Fiction and importation

Linguistics and Philosophy 45 (1):65-89 (2021)
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Importation in fictional discourse is the phenomenon by which audiences include information in the story over and above what is explicitly stated by the narrator. This paper argues that importation is distinct from generation, the phenomenon by which truth in fiction may outstrip what is made explicit, and draws a distinction between fictional truth and fictional records. The latter comprises the audience’s picture of what is true according to the narrator. The paper argues that importation into fictional records operates according to principles that also govern ordinary conversation. An account of fictional records as a species of common ground information is proposed. Two sources of importation are described in detail, presupposition accommodation and conversational implicatures. It is shown that presuppositions are both mandatorily imported and mandatorily generated. By contrast, conversational implicatures are neither mandatorily imported nor mandatorily generated. The paper distinguishes conversational implicatures from contextual inferences. Both rely on background assumptions, yet conversational implicatures moreover depend on assumptions concerning Gricean cooperation.

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Andreas Stokke
Uppsala University


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