The present special issue faces many topics and theoretical perspectives surrounding the topic of presuppositions. The problem of characterizing what “presupposing” means is the common thread of the first series of papers contained in the anthology.
The first contribution in the collection is Barbara Abbott’s paper “An information packaging approach to presuppositions and conventional implicatures”. In this article, Abbott faces a core problem within the semantics and pragmatics literature: the distinction between presuppositions and conventional implicatures. Presuppositions and conventional implicatures share different properties like, first of all, “projectivity”, i.e. the property of remaining constant in the scope of other operators. Taking into account information packaging, Abbott aims to clarify these different language usages by examining the property of projectivity together with two other properties shared by these projective contents: “strong contextual felicity” and “neutralizability”.
According to the traditional account proposed by Peter Strawson, the falsity of a presupposition leads to a catastrophic consequence: a failure in the assertive enterprise. In “Presupposition Failure and the Assertive Enterprise” Anne Bezuidenhout proposes a discourse-based account of presuppositions based on the idea that presuppositions are ‘assertorically inert’, i.e. they are not part of the asserted content but rather background propositions. Bezuidenhout argues that presupposition failure can sometimes be non-catastrophic by examining cases in which, despite presupposition failure, the assertive enterprise works efficiently. In this view, she offers an account that illustrates the circumstances in which the falsity of a presupposition is catastrophic and those in which it is not.
The repair of a presupposition in case of failure takes place mainly by the ‘accommodation’ of the presupposition that is lacking. The problem of presupposition accommodation is the focus of Manuel Garcia Carpintero’s paper “Accommodating Presuppositions”. In this article, Carpintero elaborates an objection to Stalnaker’s account of presuppositions, arguing that cases of informative presupposition represent a problematic aspect for his theory of pragmatic presuppositions and, more specifically, for the phenomenon of triggering of presuppositions. Carpintero defends here a more ‘semantic’ approach to the treatment of informative presupposition and supports the Lewisian notion of ‘accommodation’ describing it as a way in which interlocutors adjust themselves to one another when they are involved in a verbal interaction.
According to the traditional stance, a semantic presupposition represents a condition for the evaluation of a sentence as either true or false. Several authors have proposed semantic theories aimed at taking into account the phenomenon of presuppositions within multi-valued frameworks. Benjamin Spector in “Multivalent Semantics for Vagueness and Presupposition” proposes a strategy to model together presuppositions and vagueness by means of a trivalent semantics in which declarative sentences can not only receive the standard values true (1) and false (0), but also a third non-standard value “undefined” (#). More specifically, Spector offers a multivalent account that contemporarily takes into account presuppositions and vagueness, captures their projection properties and distinguishes the different role played by these distinct phenomena in language.
The first experimental contribution collected in this special issue is the joint work of Cory Bill, Jacopo Romoli, Florian Schwarz and Stephen Crain: “Implicatures and Presuppositions in the Scope of Negation—Evidence from Acquisition”. This article presents an experimental study on presuppositions and scalar implicatures in language acquisition. In contrast to the traditional view, recent works have supported the idea that the two kinds of inference are generated by the same mechanisms. The main result of the experiment discussed by the authors is that children and adults behave differently with respect to the two types of inferences. While this asymmetry is coherent with the traditional perspective, it represents a challenge for more recent accounts. In the conclusion, hence, the authors suggest a possible improvement of these recent approaches on the basis of the data collected and discuss the new experimental results in light of previous findings on processing presuppositions.
The combinatory restrictions known in linguistics as ‘selection restrictions’ are generally considered as a kind of linguistic structure. In “Selection restrictions as ultimate presuppositions of natural ontology” Michele Prandi argues that selection restrictions are criteria for conceptual consistency that form a layer of shared presuppositions that lie at the grounds of consistent thoughts and expressions and that belong to a natural ontology shared far beyond the boundaries of a given linguistic community.
The triggering problem is the second main topos of this special issue. Brian Leahy in “On Presuppositional Implicature” proposes an account of “presuppositional implicatures”. According to Leahy, presuppositional implicatures should be classified as a special case of scalar implicatures: they arise when a speaker uses a presuppositionally weak alternative when a stronger one was available. More specifically, they occur when a presuppositionally weak alternative is felicitously used in a context that does not satisfy the presupposition of a presuppositionally stronger alternative, but where that stronger presupposition would have been accommodated.
The problem of the pragmatic mechanisms generating causal and temporal interpretations of “and” is one of the most discussed and problematic issues in the contemporary pragmatic debate. Joanna Blochowiak in “The presuppositional view on causal and temporal interpretations of ‘and’”, taking into account the Relevance Nomological Model, proposes an account based on presuppositional mechanisms developed within a broader and more comprehensive analysis aimed at explaining the various interpretations of ‘and’-sentences and of other types of sentences involving similar interpretations.
The second relevant experimental contribution in the collection is “When “all the five circles” are four: new exercises in domain restriction”. In this paper, Bart Geurts and Bob Van Tiel provide data from a series of experiments aimed at evaluating predictions about the problem of the determination of the domain of a quantifier. The quantificational domain, broadly speaking, is mainly determined on the basis of two factors: the context and the utterance through the presuppositions triggered within the sentence. Geurts and Van Tiel focus their attention on constructions like:
Q of these circles…
Q of these five circles…
… have the same colour as the square to which they are connected.
in which “the square to which…” is the critical presupposition trigger. Do the instances of these schemata give rise to the presupposition that every circle is connected to a square? The authors argue that, apart for some exceptions, these sentences should generally be accepted in contexts in which not all the circles are connected to a square. Moreover, they test the prediction that if the context is manipulated so as to make the connected circles more or less salient, then it should have an effect on statements with non-intersective quantifiers only.
A central aspect of the current debate on the presupposition projection, that is the third main issue of this collection, is the behaviour of presuppositions under the scope of operators. Presuppositions under negation, for instance, are likely to be projected but not mandatorily. Chris Cummins in “Using triggers without projecting presuppositions” underlines that this aspect leads to a difficulty for the hearer of presupposition-bearing utterances, in particular, when the speaker uses informative presuppositions. Cummins investigates the role played by the context in this phenomenon and, after having argued that the inferences that are drawn about the current discourse purpose can be relevant for the interpretation of potential presuppositions, discusses some implications of this aspect for experimental works on presupposition and projection.
In “Presuppositions as Anaphoric Duality Enablers” Christopher Gauker provides arguments against the account of presupposition projection based on Irene Heim’s context-change semantics. Gauker claims that the presuppositions of a sentence can be identified only on the basis of prior utterances in the context of the conversation in which the sentence is uttered. By taking into account a three-valued semantics of assertibility and deniability in a context, Gauker claims that presuppositions can be explained as sentences which guarantee that the remaining assertibility and deniability conditions of the presupposition-bearing sentence are dual to one another.
The problem of presupposition projection is the core topic of the last paper of the collection. Amaia Garcia Odon in “Presupposition Projection and Conditionalization” aims to explain what is the main constrain in presupposition projection of composed sentences and supports the claim that the presuppositions that do not project are conditionalized, generating inferable conditional presuppositions.