, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 233–265 | Cite as

Presumptive Reasoning in Interpretation. Implicatures and Conflicts of Presumptions

  • Fabrizio Macagno


This paper shows how reasoning from best explanation combines with linguistic and factual presumptions during the process of retrieving a speaker’s intention. It is shown how differences between presumptions need to be used to pick the best explanation of a pragmatic manifestation of a dialogical intention. It is shown why we cannot simply jump to an interpretative conclusion based on what we presume to be the most common purpose of a speech act, and why, in cases of indirect speech acts, we need to depend on an abductive process of interpretation.


Implicatures Interpretation Presumption Argumentation Abductive reasoning Inferences Argumentation schemes Implicit meaning 


  1. Allott, N. 2005. Paul Grice, reasoning and pragmatics. UCL, Working papers in linguistics 17: 217–243.Google Scholar
  2. Antley, K. 1974. McCawley’s Theory of selectional restriction. Foundations of Language 11(2): 257–272.Google Scholar
  3. Asher, N., and A. Lascarides. 1995. Lexical disambiguation in a discourse context. Journal of Semantics 12(1): 69–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asher, N., and A. Lascarides. 1998. The semantics and pragmatics of presupposition. Journal of Semantics 15: 239–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Asher, N., and A. Lascarides. 2003. Logics of conversation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Austin, J.L. 1962. How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  7. Bach, K. 1994. Meaning, speech acts, and communication. In Basic topics in the philosophy of language, ed. R.M. Harnish, 3–21. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Bach, K. 2003. Speech acts and pragmatics. In Blackwell. Guide to the philosophy of language, ed. M. Devitt and R. Hanley, 147–167. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Ballard, D., R. Conrad, and R. Longacre. 1971. The deep and surface grammar of interclausal relations. Foundations of Language 7(1): 70–118.Google Scholar
  10. Bell, D. 1997. Innuendo. Journal of Pragmatics 27: 35–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Best, W.M., et al. 1875. The principles of the law of evidence; With elementary rules for conducting the examination and cross-examination of witnesses. Albany: Little & Co.Google Scholar
  12. Burton-Roberts, N. 1989. The limits to debate: A revised theory of semantic presupposition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Capone, A. 2009. Are explicatures cancellable? Toward a theory of the speaker’s intentionality. Intercultural Pragmatics 6(1): 55–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carberry, S. 1990. Plan recognition in natural language. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Carston, R. 2002. Thoughts and utterances. Malden: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chesterton, G.K. 1904. The defendant. London: R. Brimley & Johnson.Google Scholar
  17. Clark, H. 1996. Using language. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.Google Scholar
  18. Corblin, F. 2003. Presuppositions and commitment stores. In: Diabruck, Proceedings of the 7th workshop on the semantics and the pragmatics of dialogue. Wallerfangen, Germany. Retrieved from (accessed on 8 January 2011).
  19. Crothers, E. 1979. Pragmatic structure inference. Norwood: Ablex.Google Scholar
  20. Ducrot, O. 1968. Le structuralisme en linguistique. In Qu’est-ce que le structuralisme?, ed. Oswald Ducrot, Tzvetan Todorov, et al., 13–96. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  21. Ducrot, O. 1972. De Saussure à la philosophie du langage. Preface. In Les actes de langage, ed. J. Searle, 7–34. Paris: Hermann.Google Scholar
  22. Ducrot, O. 1978. Deux Mais. Cahier de linguistique 8: 109–120.Google Scholar
  23. Ducrot, O. 1980. Les échelles argumentatives. Paris: Minuit.Google Scholar
  24. Ducrot, O. 1991. Dire et ne pas dire. Paris: Hermann.Google Scholar
  25. Dutilh Novaes, C. 2005. Medieval obligationes as logical games of consistency maintenance. Synthese 145(3): 371–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dutilh Novaes, C. 2010. A deontic-pragmatic interpretation of obligationes. In XVIII ESMLS: European symposium on medieval logic and semantics 811 June 2010 Bologna, Italy, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  27. Ephratt, M. 2008. The functions of silence. Journal of pragmatics 40: 1909–1938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fischer, D.H. 1970. Historians’ fallacies. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  29. Freeman, J. 2005. Acceptable premises: An epistemic approach to an informal logic problem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Gatti, M.C. 2000. La Negazione tra Semantica e Pragmatica. Milano: ISU.Google Scholar
  31. Goodwin, J. 2001. The noncooperative pragmatics of arguing. In Pragmatics in 2000: Selected papers from the 7th international pragmatics conference, vol. 2, ed. E.T. Nemeth, 263–277. Antwerp: International Pragmatics Association.Google Scholar
  32. Green, M. 2010. Speech acts. In A companion to the philosophy of action (58–66), ed. T. O’Connor and C. Sandis. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  33. Greenall, A.K. 2009. Towards a new theory of flouting. Journal of Pragmatics 41: 2295–2311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Greenleaf, S. 1866. A treatise on the law of evidence, vol. 1. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.Google Scholar
  35. Grice, P. 1975. Logic and conversation. In Syntax and semantics 3: Speech acts, ed. P. Cole and J. Morgan, 41–58. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  36. Grice, P. 1989. Studies in the way of words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Grimes, J. 1975. The thread of discourse. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  38. Grosz, B., and C. Sidnert. 1986. Attention, intentions, and the structure of discourse. Computational Linguistics 12(3): 175–204.Google Scholar
  39. Harman, G. 1965. The inference to the best explanation. The Philosophical Review 74(1): 88–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hobbs, J. 1979. Coherence and coreference. Cognitive science 3: 67–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hobbs, J. 1985. On the coherence and structure of discourse. Report No. CSLI-85–37. Stanford University: Center for the Study of Language and Information.Google Scholar
  42. Horn, L., and G. Ward. 2004. The handbook of pragmatics. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  43. Kauffeld, F. 1995. On the difference between assumptions and presumptions. In Argumentation and values: Proceedings of the ninth SCA/AFA conference on argumentation, ed. S. Jackson, 509–514. Annandale, VA: Speech Communication Association.Google Scholar
  44. Kauffeld, F. 1998. Presumptions and the distribution of argumentative burdens in acts of proposing and accusing. Argumentation 12: 245–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kauffeld, F. 2003. The ordinary practice of presuming and presumption with special attention to veracity and the burden of proof. In Anyone who has a view: Theoretical contributions to the study of argumentation, ed. F.H. van Eemeren, et al., 136–146. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  46. Kempson, R. 1973. Presupposition: A problem for linguistic theory. Transactions of the Philological Society 72(1): 29–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kibble, R. 2006. Speech acts, commitment and multi-agent communication. Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory 12(2–3): 127–145.Google Scholar
  48. Krabbe, E.C.W. 2003. Metadialogues. In Anyone who has a view: Theoretical contributions, ed. F.H. van Eemeren, J.A. Blair, C.A. Willard, and A.F. Snoek Henkemans, 83–90. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Levinson, S. 1983. Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Levinson, S. 2000. Presumptive meanings: The theory of generalized conversational implicature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  51. Lewis, D. 1979. Scorekeeping in a language game. Journal of Philosophical Logic 8: 339–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Litman, D., and J. Allen. 1987. A plan recognition model for subdialogues in conversations. Cognitive Science 11(2): 163–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lumsden, D. 2008. Kinds of conversational cooperation. Journal of Pragmatics 40(11): 1896–1908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lyons, J. 1977. Semantics, vol. 2. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Macagno, F., and D. Walton. 2010. Dichotomies and oppositions in legal argumentation. Ratio Juris 23(2): 229–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Macagno, F., and D. Walton. 2011. Reasoning from Paradigms and Negative Evidence. Pragmatics & Cognition 19(1): 92-116. Google Scholar
  57. McBaine, J.P. 1938. Presumptions; are they evidence? California Law Review 26(5): 519–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McCawley, J.D. 1971. Interpretative semantics meets Frankenstein. Foundations of Language 7: 285–296.Google Scholar
  59. Meibauer, J. 1986. Rhetorische Fragen. Tübingen: Niemeyer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Mercier, H., and D. Sperber. 2009. Intuitive and reflective inferences. In In two minds: Dual processes and beyond, ed. J. Evans and K. Frankish, 148–170. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Morency, P., P. Oswald, and L. De Saussure. 2008. Explicitenss, impliciteness and commitment atribution. A cognitive pragmatic approach. Belgian Journal of Linguistics 22: 197–220.Google Scholar
  62. Pap, A. 1960. Types and meaninglessness. Mind 69(273): 41–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Perelman, C., and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. 1951. Act and person in argument. Ethics 61(4): 251–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Quasthoff, U. 1978. The uses of stereotype in everyday argument. Journal of Pragmatics 2(19): 1–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rescher, N. 1977. Dialectics: A controversy-oriented approach to the theory of knowledge. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  66. Rescher, N. 2006. Presumption and the practices of tentative cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Rigotti, E. (2005). Congruity theory and argumentation. Studies in Communication Sciences: 75–96.Google Scholar
  68. Rigotti, E., and A. Rocci. 2001. Sens–non-sens–contresens. Studies in Communication Sciences 1: 45–80.Google Scholar
  69. Rigotti, E., and A. Rocci. 2006. Tema-rema e connettivo: la congruità semantico-pragmatica del testo. In Sýdesmoi. Connettivi nella realtà dei test, ed. G. Gobber, M. Gatti, and S. Cigada, 3–44. Milano: Vita e Pensiero.Google Scholar
  70. Schutz, A., and T. Luckmann. 1973. The structures of the life-world. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Searle, J. 1965. What is a speech act? In Philosophy in America, ed. M. Black. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Searle, J. 1975. Indirect speech acts. In Syntax and semantics, 3: Speech acts (pp. 59–82), ed. P. Cole and J.L. Morgan. Academic Press: New York.Google Scholar
  73. Searle, J. 1980. Expression and meaning: Studies in the theory of speech acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Seuren, P. 2010. The logic of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Sperber, D., and D. Wilson. 1986. Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  76. Stalnaker, R. 1974. Pragmatic presuppositions. In Semantics and philosophy, ed. M. Munitz and P. Unger, 197–213. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Stalnaker, R.C. 1998. On the representation of context. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 7(1): 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Strawson, P. 1952. Introduction to logical theory. London: Methuen & Co.Google Scholar
  79. Thayer, J.B. 1898. A preliminary treatise on evidence at the common law. Boston: Little Brown & Co.Google Scholar
  80. Ullman-Margalit, E. 1983. On presumption. The Journal of Philosophy 80(3): 143–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Van Eemeren, F., and R. Grootendorst. 2004. A systematic theory of argumentation. The pragma-dialectal approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Vanderveken, D. 2002. Universal grammar and speech act theory. In Essays in speech act theory, ed. D. Vanderveken and S. Kubo, 25–62. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  83. Vanderveken, D., and J. Searle. 1985. Foundations of illocutionary logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  84. Verschueren, J. 1977. The analysis of speech act verbs: Theoretical preliminaries. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Linguistics Club.Google Scholar
  85. Walton, Douglas. 1989. Informal logic. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  86. Walton, D. 1993. The speech act of presumption. Pragmatics & Cognition 1: 125–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Walton, D. 1999. Profiles of dialogue for evaluating arguments from ignorance. Argumentation 13: 53–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Walton, D. 2002. Legal argumentation and evidence. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  89. Walton, D. 2007a. Dialog theory for critical argumentation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  90. Walton, D. 2007b. Metadialogues for resolving burden of proof disputes. Argumentation 21(3): 291–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Walton, D., and E.C.W. Krabbe. 1995. Commitment in dialogue. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  92. Yule, G. 1996. Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy of Language (IFL)Universidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations