Pronominals and presuppositions in that-clauses of indirect reports

  • Alessandro Capone
  • Alessandra Falzone
  • Paola Pennisi
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 19)


In this paper, after outlining the general problem of the pragmatics of indirect reports, we dwell on two notoriously thorny problems: a) how do we interpret the pronominals contained in that-clauses of indirect reports; b) how do we interpret the presuppositions of that-clauses of indirect reports? (These two problems appear to us to be connected either through the specific nature of the solutions or through some general format of the problem). Theoretical considerations lead us in the direction of the idea that if two pragmatic principles clash, one should give way, but since we do not know which one has to give way, we should be prepared to accept that the strongest or highest-ranking principle will defeat (in the sense of temporarily suspending) the other (see Huang 2014). Here we encounter a Principle, which Capone (2006) brought our attention to, that is not usually discussed in pragmatic theories, but which seems to play a crucial role, at least sometimes:
  • Do not expect the hearers and the speakers to do what is not possible for them to do.

In this paper, we recognize that the problem of opacity is connected with the problem of voices: who is responsible for a given section of the utterance. Given the presence of polyphony (the presence of two or more voices in the same utterance or section of the utterance (see Macagno and Capone 2016), this problem can be resolved either through contextual clues or through pragmatic principles (see Huang 2014; Douven 2010; Kecskes 2013). We prefer to see the interplay of principles and contextual clues as one in which the interpretation process is pretty orderly, with general principles providing the defaults, while contextual clues occasionally defeat the defaults in certain problematic cases. However, the issue of responsibility, which we try to regiment through the Paraphrasis/Form-style principle, does not only concern the issue of opacity but also the issue of how to find a referent for indexical expressions contained in the that-clause of a report and and how to satisfy the presuppositions of the that-clause. In this case the Paraphrasis/Form-style Principle makes wrong predictions, which have to be rectified thanks to a different principle. The pragmatic theory we apply certainly needs some flexibility (see Huang 2014 on the hierarchy of pragmatic principles), but a flexibility which is not injected into the theory by a mechanical ordering of the rules (that makes pragmatics similar to a generative apparatus), but by explaining why a certain principle takes precedence over another in terms of considerations of rationality (see Capone and Poggi 2016).


Indirect reports presuppositions pronominals context 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessandro Capone
    • 1
  • Alessandra Falzone
    • 1
  • Paola Pennisi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly
  2. 2.Researcher in Philosophy of Language, Department of Cognitive ScienceUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly

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