(In-)definites, (anti-)uniqueness, and uniqueness expectations

AbstractUsing "A" in noun phrases such as "A father of the victim" is odd, which is commonly explained by the principle "Maximize Presupposition", requiring speakers to use the alternative with the strongest presupposition ("the", given its uniqueness presupposition). This results in an anti-uniqueness inference for "A" (clashing with stereotypical expectations in the example at hand), sometimes labelled as an 'anti-presupposition' (Percus 2006), as it derives from reasoning over the presuppositions of alternative forms. We compare these inferences to the uniqueness inferences associated with definites, while manipulating uniqueness expectations in a picture manipulation task using visual world eye-tracking. This offers a minimal comparison of uniqueness-based inferences that are lexically encoded vs. pragmatically inferred, and furthermore tests the prediction that the the accommodatability of its presupposition (Rouillard & Schwarz 2017), plays a role in the derivation of anti-uniqueness inferences.

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