In this paper, I review a number of arguments in favor of treating many of the central cases of presupposition as the result of conversational inference, rather than as lexically specified properties of particular expressions. I then argue that, despite the standard assumption to the contrary, the view of presupposition as constraints on the common ground is not consistent with the provision of a conversational account of particular presuppositional constraints. The argument revolves crucially around the workings of accommodation. I then (...) offer an alternative view of the phenomenon of presupposition, which is compatible with a variety of sources for presuppositions. On the view offered here, presupposition is seen as a property of utterances. I argue that the presuppositions of an utterance are those propositions which an interpreter must take the speaker to accept in order to take the speaker to be fully cooperative, in the Gricean sense. (shrink)
We define a notion of projective meaning which encompasses both classical presuppositions and phenomena which are usually regarded as non-presuppositional but which also display projection behavior—Horn’s assertorically inert entailments, conventional implicatures (both Grice’s and Potts’) and some conversational implicatures. We argue that the central feature of all projective meanings is that they are not-at-issue, defined as a relation to the question under discussion. Other properties differentiate various sub-classes of projective meanings, one of them the class of presuppositions according to Stalnaker. (...) This principled taxonomy predicts differences in behavior unexpected on other models among the various conventional triggers and conversational implicatures, while holding promise for a general, explanatory account of projection which applies to all the types of meanings considered. (shrink)
There seems little doubt that there are interesting and theoretically relevant distinctions to be made between different types of presuppositions within this heterogeneous set. But the study of these distinctions is of interest primarily in light of the intuition that the members of this set share some common feature: that there is some singular phenomenon of presupposition to be described and explained. This paper is concerned with what presuppositions have in common, and offers an alternative to the current standard view.
This paper will explore one of the long-standing objections to Grice’s account of conversational implicature: the case of purported implicatures which are apparently generated by subordinate clauses, or which fall under the scope of a logical operator (typically both). Such cases, for reasons to be detailed below, pose a challenge to Grice’s account. While those who have posed the challenge, ranging from advocates of truth conditional pragmatics to strict compositionalists, have a wide variety of views as to the correct account (...) of the data, they are united in reaching the same negative conclusion: that Grice’s account cannot be extended to intrusive implicatures. (shrink)
The phenomenon we now know as projection was first observed by Frege in his brief remarks about presupposition in “Sense and Reference.” Frege observes there that the assertion that Kepler died in misery gives rise to the implication that the name Kepler has a referent; but that so too does the assertion that Kepler did not die in misery. Here we have the source of the observation that if p is a presupposition of S, then p is implied by (utterances (...) of) S and by (utterances of) the negation of S. Since Frege, it has been observed that those implications which are shared by a sentence S and by its negation are also typically shared by a variety of other entailment-canceling embeddings of S: in questions, in the antecedents of conditionals, and under epistemic possibility modals. This observation has entered the canon in the form of the “family of sentences” test (Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet 2000). This test is 1 standardly used to demonstrate that some particular element of content projects. An application of the test is demonstrated below. (shrink)
In this paper, the meanings of sentences containing the word or and a modal verb are used to arrive at a novel account of the meaning of or coordinations. It is proposed that or coordinations denote sets whose members are the denotations of the disjuncts; and that the truth conditions of sentences containing or coordinations require the existence of some set made available by the semantic environment which can be ‘divided up’ in accordance with the disjuncts. The relevant notion of (...) ‘dividing things up’ is made explicit in the paper. Detailed attention is given to the question of how the proposed truth conditions are derived from the syntactic input. The account offered allows for the derivation of both the disjunctive and the nondisjunctive readings of modal/or sentences, including the much-discussed free choice readings of may/or sentences. (shrink)
This paper discusses the semantically parenthetical use of clauseembedding verbs such as see, hear, think, believe, discover and know. When embedding verbs are used in this way, the embedded clause carries the main point of the utterance, while the main clause serves some discourse function. Frequently, this function is evidential, with the parenthetical verb carrying information about the source and reliability of the embedded claim, or about the speaker’s emotional orientation to it. Other functions of parenthetical uses of verbs are (...) discussed. (shrink)
The current literature on presupposition focuses almost exclusively on the projection problem: the question of how and why the presuppositions of atomic clauses are projected to complex sentences which embed them. Very little attention has been paid to the question of how and why these presuppositions arise at all. As Kay (1992, p.335) observes, “treatments of the presupposition inheritance problem almost never deal with the reasons that individual words and constructions give rise, in the first place, to the particular presuppositions (...) that they do.”1 This is the question on which this paper will focus. (shrink)
The basic linguistic phenomenon of presupposition is commonplace and intuitive, little different from the relation described by the word presuppose in its everyday usage. In ordinary language, when we say that someone presupposes something, we mean that they assume it, or take it for granted. The term is used in the same way when we talk of a speaker presupposing something, although typically we are interested in those assumptions which are revealed by what the speaker says. To begin with the (...) most venerable case of presupposing, first discussed by Frege 1892, when a speaker makes an assertion, “there is always an obvious presupposition that the simple or compound proper names used have reference.” So a speaker who says. (shrink)
This paper concerns what might be called the variably bad behavior of the word or. As is well known, there are a variety of environments in which the word or misbehaves – misbehaves, in the sense that it gives rise to interpretations which are not expected given the standard analysis of this word as, roughly, set union. One of these environments is the scope of a modal. This case has received a lot of attention recently in the literature, and a (...) number of researchers, including myself, have proposed accounts of or which explain its behavior in this environment. (shrink)
This article reviews in detail Grice’s conception of conversational implicature, then surveys the major literature on scalar implicature from early work to the present. Embedded implicature is illustrated, and it is explained why this phenomenon poses a challenge to the Gricean view. Some alternate views of conversational implicature are then presented. The article concludes with a brief look at formal appraches to the study of implicature.
The empirical phenomenon at the center of this paper is projection, which we define (uncontroversially) as follows: (1) Definition of projection An implication projects if and only if it survives as an utterance implication when the expression that triggers the implication occurs under the syntactic scope of an entailment-cancelling operator. Projection is observed, for example, with utterances containing aspectual verbs like stop, as shown in (2) and (3) with examples from English and Paraguayan Guaraní (Paraguay, Tupí-Guaraní).1 The Guaraní example in (...) (2) and its English translation have at least the following implications: (i) Carla has previously smoked, and (ii) Carla stopped smoking. The first but not the second of these implications is also conveyed by the question version of sentence (2), as in (3a), or when (2) is embedded under entailment-cancelling sentential operators, such as negation, as in (3b), the antecedent of a conditional, as in (3c), or an epistemic modal, as in (3d). Hence, by the definition in (14), the first but not the second implication of (2) projects. (shrink)
There is a long-standing and rarely contested view that Gricean conversational reasoning—the kind of reasoning that supports the identification of conversational implicatures—cannot produce pragmatically generated modification of the contents of embedded clauses. The goal of this paper is to argue against this view: to argue that embedded pragmatic effects can be seen as continuous with ordinary, utterance-level, conversational implicature. I will further suggest, though, that embedded pragmatic effects do force on us a particular conception of semantics. Specifically, I will argue (...) that an adequate account of the data requires a semantic framework that posits structured contents. (shrink)
Unsurprisingly, the negation of sentence (1), shown in (3), does not share this entailment. Neither does the yes/no question formed from this sentence. Similarly, if we add a possibility modal to the sentence, or construct a conditional of which (1) is the antecedent, the resulting sentences do not share the entailment of the original, as we see from the examples below.
Recall Grice’s well-worn example from Logic and Conversation about Smith, his girlfriend, and his trips to New York: (1) A: Smith doesn’t seem to have a girlfriend these days. B: He has been paying a lot of visits to NY recently. Grice says that in this dialogue, B implicates that Smith has, or may have, a girlfriend in New York. But in saying this, Grice under-describes his own example. For this proposition alone does not suffice to satisfy the requirements of (...) Relation, the maxim presumed to be operative in this case. Grice says that “[B] implicates that which he must be assumed to believe in order to preserve the assumption that he is observing the maxim of Relation.” But the assumption that B thinks that Smith might have a girlfriend in NY is not in itself sufficient to render B’s utterance relevant. An additional assumption is required, one which explicitly links the issue of having girlfriends to the issue of travel to NY: perhaps, the proposition that a person who has a girlfriend somewhere travels there frequently; or that many people have long-distance relationships, and these involve frequent trips to the same place. If A can work out that B is making this supposition, then she can immediately see the relevance of B’s response to her remark. Without it, relevance cannot be established. So this general background assumption must be implicated by the utterance.1 Now, this background assumption is not enough by itself to guarantee relevance. Suppose that B believes the background assumption, but does not believe that Smith might be traveling to NY to visit a girlfriend. Then his utterance is still in violation of Relation. B should invoke the background assumption only if it is relevant itself. (shrink)
This paper offers a critical analysis ofStalnaker''s work on presupposition (Stalnaker1973, 1974, 1979, 1999, 2002). The paperexamines two definitions of speakerpresupposition offered by Stalnaker – the familiar common ground view, and the earlier,less familiar, dispositional account – and howStalnaker relates this notion to the linguisticphenomenon of presupposition. Special attentionis paid to Stalnaker''s view of accommodation. Iargue that given Stalnakers views,accommodation is not rightly seen as driven bythe presuppositional requirements ofutterances, but only by the interests ofspeakers in eliminating perceived differencesamong presuppositions. (...) I also consider therevisions which are needed either to thedefinition of speaker presupposition or to thedefinition of sentence presupposition in lightof the possibility of informativepresupposition. In the concluding section, Idiscuss the ways in which some recent accountsof context and speaker presupposition departfrom their Stalnakerian foundations. (shrink)
There is a requirement which a disjunction must satisfy in order to constitute a felicitous contribution to an ordinary conversation: its disjuncts must be interpretable as relevant alternatives. When such an interpretation is not available, the disjunction is highly anomalous. The disjuncts of sentence (1), for example, appear unrelated to one another, and the disjunction is concomitantly odd. The effect is similar when the disjuncts are related but do not constitute distinct alternatives, perhaps by virtue of one disjunct entailing another, (...) as in (2). (shrink)
Since linguists began extensive work on presupposition in the 1970's, a long and heterogeneous list has been compiled of expressions, expression types and constructions that give rise to presuppositions. In the current literature, the principal (but by no means sole) diagnostic for presupposition typically appealed to is the tendency of the particular element of meaning to project, i.e. to escape the scope of operators such as negation, the question operator, or modals. An important intuition also routinely appealed to is that (...) the element of meaning is in some sense backgrounded, or treated by the speaker as taken for granted. There seems little doubt that there are interesting and theoretically relevant distinctions to be made between different types of presuppositions within this heterogeneous set. But the study of these distinctions is of interest primarily in light of the intuition that the members of this set share some common feature: that there is some singular phenomenon of presupposition to be described and explained. This paper is concerned with what presuppositions have in common, and offers an alternative to the current standard view. On the view currently prevalent in the linguistic literature, presuppositions constitute constraints on the common ground, or on an interlocutor’s “take” on the common ground, at the point at which 1 the presupposing utterance is interpreted. I do not intend to offer here a detailed critique of this standard theory, but perhaps a few words of justification are in order. The motivation for seeking a new account comes in part from the same considerations cited by Abbott 2000, in her critique of the standard view. Abbott’s central point is that the driving idea behind the common ground view is that presuppositions are identified with “old” information, or information that the speaker is treating as “old.” This idea, while perhaps helpful as an initial approximation, rapidly runs up against the observation that it is normal and commonplace for.... (shrink)