On Aristotle and Baldness : Topic, Reference, Presupposition of Existence, and Negation

Johan Brandtler

Research output: Working paper

162 Downloads (Pure)


This paper is a contribution to the never settled debate on reference, negation and presupposition of existence in the linguistic/philosophical literature. Based on Swedish and English data, the discussion is an attempt to present a unified account of the opposing views put forward in the works of Aristotle, Frege (1892), Russell (1905) and Strawson (1950). The starting point is the observed asymmetry in Swedish (and English) that negation may precede a quantified subject NP in the first position, but not a definite subject NP or a proper name. This asymmetry is argued to be due to semantic, rather than syntactic, restrictions. In the model proposed here, negating a topic NP affects the “topic selection”. This is allowed with quantified NPs, since negating a quantifier leads only to a modification of the topic selection. For definite/generic subject NPs this cannot be allowed, since negating a definite NP equals cancelling the topic selection. This leads to a ‘crash’ at the semantic level.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Publication series

NameWorking Papers in Scandinavian Syntax
ISSN (Print)1100-097X

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Swedish (015011001)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • negation
  • presupposition
  • implicature
  • Frege
  • Russell
  • Strawson
  • reference
  • quantifiers
  • predication
  • topic


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