Philosophy Pragmatics
by
Mitchell Green
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0146

Introduction

Pragmatics is a branch of the philosophy of language as well as a field of linguistics. Pragmatics is to be distinguished from pragmatism, which is a doctrine concerning the nature of truth and knowledge. Whereas proponents of pragmatism are pragmatists, students of pragmatics are pragmaticists. Imagine a communicative interaction among two or more parties. Pragmaticists generally study that part of what is communicated that is left over after the conventionally determined, literal meaning of any words used has been subtracted out. (This is in contrast to what remains after the conventionally permitted, literal meaning has been subtracted out—see The Pragmatic Determination of What is Said) In part because pragmatics falls within the ambit of linguistics, it has an empirical, indeed an experimental dimension. Topics comprising pragmatics include speech acts (a special case of which are performatives), implicature, indexicals, presupposition, speaker meaning, and the pragmatic determination of what is said. A topic that has recently received intensive discussion and is of obvious importance to pragmatics is the very delineation of semantics from pragmatics. Other topics that have received less extensive scrutiny include expression and expressiveness and the relation of illocutionary force to semantic content and grammatical mood. In addition to the topics comprising the field, the value of pragmatics as an explanatory enterprise may be gauged by its ability to illuminate familiar communicative phenomena: among these are metaphor, irony, the significance of epithets and other “charged” language, the distinction between lying to and misleading an audience, facial expression, communicative properties of intonation, and so-called pragmatic paradoxes. Theoretical discussions of pornography have also been influenced by pragmatics. Aside from linguistics, logical theory also has a stake in pragmatics insofar as the notion of good reasoning cannot be captured simply with the notion of soundness. (A circular argument, for instance, can be sound.) Further, on the strength of certain ways of drawing the pragmatics/semantics boundary, some phenomena traditionally in the purview of semantics have been construed as pragmatic instead: among these are Frege’s distinction between sense and reference and the phenomenon of non-referring proper names. Certain semantic strategies, then, have a stake in pragmatics.

General Overviews and Histories

Dummett 1994 offers a brief historical reconstruction of the 20th-century analytic philosophy of language through its origins in 19th-century German (and Austrian) idealism and empiricism. That reconstruction helps to relate pragmatics to semantics. Nerlich and Clark 1994 offers a “prehistory” of pragmatics, while Smith 1990 focuses on early 20th-century precursors to better-known research; both are useful historical resources. Tsohatzidis 1994 collects many prominent and extensive articles on speech act theory and contains a detailed bibliography. Horn and Ward 2006 is the most extensive and updated survey of the field currently available. Korta and Perry 2006 offers an overview of pragmatics that is compressed (and so not the best primary source for novices to the field) but detailed.

  • Dummett, M. Origins of Analytic Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

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    Relates analytic philosophy of language to its origins in 19th-century German philosophy and explains the modern division of semantics and pragmatics.

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    • Horn, L., and G. Ward, eds. The Handbook of Pragmatics. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.

      DOI: 10.1002/9780470756959Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Contains thirty-two specially commissioned articles on important topics in the field. Includes overview of Relevance Theory by Wilson and Sperber, as well as articles on the relation of pragmatics to other fields such as computational linguistics and language acquisition.

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      • Korta, K., and J. Perry. “Pragmatics.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2006.

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        Insightful and compressed overview of pragmatics.

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        • Nerlich, B., and D. Clark. “Language, Action and Context: Linguistic Pragmatics in America and Europe, 1800–1950.” Journal of Pragmatics 22 (1994): 439–463.

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          Useful “prehistory” of pragmatics.

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          • Smith, B. “Toward a History of Speech Act Theory.” In Speech Acts, Meaning and Intentions: Critical Approaches to the Philosophy of John Searle. Edited by A. Burkhardt, 29–61. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1990.

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            Likely the best history of the subject currently available.

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          • Tsohatzidis, S. L., ed. Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives. London: Routledge, 1994.

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            With a detailed introduction and contributions from many perspectives on a great variety of topics, this is the most comprehensive extant overview of speech act theory. Includes a detailed bibliography.

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          Textbooks and Anthologies

          Levenson 1983 was the first text on pragmatics, and while outdated in certain respects, still contains valuable insights. Yule 1996 is a very brief introduction to the field, written by a linguist, while Green 1996 introduces the field to students of cognitive science. Mey 2001 and Huang 2006 are more extensive and current, and both are accessible to a wide audience. Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet 2000, despite being a text primarily in semantics, places its discussion in a larger pragmatic framework and is particularly useful for those concerned with the interaction of semantics and pragmatics. Davis 1991 is a well-established reader containing many seminal articles in the field.

          Ordinary Language Philosophy and Pragmatics

          Russell’s theory of descriptions inspired at least a half-century of research aimed at dissolving traditional philosophical problems by showing them to rest on verbal confusion. Ordinary Language philosophy attempted to turn this strategy into a general philosophical method by arguing that many traditional problems rest on a misuse of language. As recounted in Urmson 1958 and with greater detail in Soames 2005, Ryle 1949, Wittgenstein 2009, Austin 1990, and Austin 1962 are the most famous exemplars of this method. Grice in the 1950s and 1960s argued that in many cases this methodology rests on a conflation of different kinds of nonsense, misuse, or absurdity (Grice 1989). Grice thereby dealt a serious blow to the Ordinary Language movement, which nevertheless has contemporary defenders such as Travis 1991. As part of his critique, Grice sketched a notion of the “contextual” or pragmatic implications of what a speaker says that came to inspire much pragmatic research. Pragmaticists continue, however, to find inspiration in the writings of Ordinary Language philosophers.

          Speaker Meaning

          Inspired by the seminal article written by Grice 1957, a large literature distinguishes between what Grice called natural meaning (“Those clouds mean rain”), and what he called non-natural meaning (“In gesturing that way the policewoman meant I should stop”). Non-natural meaning, now more often referred to as speaker meaning, can occur in the absence of linguistic conventions. Accordingly, “Intention-Based Semantics” (IBS), defended in Grice 1957, Schiffer 1972, and Bennett 1976, attempts to analyze linguistic meaning in terms of conventions formed on the basis of ossifications of patterns of speaker meanings. IBS has been criticized on the ground that it dubiously presupposes the possibility of complex communicative intentions in the absence of language. Avramides 1989 defends IBS on a number of fronts, including an argument that it should be seen as offering an elucidation rather than a reductive analysis of speaker meaning. Vlach 1981 and Neale 1992 provide detailed overviews of the literature approximately up to their times of publication; Neale’s discussion places speaker meaning in the context of the larger body of Grice’s philosophical work. Davis 1992 argues, contrary to the mainstream, that speaker meaning does not require intentions to produce effects on an audience. Green 2007 builds on Davis’s work to provide an account of speaker meaning emphasizing overtness rather than intentions to produce effects on others.

          Speech Acts

          A speech act is an act that can be performed by saying that one is doing so. Promising is thus a speech act, whereas convincing and intimidating are not. The locus classicus of this concept in the English-speaking tradition is Austin 1962. Austin’s student Searle subsequently criticized many of his teacher’s ideas in the course of developing a more systematic account of speech acts in Searle 2009. That development shares Austin’s assumption that all speech acts depend on conventions that go beyond those that give words their meaning; Strawson 1964 criticizes this assumption while explaining the efficacy of many speech acts in terms of communicative intentions (and thus speaker meaning). Bach and Harnish 1979 develop and generalize this strategy. Vanderveken 1990 attempts an explication of speech act theory in a logically rigorous system. Brandom 1983, by contrast, offers an account of assertion in terms of conversational proprieties, and the account has been generalized by others. Finally, whereas semantics is commonly taken to be more fundamental than pragmatics (in the sense that the latter presupposes the former but not vice versa), Alston 2000 develops a conception of sentence meaning in terms of that sentence’s aptitude for the performance of speech acts, thereby construing pragmatic notions as more basic than semantic notions. Green 2007 provides an overview of the field that is accessible online.

          Performatives

          A performative utterance is a speech act that makes explicit the illocutionary act it is carrying out. Austin 1962(cited under Speech Acts) held that performative utterances are neither true nor false on the ground that they are used to do something (such as appointing or betting) rather than to say something. Heal 1974 and Ginet 1979 have challenged the presumed incompatibility of saying and doing, and Heal argues on linguistic grounds that performatives can have truth value. Searle 1989 attempts to explain how performatives work in terms of the concept of a declaration; Bach and Harnish 1992 challenge Searle’s model with an alternative approach on which performatives are fundamentally assertions, with their ability to do what they describe themselves as doing dependent upon that fact. Jary 2007 analyzes performatives as means by which a speaker shows (rather than describes) the act he or she is performing. On this view performatives are not assertions and are neither true nor false. Recanati 1987 offers an insightful survey of the literature up to 1985.

          Indirect Speech Acts

          A speaker can perform one speech act by performing another. For instance, by remarking that you are stepping on my foot, I will normally also be understood as requesting you to move. Searle 1975 argues that this process can be explained in terms of the same notions that account for conversational implicature. Bertolet 1994 observes that in spite of Searle’s popularization of the notion, indirect speech acts are less common than widely believed: many cases in which we might be tempted to ascribe an indirect speech act to a speaker are better understood as ones in which the speaker is expressing an attitude (which is not itself sufficient for the performance of a speech act). In a different tradition, Asher and Lascarides 2001 develop an account of indirect speech acts within the formalism of Discourse Representation Theory.

          • Asher, N., and A. Lascarides. “Indirect Speech Acts.” Synthese 128 (2001): 183–228.

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            Develops an account of indirect speech acts in terms of Discourse Representation Theory.

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            • Bertolet, R. “Are There Indirect Speech Acts?” In Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives. Edited by Tsohatzidis, 335–349. London: Routledge, 1994.

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              Argues that indirect speech acts are less common than widely believed.

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              • Searle, J. R. “Indirect Speech Acts.” In Syntax and Semantics. Vol. 3. Edited by P. Cole and J. Morgan, 59–82. New York: Academic Press, 1975.

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                Influential treatment of the topic in terms of conversational implicature.

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                The Force-Content Distinction

                Responding to a long empiricist tradition that did not draw this distinction firmly, Frege 1984 distinguishes between acts of assertion and their contents. The former are spatiotemporally locatable, whereas the latter are abstract and capable of being grasped by any thinker regardless of his or her location in space and time. This distinction has since been generalized by authors such as Stenius 1967 to permit a bifurcation between the force and content of any speech act. Davidson 2001 employs this distinction on behalf of his thesis of the Autonomy of Linguistic Meaning, according to which once an expression has been given a conventional meaning, it can be used for any of a variety of speech acts. Hare 1989 and Dummett 1993 challenge this by arguing that there could be a language in which certain expressions were constitutively involved in certain speech acts. Green 1997 counters this, while showing that Davidson’s arguments only establish an attenuated form of the autonomy thesis. Barker 2004 argues against the force/content distinction generally.

                Indexicality

                Pragmatics studies not only how we mean more than what we say but also how contextual factors can help determine what is said in the first place. A word like “I” has a conventional meaning, but who it refers to on a given occasion depends on who is using the word. The same goes for other words such as “you,” “here,” “now,” and “yesterday.” Strawson 1950 had adumbrated a distinction between rules for the use of an expression, and its use, as permitted by such rules, on a given occasion to mean something. Stalnaker 1970 and Stalnaker 1999 refine this thought such that syntax and semantics only provide an interpretation for a clause; a context of utterance is required for that interpretation to express a proposition. On this view, an interpreted sentence is a function from contexts of utterance to propositions, which in turn are functions from possible worlds to truth values. Similarly, refining ideas in a dissertation by Vlach 1973, Kaplan 1979, and his monograph “Demonstratives” (see Demonstratives) provides an elegant systematization sometimes termed “double-indexing semantics.” For Kaplan, the character of an expression is a function from contexts of utterance to contents, which are then conceptualized as intensions in the traditional sense. In later work Kaplan distinguishes between indexicals and demonstratives, such that both have context-sensitive content but only the latter require some act of demonstration such as gaze or a manual gesture (see his work “Afterthoughts” in Demonstratives). “Indexical” is often used as a generic term to include context-sensitive expressions only some of which require demonstrations. Although indexicals are often considered paradigms of so-called direct reference (that is, as terms that refer rigidly to their bearers with no intermediary level of Fregean sense), Forbes 1987 defends a semantics for indexicals in a Fregean tradition. Forbes 2003 contains a thorough review of the literature on indexicality up to 2002.

                • Forbes, G. “Indexicals and Intensionality: A Fregean Perspective.” The Philosophical Review 96 (1987): 3–21.

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                  Develops a sense-reference distinction in the spirit of Frege’s use of those notions, in application to indexicals.

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                  • Forbes, G. “Indexicals.” In Handbook of Philosophical Logic. 2d ed. Vol. 10. 101–134. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 2003.

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                    A thorough review of the literature on indexicality up to 2002.

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                    • Kaplan, D. “On the Logic of Demonstratives.” Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1979): 81–98.

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                      Highly influential work that elegantly captures the ability of certain expressions to express different contents in different contexts of utterance without being ambiguous.

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                      • Stalnaker, R. “Pragmatics.” Synthese 22 (1970): 31–46.

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                        Develops a view according to which meaningful expressions only express contents with reference to a context of utterance.

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                        • Stalnaker, R. Context and Content. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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                          Collects author’s influential essays, many of which concern indexicality.

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                        • Strawson, P. “On Referring.” Mind 59 (1950): 320–344.

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                          Although this work is best known for its presentation of semantic presupposition, it also distinguishes the meaning from an expression from what that expression expresses in a context of utterance, thereby prefiguring the later work of writers such as Kaplan.

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                          • Vlach, F. “‘Now’ and ‘Then’: A Formal Study in the Logic of Tense and Anaphora.” PhD diss., Philosophy Department, UCLA, 1973.

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                            Possibly the earliest formulation of the distinction between character and content.

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                            Demonstratives

                            Whereas “I” secures a referent just by being uttered by a speaker, demonstratives such as “this” and “that” need more: they are often accompanied by a gesture or an overt gaze in an effort to single out a referent. Philosophers have debated about what additional element is required for an utterance of a demonstrative to secure a referent. Kaplan 2001 first account, “Dthat,” emphasized manual gesture for the securing of a referent (see Indexicality). Later, however, he emphasizes intentions (Kaplan 1989). Reimer 1991 challenges this latter position by arguing that some demonstrative utterances can refer to things not intended by the speaker. Bach 1992 replies to Reimer by defending a refinement of the account appealing to a speaker’s intentions. Other positions have also been proposed: Devitt 1981 takes the relevant factor to be the referent’s standing in a certain causal relation to the utterance; McGinn 1981 holds that the referent of “that F” is the first F intersecting the line projecting from the end of the speaker’s finger (pretending that there is exactly one). Wettstein 1984 argues that “that” refers to whatever entity a competent and charitable interlocutor would take the speaker to be referring to.

                            The Scope of Indexicality

                            Controversy is also found concerning the range of indexicality. Kratzer 1977and Lewis 1979 hold that modal expressions express one kind of modality or another (e.g., epistemic as opposed to metaphysical possibility) depending on the context of utterance. Richard 1990 argues that attitude ascriptions such as “S believes that p” expresses different propositions depending on the context of utterance and uses this hypothesis as a counter to Fregean theories of sense and reference. Kennedy 2007 defends the context-sensitivity of comparative adjectives. Cohen 1988 and DeRose 1995 argue that knowledge claims express different contents depending on the epistemic standards dominant in the context of that ascription’s utterance. Cappelen and Lepore 2005 argue against these various ways of extending the treatment of classic indexicals (“I,” “you,” “here,” etc.) to other locutions. They contend that these expressions are not context sensitive but rather attribute the evidence to different speech acts that may be performed in different contexts. Authors have also debated the question of whether indexicals are devices of direct reference. Kaplan holds that indexicals are both devices of direct reference and rigid designators. But Frege-style puzzles can be generated suggesting indexicals have a layer of meaning transcending their reference. Frege 1984’s remarks (cited in The Force-Content Distinction) on indexicals suggest a view along these lines. Perry 2001 defends a direct-reference alternative to such neo-Fregean positions by invoking the notion of character (construed as a way of believing a proposition) to stand in for the notion of sense.

                            Implicature

                            In the middle of the 20th century, philosophers began to pay systematic attention to the ways in which what we mean (sensu speaker meaning) goes beyond what we say. Grice 1989 argued that this can occur either by virtue of the literal meaning of our words, or by the interaction of what is said with general norms governing conversational practice. The former he called “conventional implicature”; the latter, “conversational implicature.” Hungerland 1960 discusses historical antecedents of these notions. The “maxims” Grice postulated to elucidate conversational norms have been challenged, most notably by Sperber and Wilson 1995, who argue that they can all be subsumed under the maxim of Relevance (as they define that notion). Their Relevance Theory has now emerged as a substantial research program, as exemplified by the UCL Working Papers in Linguistics series. Recent essays on various topics related to implicature may be found in Petrus 2010.

                            Conventional Implicature

                            As Grice defines this notion, an expression E conventionally implicates a content C just in case any serious use of E (embedded or not) commits its user to C. This commitment is no part of the truth conditions of what the speaker has said. Frege 1991 had explored these phenomena in an article more famous for its defense of the sense/reference distinction. Potts 2005 offers a detailed study of conventional implicature that places it within the framework of semantic theory. Green 2000 develops an account of certain parenthetical expressions as conventional implicating devices. Reiber 1997 construes discourse connectives such as “but,” “so” and “nevertheless” as encoding an implicit performative. Thus “Sheilah is rich but unhappy,” may be glossed as “Sheilah is rich (and I suggest this contrasts) she is unhappy.” Bach 1999 attacks the notion of conventional implicature on the ground that all alleged examples of the phenomenon either (a) contribute to the truth conditions of what is said, or (b) can be glossed as “second order” speech acts.

                            • Bach, K. “The Myth of Conventional Implicature.” Linguistics and Philosophy 22 (1999): 327–366.

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                              Argues that so-called conventional implicature either contributes to truth conditional content of the utterance in which it occurs, or can be better glossed as a “second order” speech act.

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                              • Frege, G. “On Sense and Reference.” In Collected Papers on Mathematics, Logic and Philosophy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1991.

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                                Often neglected in an article more famous for its distinction between sense and reference, a rudimentary exploration of conventional implicature is here adumbrated.

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                                • Green, M. “Illocutionary Force and Semantic Content.” Linguistics and Philosophy 23 (2000): 435–473.

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                                  Articulates the notion of a force indicator, and argues that certain parenthetical expressions in English are both force indicators thus characterized as well as devices of conventional implicature.

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                                  • Potts, C. The Logic of Conventional Implicatures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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                                    Provides detailed reconstruction of conventional implicature within the framework of semantic theory.

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                                  • Reiber, S. “Conventional Implicatures as Tacit Performatives.” Linguistics and Philosophy 20 (1997): 51–72.

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                                    Glosses discourse connectives (a class of conventionally implicating words) as encoding implicit performatives.

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                                    Conversational Implicature

                                    When someone speaker-means a content, and that content is generated by interaction between what he or she has said and conversational proprieties, that person has conversationally implicated that content. Grice’s work is the watershed publication nourishing most other research in this area, some of which has become technical (Grice 1989). Horn 1989 is a major treatment of the interaction of conversational implicature with negation, developing among other concepts what has come to be known as “Horn Scales.” Green 1995 criticizes Horn’s use of the Maxim of Quantity. Davis 1998 argues that apparent explanations of pragmatic phenomena in terms of conversational implicature are specious. Many authors follow Grice in distinguishing between generalized conversational implicatures (which are triggered in most conversational contexts) and particularized conversational implicatures (which are not). Levinson 2000 develops a detailed theory of the former.

                                    Presupposition

                                    The modern notion of presupposition has its origins in Strawson 1950, who argues that sentence-forms such as “The F is G” presuppose the existence and uniqueness of a thing that is F. Strawson held that when either such condition is unmet, the sentence cannot be used to make an assertion or perform any other speech act. Strawson thereby popularized a notion that came to be known as “semantic presupposition.” Theories of semantic presupposition became intricate and unwieldy by the 1970s. During that time many writers suggested reconstruing some apparent cases of semantic presupposition in terms of conventional implicature. An example is Kartunnen and Peters 1979. Boer and Lycan 1976 argued for a general rejection of the notion of semantic presupposition. In papers collected in Stalnaker 1999’s work, he advocated another notion, pragmatic presupposition, which he elucidates in terms of a conversational kinematics. Lewis 1979 extends Stalnaker’s work with the influential notion of accommodation. Soames 1989 charts this evolution up to the late 1980s and includes a detailed critique of Strawson’s conception of presupposition. Beaver 1997 is an updated literature review, which also explains the relation of recent work on presupposition to dynamic semantics. Thomason 1990 develops a general perspective on a variety of phenomena including presupposition in terms of rational action. Pragmatic presupposition receives the majority of attention in philosophy of language and linguistics today.

                                    • Beaver, D. “Presupposition.” In Handbook of Logic and Language. Edited by J. van Benthem and A. ter Meulen, 939–1008. New York: Elsevier, 1997.

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                                      Wide-ranging and insightful overview of the topic up to the mid-1990s.

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                                    • Boer, S., and W. Lycan. The Myth of Semantic Presupposition. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Linguistics Club, 1976.

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                                      Challenges the then-dominant notion of semantic presupposition.

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                                      • Kartunnen, L., and S. Peters. “Conventional Implicature.” In Syntax and Semantics. Vol. 2. Presupposition. Edited by David A. Dinneen and Choon-Kyu Oh, 1–56. New York: Academic Press, 1979.

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                                        Argues that a range of alleged semantic presuppositions are better characterized as conventional implicatures. Available online.

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                                        • Lewis, D. “Scorekeeping in a Language-Game.” Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1979): 339–359.

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                                          Articulates a notion of pragmatic presupposition emphasizing conversational kinematics, and incorporating what Lewis calls “accommodation.”

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                                          • Soames, S. “Presupposition.” In Handbook of Philosophical Logic. Vol. 4. Topics in the Philosophy of Language. Edited by Dov Gabbay and Franz Guenthner, 553–616. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer, 1989.

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                                            Detailed survey of the topic up to the late 1980s.

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                                          • Stalnaker, Robert. Context and Content. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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                                            Collects seminal essays ranging over three decades developing a pragmatic rather than a semantic notion of presupposition and embedding the phenomenon in a conversational dynamics.

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                                          • Strawson, P. “On Referring.” Mind 59 (1950): 320–344.

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                                            Classic challenge to Russell’s Theory of Descriptions, arguing that description-involving sentences cannot be analyzed solely in terms of truth conditions.

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                                            • Thomason, R. “Accommodation, Meaning and Implicature: Interdisciplinary Foundations for Pragmatics.” In Intentions in Communication. Edited by P. Cohen, J. Morgan, and M. Pollock, 325–364. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990.

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                                              Wide-ranging overview of various topics within pragmatics from the perspective of rational agency.

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                                            The Pragmatic Determination of What is Said

                                            As mentioned in the introduction, pragmatics studies that part of what is communicated after the conventionally determined, literal meaning of words used has been subtracted. We distinguished this from what remains after the conventionally permitted, literal meaning has been subtracted. This is because many pragmaticists now hold that pragmatic phenomena can help determine what is said by selecting from a range of parameters specified in a term’s literal meaning. Bach 2001 uses the term “impliciture” to refer to contents implicit in what is said but not mandated by the literal meaning of words used. Travis 1996 uses “occasion sensitivity” to mark out a similar phenomenon; Carston 2002 uses a related notion of explicature to delineate this category. Recanati 2004 defends a liberal conception of what is said against some of the aforementioned positions. Birner and Ward 2006 collects articles by prominent linguists on the semantics/pragmatics boundary, while Szabo 2005 is a collection of essays by philosophers exploring that boundary.

                                            Pragmatic “Paradoxes”

                                            A good way of assessing the adequacy of a pragmatic theory is its ability to resolve paradoxes falling within its domain. One such paradox is traceable to Moore 1942, which observed that “It’s raining, but I don’t believe it,” is an absurd thing to say in spite of expressing a proposition that could be true. Baldwin 1990’s general treatment of Moore’s philosophy contains an insightful discussion of the paradox that came to bear his name. Green and Williams 2007b term this “Moorean absurdity,” distinguishing it from “Moore’s Paradox”: the latter is their label for the fact that the utterance in question is absurd despite expressing a proposition that could be true. Much effort has gone into discerning the source of this absurdity. Heal 1994, taking inspiration from some of Wittgenstein’s remarks, argues that the absurdity is semantic despite appearances to the contrary. Shoemaker 1995 relates Moore’s Paradox to a similar phenomenon on the level of belief, thereby drawing connections with self-knowledge. Clark 1995 places Moore’s Paradox in the framework of a larger class of paradoxes having to do with violations of practical rationality. These include various kinds of “self-defeating” utterances such as “I am not here now.” Similarly, Sorensen 1988 places Moore’s Paradox within a wider range of ways in which rationality is limited by what he terms “blindspots.” Green and Williams 2007a contains recent essays on Moore’s Paradox by many leading writers.

                                            • Baldwin, T. G. E. Moore. New York: Routledge, 1990.

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                                              Places Moore’s Paradox within the larger framework of Moore’s thought, and offers an account of the source of the absurdity that Moore was the first to isolate.

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                                              • Clark, R. “Pragmatic Paradox and Rationality.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 24 (1995): 229–242.

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                                                Delineates a class of paradoxes that are nonsemantic, but inclusive of Moore’s Paradox.

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                                                • Green, Mitchell and John Williams. Moore’s Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality and the First Person. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007a.

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                                                  Wide-ranging collection of recent essays on Moorean absurdity.

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                                                • Green, Mitchell, and John Williams. (2007b) “Editors’ Introduction.” In Moore’s Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality and the First Person. Edited by Mitchell Green and John Williams, 3–36. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007b.

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                                                  Introduction to the topic, with historical background and a mapping of the logical space of possible approaches to the problem.

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                                                • Heal, J. “Moore’s Paradox: A Wittgensteinian Approach.” Mind 103 (1994): 5–24.

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                                                  Interprets Wittgenstein’s remarks on Moorean absurdity and defends it as holding that such cases involve an explicit contradiction.

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                                                  • Moore, G. E. “A Reply to My Critics.” In The Philosophy of G. E. Moore. Edited by P. A. Schilpp, 535–677. Evanston, IL, and Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1942.

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                                                    Contains some of Moore’s most representative remarks on the pragmatic paradox that came to be named after him.

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                                                    • Shoemaker, S. “Moore’s Paradox and Self-Knowledge.” Philosophical Studies 7 (1995): 211–228.

                                                      DOI: 10.1007/BF00989570Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Explains the absurdity of Moorean utterances in terms of the absurdity of Moorean beliefs, in the process relating these issues to self-knowledge.

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                                                      • Sorensen, R. Blindspots. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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                                                        Influential study placing Moorean absurdity within the larger framework of what Sorensen calls a “blindspot.”

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                                                      Emerging Topics

                                                      In addition to assessing positions in pragmatics in terms of their ability to explain pragmatic paradoxes, recent research has begun to assess those positions both with experimental studies and by relating them to other fields such as game theory. Benz, et al. 2005 serves as an excellent introduction to the explanation of pragmatic phenomena in terms of the theory of games. Novak and Reboul 2008 introduces the emerging field of experimental pragmatics; Novak and Sperber 2004 collects articles reporting experimental results on a wide variety of topics, including implicature, speech acts, and Relevance Theory. Sauerland and Yatsushiro 2009 collects essays reporting experimental results concerning negation, presupposition, and implicature.

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