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Secondary Content

The Semantics and Pragmatics of Side Issues

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Edited by Daniel Gutzmann and Katharina Turgay

In addition to expressing some main content, utterances often convey secondary content, which is content that is not their “main point”, but which rather provides side or background information, is less prominent than the main content, and shows distinctive behavior with respect to its role in discourse structure and which discourse moves it licenses. This volume collects original research papers on the semantics and pragmatics of secondary content. By covering a broad variety of linguistic phenomena that convey secondary content – including expressives, various particles, adverbials, pronouns, quotations, and dogwhistle language – the contributions show that secondary content is pervasive throughout different aspects of natural language and provide new insight into the nature of secondary content through new semantic and pragmatic analyses.

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Mira Grubic

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This chapter discusses the presupposition of German auch (“too”). While secondary meanings associated with other triggers can often be informative, additive particles require their presupposition to be salient at the time of utterance. According to one account, additives require a parallel proposition to be salient (e.g. Beaver & Zeevat 2007). Another account suggests that only another individual needs to be salient, while the remainder of the presupposition can be accommodated (e.g. Heim 1992). In this chapter, an experiment comparing these two accounts is presented and discussed. It is argued that the second account is better suited to explain the results.

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Stefan Hinterwimmer

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In this paper I show that the Bavarian discourse particle fei, in contrast to discourse particles like doch, cannot be added to a sentence denoting a proposition p if the addressee has uttered a sentence entailing that she believes that not p. If it follows from general background assumptions or can be inferred from the addressee’s behavior that she believes that not p, in contrast, the addition of fei is felicitous. Likewise, fei can be added to a sentence denoting a proposition p if not p is presupposed or conversationally or conventionally implicated by a sentence that the addressee has previously uttered.

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Claudia Borgonovo

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There is a subtype of concessive clauses (CC s), event related CC s, that shows the classical traits of central adverbial clauses (Haegeman 2010, 2012). Event related CC s share with all other CC types the fact that they convey not at-issue content: they project under operators and can be dismissed. As a result, event-related CCS may never be focused, either informationally or contrastively. I derive this property from the impossibility of building an alternative set and excluding all alternatives but one. Taxonomically, e-related CC s are backgrounded, secondary assertions, since they satisfy the defining traits of neither presuppositions nor CI s.

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Patrícia Amaral

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This chapter examines the morphosyntactic and semantic/pragmatic properties of descriptive pronouns in European Portuguese, a set of NP s that refer to the addressee and are formed by the definite article and a noun. These forms display a bundle of conventional meaning components not previously described: (i) they refer to the addressee (deictic component), (ii) the property conveyed by the noun is predicated of the addressee (property component), and (iii) the speaker expresses social distance towards the addressee (expressive component). While the deictic meaning is primary content, the property and expressive meanings are secondary contents. I analyze descriptive pronouns as mixed use-conditional items and discuss the theoretical status of their secondary contents.

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Robert Henderson and Elin McCready

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This chapter focuses on the semantics and pragmatics of dogwhistles, namely expressions that send one message to an outgroup while at the same time sending a second (often taboo, controversial, or inflammatory) message to an ingroup. There are three questions that need to be resolved to understand the semantics and pragmatics of the phenomenon at hand: (i) What kind of meaning is dogwhistle content—implicature, conventional implicature, etc; (ii) are dogwhistles uniform or are their subtypes, and (iii) what is the correct semantic / pragmatic analysis of dogwhistles. In particular, we argue against a conventional implicature-based account of dogwhistles and instead propose an alternative, purely pragmatic, game-theoretic, account combining aspects of McCready 2012, Burnett 2016; 2017. This proposal is used to analysis two, novel subclasses of dogwhistle that we describe.

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Elena Castroviejo and Berit Gehrke

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This chapter is concerned with intensification as triggered by subsective evaluative good in Catalan (in examples such as una bona dosi ‘a good dose’). Its main focus is on providing an account of the fact that intensification only comes about in positive polarity environments. We first entertain an analysis based on the idea that positive polarity is the result of a mismatch of meanings contributed at different dimensions, but end up supporting an alternative in which the dimensions of evaluation of the noun play a crucial role in giving rise to intensification. More specifically, intensification arises when an object is only evaluated according to one dimension. Interestingly, uni-dimensionality is not preserved under negation, which prevents intensification from arising, and, in turn, makes positive polarity an illusion.

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Osamu Sawada

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This paper investigates the interpretations of the embedded expressive motto in Japanese. I argue that the expressive motto which is embedded under an attitude predicate can be speaker-oriented only when there is a deontic modal in the main clause and that there is a shift from a conventional implicature (CI) to a secondary at-issue entailment at a clausal level if the embedded motto is subject-oriented. This paper also examines cases where the expressive motto and another expressive (e.g., honorific/diminutive/pejorative) are embedded and claims that, unlike Zazaki indexicals (Anand & Nevins 2004), expressives do not always shift together.

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Holden Härtl and Heiko Seeliger

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This paper investigates the source and status of contents involved in ironic utterances which contain the name-mentioning modifier so-called as in The so-called “beach” was a thin strip of black volcanic grit. Based on two experimental studies, we argue that the head nominal’s non-literalness implicated in constructions of this sort is at-issue “the most”, while the speaker’s attitude to evaluate the head’s denotatum negatively is treated as at-issue the least. It will further be reasoned that the meaning that the head nominal’s denotatum has been called by the quoted name tends to figure as a presupposition, which is compatible with an echo approach towards verbal irony. Our findings support the notion of at-issueness as a graded criterion and can be used to argue that verbal irony in general seems to be difficult to reject directly and, thus, be treated as at-issue.

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Ana Aguilar-Guevara

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This paper studies literal and enriched meanings of sentences with weak definites and bare singulars in complementary distribution. It discusses, among other things, whether or not they display reinforceability, defeasibility, at-issueness and projectivity, which are properties usually used in the literature to characterize different types of inferences. The main conclusions are that literal meanings are regular entailments and that the best way to analyze enriched meanings is as a combination of entailed and conversationally implicated content. This treatment can explain their mixed behavior and, furthermore, is compatible with Aguilar-Guevara and Zwarts’s (2011, 2013) analysis of weak definites and its possible extension to bare singulars.