Understanding misunderstandings. Presuppositions and presumptions in doctor-patient chronic care consultations

Intercultural Pragmatics 1 (14):49–75 (2017)
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Pragmatic presupposition is analyzed in this paper as grounded on an implicit reasoning process based on a set of presumptions, which can define cultural differences. The basic condition for making a presupposition can be represented as a reasoning criterion, namely reasonableness. Presuppositions, on this view, need to be reasonable, namely as the conclusion of an underlying presumptive reasoning that does not or may not contain contradictions with other presumptions, including the ordering of the hierarchy of presumptions. Presumptions are in turn analyzed considering their nature and their hierarchy, namely their object and their possible contextual backing, which eliminates some of their possible defaults. This analysis of presupposition brings to light the relationship between communicative infelicities or misunderstandings deriving from presuppositional failures and the underlying system of presumptions and presumptive reasoning. This approach can be applied to the investigation of communicative problems within the medical context, and more precisely the communication in diabetes cases.

Author's Profile

Fabrizio Macagno
Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa


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