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Linguistic Inquiry

Spring 2019, Vol. 50, No. 2, Pages 372-387
(doi: 10.1162/ling_a_00307)
© 2018 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Presupposition Failure and Intended Pronominal Reference: Person Is Not So Different from Gender After All
Article PDF (81.39 KB)
Abstract

This article aims to show that (one of) the main argument(s) against the presuppositional account of person is not compelling if one makes appropriate assumptions about how the context fixes the assignment. It has been argued that unlike gender features, person features of free pronouns cannot yield presupposition failure (instead, can yield only falsity) when they are not verified by the referent. The argument is flawed, however, because the way the referent is assigned is not made clear. If it is assumed to be the individual that the audience can recognize as the referent intended by the speaker, the argument is reversed.