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Andrei Moldovan



Presumptions in Communication

Issue: 19 (The nineteenth issue)
In the first part of this paper I consider the Gricean account of communication, as
structured by the Cooperative Principle and the four maxims. Several authors, including
Jean Goodwin [10], Fred Kauffeld [17], Michael Gilbert [7], Ernie Lepore and Mathew
Stone [22], among others, argue that the Gricean view of communication fails in as
much as it pretends to offer an account of all such human interactions. As Goodwin and
Kauffeld suggest, a more promising starting point is to consider the variety of
contextually determined presumptions that we make about speakers and that we rely
upon in interpreting utterances. These presumptions are established in various ways, and
are dropped, or defeated, in certain conditions. In order to clarify these aspects we need
to inquiry into the nature of presumptions. I argue that Kauffeld’s [18], [19], [20]
account of presumptions is useful in this context. In the second part of the paper I look at
what this account tells us about how, and in what conditions, presumptions in
communication are rebutted.