The Semantics and Pragmatics of Presupposition [pdf]

Asher, N. and A. Lascarides [1998] The Semantics and Pragmatics of Presupposition, Journal of Semantics, 15, pp239-299, Oxford University Press.

In this paper, we offer a novel analysis of presuppositions, paying particular attention to the interaction between the knowledge resources that are required to interpret them. The analysis has two main features. First, we capture an analogy between presuppositions, anaphora and scope ambiguity (cf. van der Sandt, 1992), by utilising semantic underspecification (cf. Reyle, 1993). Second, resolving this underspecification requires reasoning about how the presupposition is rhetorically connected to the discourse context. This has several consequences. First, since pragmatic information plays a role in computing the rhetorical relation, it also constrains the interpretation of presuppositions. Our account therefore goes beyond existing ones, and provides a forum for analysing problematic data, that require pragmatic reasoning. Second, binding presuppositions to the context via rhetorical links replaces accommodating them, in the sense of adding them to the context (cf. Lewis, 1979). Thus, unlike previous theories, we don't resort to interpretation mechanisms that are peculiar to presuppositions. Rather, they are handled entirely in terms of the discourse update procedure. We formalise this approach in SDRT (Asher 1993, Lascarides and Asher 1993), and demonstrate that it provides a rich framework for interpreting presuppositions, where semantic and pragmatic constraints are integrated.

author = {Nicholas Asher and Alex Lascarides},
year = {1998},
title = {The Semantics and Pragmatics of Presupposition},
journal  = {Journal of Semantics},
volume = {15},
number = {2},
pages = {239--299},
publisher = {Oxford University Press}