuppositions, which are thus an inferential class that goes beyond the confines of co-speech gestures (Aristodemo 2017). Our data argue for a triggering algorithm that generates presuppositions and cosuppositions as special cases (at least in iconic constructions); some, but not all, of our data can be explained by earlier triggering algorithms proposed by Abusch 2010, Simons et al. 2010, and Abrusán 2011, and we speculate on some possible improvements.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004116
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: semantics, pragmatics, iconicity, presuppositions, cosuppositions, gestures, co-speech gestures, pro-speech gestures, gestural inferences, presupposition, semantics
previous versions: v1 [July 2018]
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