In this course, we will discuss current work on presupposition and its realization in an integrated theory of pragmatics, the theory of how context influences interpretation. If what one says is to have meaning for one’s interlocutors, then it must be possible for those interlocutors to retrieve one’s semantic intensions (cf. Grice). How is that possible, and what role does intention-recognition play in structuring the flow of information in discourse? Following Lewis, we will assume that this is facilitated by a sort of scoreboard—the Information Structure of discourse, an organization of certain types of shared information which are updated in the course of conversation under certain rules. The current score at the time of utterance is presupposed by any competent, cooperative speaker. We’ll work with a formal model of Information Structure due to Roberts, and with a theory of pragmatic presupposition under development in collaboration with David Beaver and Mandy Simons, the latter intended to account not only for the behavior of classical presupposition triggers, but of other “assertorically inert” components of utterance meaning as well, including Potts’ Conventional Implicatures. Using these tools, we’ll explore both some obvious ways in which Information Structure bears on interpretation—including the retrieval of intended interpretations for ellipses, pro-forms, indexicals and incomplete descriptions—and some perhaps less obvious heretofore—including specificity and de re interpretation in attitude complements, and the role of perspective in de se interpretation. The emerging view has consequences not only for the empirical analysis of the various linguistic phenomena considered, but for philosophical work on meaning, reference, and intensionality.
This seminar presupposes some background in formal semantics and/or philosophy of language.