, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 399–422 | Cite as

Interpretative Disputes, Explicatures, and Argumentative Reasoning

  • Fabrizio Macagno
  • Alessandro Capone


The problem of establishing the best interpretation of a speech act is of fundamental importance in argumentation and communication in general. A party in a dialogue can interpret another’s or his own speech acts in the most convenient ways to achieve his dialogical goals. In defamation law this phenomenon becomes particularly important, as the dialogical effects of a communicative move may result in legal consequences. The purpose of this paper is to combine the instruments provided by argumentation theory with the advances in pragmatics in order to propose an argumentative approach to meaning reconstruction. This theoretical proposal will be applied to and tested against defamation cases at common law. Interpretation is represented as based on a hierarchy of interpretative presumptions. On this view, the development of the logical form of an utterance is regarded as the result of an abductive pattern of reasoning in which various types of presumptions are confronted and the weakest ones are excluded. Conflicts of interpretations and equivocation become essentially interwoven with the dialectical problem of fulfilling the burden of defeating a presumption. The interpreter has a burden of explaining why a given presumption is subject to default, assuming that the speaker is reasonable and acting based on a set of shared expectations.


Interpretation Meaning Ambiguity Equivocation Burden of proof Pragmatics Abduction Presumption Explicature 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ArgLab, IFL, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e HumanasUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Università di PalermoPalermoItaly

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