Belief reports and pragmatic intrusion: the case of null appositives.

Journal of Pragmatics 40:2019-2040 (2008)
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In this paper, I explore Bach’s idea (Bach, 2000) that null appositives, intended as expanded qua-clauses, can resolve the puzzles of belief reports. These puzzles are crucial in understanding the semantics and pragmatics of belief reports and are presented in a section. I propose that Bach’s strategy is not only a way of dealing with puzzles, but also an ideal way of dealing with belief reports. I argue that even simple unproblematic cases of belief reports are cases of pragmatic intrusion, involving null appositives, or to use the words of Bach, ‘qua-clauses’. The main difference between my pragmatic approach and the one by Salmon (1986) is that this author uses the notion of conversational implicature, whereas I use the notion of pragmatic intrusion and explicature. From my point of view, statements such as ‘‘John believes that Cicero is clever’’ and ‘‘John believes that Tully is clever’’ have got distinct truth-values. In other words, I claim that belief reports in the default case illuminate the hearer on the mental life of the believer, that includes specific modes of presentation of the referents talked about. Furthermore, while in the other pragmatic approaches, it is mysterious how a mode of presentation is assumed to be the main filter of the believer’s mental life, here I provide an explanatory account in terms of relevance, cognitive effects, and processing efforts. The most important part of the paper is devoted to showing that null appositives are required, in the case of belief reports, to explain certain anaphoric effects, which would otherwise be mysterious. My examples show that null appositives are not necessitated at logical form, but only at the level of the explicature, in line with the standard assumptions by Carston and Recanati on pragmatic intrusion. I develop a potentially useful analysis of belief reports by exploiting syntactic and semantic considerations on presuppositional clitics in Romance.

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Alessandro Capone
Oxford University (DPhil)


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