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Daniel Büring

Daniel Büring of the University of Vienna will speak at the UCSD Linguistics Department Colloquium on February 6, 2012, at 2:00 pm in AP&M 4301.

Exhaustivity in Clefts

This talk discusses the exhaustivity claim implied by cleft sentences. Following arguments in the literature, I first show that clefts like (1a) conventionally imply that no one but Fred commented, but--unlike parallel sentences using "only" as in (1b)--don't assert this:


  1. It was Fred who commented.
  2. Only Fred commented.

This makes it plausible to think that the exhaustivity in clefts is a presupposition or a conventional implicature. But --as I will discuss in detail-- the accurate content of such a presupposition/CI is not easily stated.

In the end, I'll argue that (1a) presupposes (2):

(2) if  Fred commented, no one else commented

It is shown how (2) derives adequate implications for various kinds& of clefts. I finally turn to parallel data involving definite descriptions, such as (3):


  1. The commentator was Fred.
  2. The commentators were Fred and Sue.

I extent the treatment of clefts to these cases, where the presupposition in (2) is shown to be akin to a uniformity presupposition. This opens us the possibility of analyzing clefts as underlyingly involving definite descriptions, as urged previously in Percus (1997).