Presupposition without Common Ground

Unpublished manuscript

Mandy Simons

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APA   Click to copy
Simons, M. (2009). Presupposition without Common Ground.

Chicago/Turabian   Click to copy
Simons, Mandy. “Presupposition without Common Ground,” 2009.

MLA   Click to copy
Simons, Mandy. Presupposition without Common Ground. 2009.

BibTeX   Click to copy

  title = {Presupposition without Common Ground},
  year = {2009},
  journal = {},
  author = {Simons, Mandy}


In this paper, I review a number of arguments in favor of treating many of the central cases of presupposition as the result of conversational inference, rather than as lexically specified properties of particular expressions. I then argue that, despite the standard assumption to the contrary, the view of presupposition as constraints on the common ground is not consistent with the provision of a conversational account of particular instances of presupposition. The argument revolves crucially around the workings of accommodation. I then offer an alternative view of the phenomenon of presupposition, which is compatible with a variety of sources for presuppositions. On the view offered here, presupposition is seen as a property of utterances. I argue that the presuppositions of an utterance are those propositions which an interpreter must take the speaker to accept in order to take the speaker to be fully cooperative, in a broadly Gricean sense.


This paper is unpublished, partly because at the time I was struggling with its revisions, I started my collaboration with the BRST team (Beaver, Roberts, Simons & Tonhauser), and the line of work that this paper represents got back-burnered. Many of the ideas here inform later work, and especially my most recent joint paper with Craige Roberts, "Preconditions and Projection." I still basically hold the central views articulated here, although I would now formulate things differently. I keep this paper accessible as it has occasionally been cited.

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