Presumptive Meanings: The Theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature

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When we speak, we mean more than we say. In this book Stephen C. Levinson explains some general processes that underlie presumptions in communication. This is the first extended discussion of preferred interpretation in language understanding,integrating much of the best research in linguistic pragmatics from the last two decades. Levinson outlines a theory of presumptive meanings, or preferred interpretations, governing the use of language, building on the idea of implicature developed by the philosopher H.P. Grice. Some of the indirect information carried by speech is presumed by default because it is carried by general principles, rather than inferred from specific assumptions about intention and context. Levinson examines this class of general pragmatic inferences in detail, showing how they apply to a wide range of linguistic constructions. This approach has radical consequences for how we think about language and communication.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262621304
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Series: Language, Speech, and Communication
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen C. Levinson is Director of the Language and Cognition Group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands.

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Table of Contents

Note to Students
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 On the Notion of a Generalized Conversational Implicature 11
1.0 The Argument 11
1.1 Grice's Program 12
1.2 Three Layers versus Two in the Theory of Communication 21
1.3 The Argument from Design: The Maxims as Heuristics 27
1.4 A Typology of GCIs 35
1.5 Non-monotonicity and Default Reasoning 42
1.6 Against Reduction of GCIs to Nonce Speaker-Meaning 54
1.7 Generalized Implicature and Stable Patterns of Lexicalization 64
1.8 Conclusions 71
Ch. 2 The Phenomena 73
2.1 Introduction 73
2.2 The Q Principle 75
2.3 Exploring I-Inferences 112
2.4 M-Implicatures and Horn's Division of Labor 135
2.5 The Joint Effect of Q-, I- and M-Implicatures 153
Ch. 3 Generalized Conversational Implicature and the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface 165
3.1 Background 165
3.2 The Received View: Semantics as Input to Pragmatics 170
3.3 Intrusive Constructions 198
3.4 The Argument from Reference 217
3.5 Some Implications 236
3.6 Conclusions 259
Ch. 4 Grammar and Implicature: Sentential Anaphora Reexamined 261
4.1 Grammar and Implicature 261
4.2 Implicature and Coreference 267
4.3 Binding Theory and Pragmatics 280
4.4 The B-then-A Account: Synthesis of the A-First and B-First Accounts 345
4.5 Conclusions 359
Ch. 5 Epilogue 367
5.1 Predictive Power of the Theory of GCIs 368
5.2 Presumptive Inference and General Reasoning 371
5.3 Role of GCIs in Linguistic Theory 374
Notes 379
References 425
Name Index 451
Subject Index 457
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