ObTrEx stands for Obligatory Triggers — Experimental Evidence

ObTrEx is a linguistic research project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and is part of XPrag.de. It is associated with the University of Tübingen.

The overall goal of XPrag.de is to develop a precise pragmatic theory that is informed by evidence using experimental methods. In this ObTrEx is concerned with generating experimental evidence on the issue of obligatory presupposition triggers.

The aim of the project is to find experimental evidence for or against the predictions of two competing theories on the obligatory insertion of presupposition triggers.

It has been observed that presupposition triggers like again and too have to be used when the context is appropriate, i.e. when it verifies their presuppositions (Heim 1991, Krifka 1999, Sauerland 2008):

(1)   Context: John came to the store.

Bill came to the store, #(too).

(2)   Context: Yesterday Jenna went ice skating.

Today, she went ice skating, #(again).

There exist two competing theories on how to account for these facts. One theory is based on  the principle Maximize Presupposition (Heim 1991, Sauerland 2008, Chemla 2008), the other works with obligatory conversational implicatures (Krifka 1999, Saboe 2004, Bade 2013).

The Maximize Presuppostion theories (MaxPres Theories) assume that sentences with a presupposition trigger are generally preferred over sentences without the trigger.

The obligatory implicature approaches (ObligImp Theories) assume that the trigger is inserted to prevent an implicature from arising.

The aim of this project is to compare the predictions of these competing theories using experimental methods. Finding psycholinguistic evidence for either MaxPres or ObligImp will have important theoretical implications. It will tell us whether the grammar includes a general maxim from which the facts in (1) or (2) can be derived or whether they follow from a mechanism for generating implicatures.

The project will use experimental psycholinguistic (off-line and on-line) methods to investigate the obligatory insertion of presupposition triggers in certain contexts.