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The chapter focuses on the interpretation of a group of expressions which the authors Axel Barceló and Robert Stainton term ‘quasi-factives’, an area in which the recurring issue of the relative contributions of linguistically encoded meaning and pragmatic inference is especially striking. In line with Deirdre Wilson’s early work on presupposition (Wilson 1975), they argue that the factive conclusions which these expressions seem to support are not to be explained semantically. Rather, they are components of the speaker’s meaning and their derivation by the addressee depends on the kind of cost–benefit trade-off that is central to relevance theory.
Nicholas Allott considers how relevance theory can be seen as responding to doubts about the possibility of any kind of systematic pragmatic theory. He considers three sceptical positions: Fodor’s argument that pragmatic processes are not amenable to scientific study because they are unencapsulated (highly context-sensitive), Chomsky’s claim that human intentional action is a mystery rather than a scientifically tractable problem, and a third view which maintains that intentional communication is too complex for systematic study. Allott argues that work in relevance theory can be seen as successfully challenging these sceptical views and he gives concrete examples of its achievements.
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