Polarity and Modality (pdf)
Abstract: This dissertation investigates two main topics, namely polarity sensitivity and the syntax and semantics of modals, as well as the intersection of the two. It offers a general theory of licensing, which applies to positive and negative polarity items alike. Four fundamental properties are established: (i.) licensing is environment-based, i.e. it is constituents that license polarity items (PIs); (ii.) only some constituents are eligible for licensing; (iii.) the evaluation of constituents is cyclic; (iv.) within a given constituent A, the licensing of a PI π is dependent on the licensing of all other PIs within A. These properties are used to show, against the consensus among researchers, that PPIs of the some-type are vulnerable to the very logical property that NPIs of the any-type require, namely downward-entailingness. Some facts involving NPIs licensed in contexts whose monotonicity is ruined by a presupposition have led some to hypothesize that downward-entailingness is in fact too strong a requirement; proposals were made to weaken it (cf. von Fintel 1999). This dissertation shows that such a move is unwarranted: NPIs are indeed anti-licensed by presuppositions. But it also provides evidence that certain presuppositions are not incorporated into the meaning that is relevant for NPI licensing, and therefore fail to be disruptive. In light of these facts, the dissertation offers an original typology of presuppositions based on their interaction with NPIs.
On the positive polarity side, the dissertation shows that the deontic modals must, should andsupposed are all PPIs which raise in order to avoid being in the scope of an offending expression; it also establishes that should has a dual nature (it is a neg-raising predicate, which achieves wide scope through a homogeneity inference; and it is also a PPI) and that supposed exhibits a neg-raising behavior under certain pragmatic conditions which shed new light on the neg-raising phenomenon.
Lastly, the dissertation focuses on the stativity of root modals and derives the phenomenon known as actuality entailment (i.e. the inference, which obtains in the perfective, that the complement of a root modal holds in the actual world, cf. Bhatt 1999 and Hacquard 2006) as the effect of an operation of aspectual coercion made necessary to repair the incompatibility between a stative predicate and the perfective viewpoint aspect.
Keywords: NPI, PPI, Modal, Neg-raising, Aspect, Actuality entailment, Presupposition.
Intervention Effects: The Case of Presuppositions (pdf)
Abstract: The thesis comprises two parts. The first chapter is a case study in comparative semantics: I analyze the disruption of NPI licensing caused by the Italian indicative in clauses embedded under epistemic predicates (i.e. credere), and examine concurrently the French indicative, which is not a presupposition trigger, and is not disruptive in such contexts. Through the lens of NPI licensing, I provide new insights in the mechanics of mood selection in the two languages: for instance, I establish that the appearance of the indicative under Italian epistemic predicates is dependent on at least three factors, i.e. the Morphology Factor, the Congruence with the Speaker’s Assumptions Factor, and the Strength of Belief Factor. The latter prompts a revision of the semantics of epistemic predicates, whereby degrees of belief are introduced. The second chapter establishes that the meaning that is relevant for the computation of NPI licensing sometimes encompasses presuppositions.
Keywords: Subjunctive, French, Italian, NPI, Presupposition.
Philosophy, September 2000 (Diplôme d’Études Approfondies)
Université de Tours, France
Adviser: Catherine Chevalley
La Représentation de la rupture avec la science classique chez Niels Bohr (pdf)
Philosophy, July 1999
École normale supérieure (ENS), Paris