Experimental Studies on it-Clefts and Predicate Interpretation

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Agata Renans
Joseph P. De Veaugh-Geiss


There is an ongoing discussion in the literature whether the series of sentences ‘It’s not α that did P. α and β did P.’ is acceptable or not. Whereas the homogeneity approach in Büring & Križ 2013, Križ 2016, and Križ 2017 predicts these sentences to be unacceptable, the alternative-based approach predicts acceptability depending on the predicate being interpreted distributively or non- distributively (among others, Horn 1981, Velleman et al. 2012, Renans 2016a,b). We report on three experiments testing the predictions of both types of approaches. These studies provide empirical data that not only bears on these approaches, but also allows us to distinguish between different accounts of cleft exhaustivity that might otherwise make the same predictions. The results of the three studies reported here suggest that the acceptability of clefts depends on the interpretation of the predicate, thereby posing a serious challenge to the homogeneity approach, and contributing to the ongoing discussion on the semantics of it-clefts.


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