Aron Hirsch
University of Maryland, College Park

4. Monday, January 15, 2024: "Constraining altermatives"

Aron Hirsch (University of Maryland)

The focus operator only conveys that alternatives to its prejacent are false (e.g. “I only had coffee” entails that “I ate” is false).  But, how are the alternatives computed?  It has been observed that alternatives often cannot contain negation.  Fox & Katzir (2011) propose that alternatives are constructed by replacing the focus with syntactic constituents of equal or lesser structural complexity.  If negation is not present in the prejacent, it cannot occur in the alternatives either, since it would add complexity.  In this talk, however, we observe that more complex alternatives are available in certain discourse contexts.  This will lead us to explore a view where more complex alternatives are not blocked by the grammar, and alternatives are regulated pragmatically by the Question Under Discussion (as in Beaver & Clark 2011, Roberts 2012, Katzir 2023).  This is joint work with Bernhard Schwarz