lemÌc. Lemizh grammar and dictionary

A sketch of pragmatics II. Triggers

Should I regret having presupposed anything by writing this sentence?

(Anypodetos. Lemizh grammar and dictionary)

While the phenomena discussed on this page are also often context dependent to some degree, they are mainly tied to certain words and grammatical structures. We will therefore talk of sentences rather than of utterances carrying them. This is merely for convenience; the exact mechanisms are – as so often in pragmatics – disputed.

Scalar inferences

What has traditionally been called ‘scalar implicatures’ are inferences triggered by words that can be arranged in scales from weak to strong, such as ⟨some, many, all⟩, ⟨or, and⟩, and the definite number terms ⟨one, two, three, …⟩. They have been variously argued to actually be implicatures or cases of enrichment and thus explicatures. For our purposes, this makes no real difference.

a weak statement (‘many Narnians’) with two disjunct strong interpretations (1: ‘all Narnians’; 2: ‘many but not all Narnians’), the second of which (strictly speaking: the negation of the first, ‘not all Narnians’) is inferred

The witch turned many Narnians into statues. While this is logically compatible with The witch turned all Narnians into statues. it is usually inferred that → The witch didn’t turn all Narnians into statues. This inference arises because, had the witch actually turned all Narnians into statues, saying (2) would have been more relevant, as the addressee could have drawn additional conclusions from the complete absence of unharmed Narnians. Therefore, (1) wouldn’t meet condition (b) of the relevance principle. In general, scalar inference means that on encountering a weaker statement we conclude that the next stronger claim on the scale is not met.

Propositions (1) and (3) taken together give the final interpretation: ⇒ The witch turned many but not all Narnians into statues.

Depending on context, the inference might also be → I don’t know whether the witch turned all Narnians into statues.

a weak statement (‘P or Q’) with two disjunct strong interpretations (1: ‘P and Q’; 2: ‘either P or Q’), the second of which (strictly speaking: the negation of the first, ‘not both P and Q’) is inferred
a weak statement (‘if P then Q’) with two disjunct strong interpretations (1: ‘not [if Q then P]’; 2: ‘if any only if P then Q’), the second of which (strictly speaking: the negation of the first, ‘if not P then not Q’, equivalent to ‘if Q then P’) is inferred

Here are some more examples: The witch turned some Narnians into statues. → The witch didn’t turn many Narnians into statues. ⇒ The witch turned some but not many Narnians into statues. We’ll be needing a Snark or a Boojum. → We won’t be needing both a Snark and a Boojum. ⇒ We’ll be needing either a Snark or a Boojum. If I find the password I’ll be able to read Jacopo’s texts. → If I don’t find the password I won’t be able to read Jacopo’s texts. ⇒ If and only if I find the password I’ll be able to read Jacopo’s texts.

Being pragmatic inferences, scalar inferences are defeasible: Did the witch turn many Narnians into statues? — Yes, even all of them. We’ll be needing a Snark or a Boojum, and if possible both.

Numerals and other non-entailing scales

In contrast to the mentioned scales, where the stronger statement entails (logically requires) the weaker one, stand non-entailing scales, the prototype of which is the scale of definite number terms. Others are ⟨calm, breeze, gale, storm, hurricane⟩ and, in the context of getting actors’ autographs, ⟨Emma Croft, Bob Peck, Richard Harris, Julia Ormond⟩. Compare the following examples with (9): Has Smilla got four chairs? — No, she’s even got six. Did you get Bob Peck’s autograph? — No, I even got Julia Ormond’s.

There are however complications. In some situations, a number term seems to entail the possibility of lower or higher numbers: You may borrow four books. → You may borrow fewer than four books. because you may or may not borrow each of the four books.

You must read four books. → You may read more than four books. because from ‘You must do A (= read four books)’ can’t possibly follow ‘You mustn’t do B (= read one or more additional books)’. Analogously, Peter: I need four more chairs for my party.
Susan: Smilla has got four chairs. → Smilla may have got additional chairs, i.e. more than four.
but Peter: How many chairs has Smilla got?
Susan: Smilla has got four chairs. → Smilla has got exactly four chairs.
because Peter’s question implies the exact number would be relevant to him.

The correct analysis of number terms is still debated; but the described view is good enough for our purposes.

In Lemizh

In Lemizh, not only definite, but also weighting numerals constitute non-entailing scales. So, ‘The witch turned many (dmÌ.) Narnians into statues’ literally says that she didn’t turn all of them into statues. Likewise, (9) becomes ‘Did the witch turn many Narnians into statues? — No, all of them.’ Contrast this with the indefinite numeral in ‘Did the witch turn several (mlÌ.) Narnians into statues? — Yes, even all of them.’

This also means that we have to translate ‘many, perhaps all Narnians’ as naRniÌ dmynÌn jnÌnyn. Narnian-acc1 3/4-partacc-partacc2 1/1-partacc-partacc2. ‘many or all Narnians’, and ‘Not many arrows hit the target’ as ‘Few arrows hit the target’ (see unit 8, Modified objects).

In other words, most scalar inferences aren’t inferences, or a matter of pragmatics, in Lemizh; they are purely semantic. The ‘or’ and ‘if’ examples, however, constitute narrowing by rephrasing. (See exclusive ‘or’ and Conditional clauses in the tutorial.)


A presupposition of a sentence (symbol: ») is an uncontroversial background assumption for that sentence. It survives negation of the sentence, modifying it with a modal verb, and phrasing it as a question or an imperative. (We will use the catch-all term ‘modified sentences’ for all of these, for reasons explained below.) A sentence whose presupposition is not met sounds anomalous, but not plainly wrong.

Here is an overview of words and grammatical constructions that trigger presuppositions. This and the following two classifications (conventional ‘implicatures’ and non-restrictive constructions) are mine; you will find other analyses in the literature. The links lead to examples in the tutorial.

TriggerExamplePresupposesFurther examples
(P1)factive verbsHe regrets / doesn’t regret / should regret eating the sweets. / Does he regret eating the sweets? / Regret eating the sweets!He ate the sweets.notice, discover, realize, learn, remember, know
(P2)implicative verbsShe managed / didn’t manage to dance.She tried to dance.succeed
(P3)changes of stateShe stopped / didn’t stop singing.She had been singing.
(P4)implicit changes of stateShe closed / didn’t close the door.The door had been open.open;
come » She hadn’t been here; leave » She had been here;
give » It had been in her possession
(P5)definite descriptions*Cratylos made / didn’t make fun of Hermogenes.Cratylos exists. Hermogenes exists.The king of Narnia is / isn’t bald.
I saw / didn’t see the white mice.
(P6)wh-questionsWho has eaten the sweets?Someone has eaten the sweets.what, when, where, why, which, how
(P7)cleft sentencesIt is / isn’t her who is building bridges.Someone is building bridges.What she lost was / wasn’t her white mouse. (‘what’- or pseudo-cleft)
(P8)implicit cleftsShe ate / didn’t eat it because of the vitamins.She ate it.He gave / didn’t give it to his brother.
(P9)comparisonsThe Neapolitan is / isn’t a better rider than the Frenchman.The Frenchman is a rider; the Frenchman can ride.The Neapolitan is / isn’t as good a rider as the Frenchman.

* Presuppositions arising from definite descriptions are called existential presuppositions.
† As mentioned, questions generally share the presuppositions of the corresponding statements. However, wh-questions are also presupposition triggers.

Most positive sentences entail their presuppositions: He cannot regret eating the sweets unless he has actually eaten them (P1). She could not stop singing unless she had been doing so (P3). She couldn’t close the door unless it had been open before (P4). And so on. As entailments, they are non-defeasible. Sometimes, however, presuppositions of positive sentences can be defeated: He regrets / remembers having eaten the beaver. He hasn’t yet realized that it had only been a dream. I saw the white mice. Most people see them when they are completely drunk. We need people for our study who quit smoking. — Sorry, I can’t help you there. I haven’t stopped smoking. In the situation sketched in (19) no presupposition arises because it is irrelevant whether the second speaker has been smoking and still is, or whether he has never smoked.

Presuppositions of negative sentences and questions are generally not entailments and are therefore defeasible: He doesn’t regret eating the sweets because in fact he hasn’t eaten them. Did she manage to dance? — No, she didn’t even try. Sentences modified with modal verbs fall in either of these categories (‘must, should’ etc. vs. ‘might’ etc.). The situation for the imperative is not entirely clear.

The mechanism behind the survival of presuppositions under negation, as well as their defeasibility, is thought to be as follows. The negated sentence (¬P1) answers a question that normally only arises if he did eat the sweets. If he didn’t, telling you that he doesn’t regret it would be irrelevant under condition (a) of the principle of relevance, so this possibility is disregarded. Put differently, (¬P1) is consistent with (at least) two basic explicatures: He ate the sweets, which he doesn’t regret. The following is not true: He regrets eating the sweets. Usually (22) is accepted because it entails that he ate the sweets, which was assumed for the above reason. If additional information (20) that contradicts (22) becomes available, we switch from the first explicature to the second, which is consistent with not eating the sweets.

Another property characteristic of presuppositions is their non-detachability: we cannot get rid of them by rephrasing a sentence or by any other means that leaves the basic meaning intact.

By the way, presuppositions can be ‘misused’ to present information as uncontroversial background assumption that in fact isn’t. The first example is a harmless case of ‘implicit’ communication (functionally akin to implicatures); the other two are rather sneaky: Amélie is really cute. — Yes, and her boyfriend is very attractive too. » Her boyfriend exists, i.e. Amélie has a boyfriend. Stop being passive-aggressive! » You are being passive-aggressive. What will you give me for my birthday? » You will give me a birthday present.

In Lemizh

Pragmatic reality (P1, P5, P6)

As in English and other languages, most positive and some modified sentences entail their presuppositions; and many others imply their presuppositions via the principle of relevance. In terms of Lemizh grammar, all of these are cases of pragmatic reality, i.e. reality of objects that is not licensed by Rule Seven of sentence grammar but by logical or pragmatic inferences. Here are the translations of (P1) and (¬P1), which both presuppose that he ate the sweets.

kàxk àvy mlÌvy.He regrets eating the sweets.
regret-fact1 eat-fact-acc2 sweet-acc-acc3.
kaxknà àvy mlÌvy.He doesn’t regret eating the sweets.
regret-fact-not-fact1 eat-fact-acc2 sweet-acc-acc3.

Those presuppositions that are not derived by entailment but via relevance are of course defeasible.

nà kàxky àvy mlÌvy, ynÌel.He doesn’t regret eating the sweets because [in fact] he hasn’t eaten them.
not-fact1 regret-fact-acc2 eat-fact-acc3 sweet-acc-acc4 PIIn-acc-not-acc-caus2.

‘He doesn’t regret eating the sweets’ would of course be translated with a modified object for the sweets.

Grammatical reality (P1, P5, P6, P7, P8)

Sometimes, though, it is desirable to confer grammatical reality on a presupposition using a bracket with the main predicate (which amounts to a topicalised predicate) or an inversion, depending on which verb is more important for understanding the sentence in a given context. This is useful for defeasible presuppositions whenever defeasibility could cause uncertainty about a sentence’s meaning, as in (¬P1) and other negations, as well as in situations such as (17), (18) and (19). These constructions also translate English clefts (P7, P8) and their negations.

kaxknÌ àvy mlÌvy. àv mlyvÌ kaxknÌa.The action not regretted, the eating of the sweets, exists. He ate the sweets, which he doesn’t regret.He doesn’t regret eating the sweets [and he definitely ate them].
regret-fact-not-acc1 eat-fact-acc2 sweet-acc-acc3. eat-fact1 sweet-acc-acc2 regret-fact-not-acc-fact2.
dmèt mÌse lÌbvy. mÌs lybvÌ dmèty.The seen things, white mice, exist.I see the white mice [and they definitely exist].
see-nom1 mouse-acc-nom2 white-acc-acc3. mouse-acc1 white-acc-acc2 see-nom-acc2.
sklée. bÌ sklèy.A bridge builder, she, exists. (entails that some bridge builder exists)It’s her who’s building bridges.
She builds bridges.
bridge-nom1 female-acc-nom2a. female-acc1 bridge-nom-acc2.
sklè bynÌe.It isn’t her who’s building bridges.
Not she builds bridges.
bridge-nom1 female-acc-not-acc-nom2.

These constructions ‘demote’ the original statements to pragmatic reality: the first example does not grammatically claim the action of not regretting it but the content, i.e. the eating. Technically, the object that is pragmatically real is the missing factive object – just as the giver in ‘Lucy gets a bottle’ is pragmatically real via the missing nominative object. We call this kind of non-obvious pragmatic reality cross-case reality. The main point here is that Rule Seven can only make one claim per sentence grammatically real; nonetheless, it is rarely necessary to split original statement and presupposition into two sentences.

‘It isn’t her who’s building bridges’, the inverted phrasing of ‘He doesn’t regret eating the sweets’, and analogous phrasings of other modified sentences are actually modified objects; hence the terminology.

know’ is translated as ‘have learned, have heard, have seen’ or the like, none of which necessarily presupposes the truth of the accusative object; therefore, we need grammatical reality if there is any doubt about the truth of the ‘known’ thing. On the issue that ‘see’ doesn’t necessarily presuppose its object see also the example ‘I didn’t see Amélie watching TV’ in unit 14.

Implicative verbs (P2)

For implicative verbs, only the presupposed action (‘try’) has its own verb, and the presupposing action (‘manage’) is expressed with the same verb, using grammatical reality: ‘manage’ is either the topicalisation of the tried action, or the inversion of ‘try’. The presupposition is only pragmatically real in either case; there is no easy phrasing with grammatical reality, and it’s usually entailed anyway.

fnà dràwy.She tried to dance. (presupposed action)
try-fact1 dance-fact-acc2.
fnÌ dràwy. dràw fnÌa.The tried action, the dancing, exists. (cross-case reality via the missing factive object of ‘try’) She danced, which she had tried.She managed to dance. (presupposing action)
try-acc1 dance-fact-acc2. dance-fact1 try-acc-fact2.

Negating or otherwise modifying ‘manage’ can be done with cross-case or grammatical reality for ‘try’. The cross-case construction negates an accusative bracket of two verbs – a construction we have already met in unit 13 when we talked about counterfactual statements. To make ‘try’ grammatically real, we simply invert.

nà fnÌy dràwy. fnynà dràwy.The tried action, the dancing, doesn’t exist. (cross-case reality via the factive)She didn’t manage to dance.
not-fact1 try-acc-acc2 dance-fact-acc3. try-acc-not-fact1 dance-fact-acc2.
fnà drawÌ nÌy.(grammatical reality)She didn’t manage to dance [and she definitely tried].
try-fact1 dance-fact-acc2 not-acc-acc2.

Changes of state (P3)

ganìR. ‘She stops singing’ entails the action of singing via cross-case reality; grammatical reality is neither easy to phrase, nor is it necessary. The presupposition of the negated topic can be made grammatically real by uncompounding and inversion.

ganiRnà. nà ganìRy. ganà nÌiR.(negated topic) (grammatical reality)She didn’t stop singing. She sings and didn’t stop.
sing-egr-not-fact1. not-fact1 sing-egr-acc2. sing-fact1 not-acc-egr2.

Implicit changes of state (P4) and comparisons (P9)

There is no easy way to either grammatical or pragmatic reality for these presuppositions; you have to express them explicitly if you need to. However, as with the other types, they are mostly either entailed or pragmatically implied.

Also recall that ‘The Neapolitan isn’t as good a rider as the Frenchman’ has to be translated as ‘The Neapolitan is a less good rider than the Frenchman’.

Conventional ‘implicatures’

This is the traditional name for information encoded in a sentence that does not contribute to its basic explicature but adds something extra. This is done in an implicit way, via certain triggers – in contrast to the constructions discussed in the following chapter. The actual mechanism of conventional ‘implicatures’ is a matter of ongoing dispute, but they are certainly not implicatures in our modern sense. To avoid this name, we will just call them CIs, which can also be read as ‘coded implicitly’. We symbolise them with yet another arrow: .

Like presuppositions, they survive negation and other modifications, but for a different reason: they fall outside the scope of these operations.

TriggerExampleConventionally ‘implicates’Further examples
(C1)pragmatic adverbsAchilles is / isn’t / may be fast but clumsy. / Is Achilles fast but clumsy?There is a contrast between speed and clumsiness.even, therefore, yet / already
(C2)expressivesThe damn tortoise is / isn’t shouting at Achilles although he fed it.The speaker has a negative attitude towards the tortoise.honorifics (Ger ‘du, Sie’)
(C3)connectivesThey discovered a chess knight. Afterwards they found / didn’t find more ancient objects.The chess knight was an ancient object.too (also), in return
(C4)aspectual adverbsI met / didn’t meet her again.I had met her before.still / not anymore
(C5)implicative verbsShe managed / didn’t manage to dance.Dancing is difficult (for her).avoid should have done; abstain from wanted to do;
deprive of It would have been desirable; spare It wouldn’t have been desirable
(C6)judgemental ‘that’-clausesIt is / isn’t good that you speak.You speak.It was / wasn’t nice of you to ask.
(C7)conjunctional clausesHe saw / didn’t see the pendulum before he died.He died.after, while, during, since, whenever, because
(C8)counterfactual conditionalsI would / wouldn’t have been able to read Jacopo’s texts if I had found the password.I didn’t find the password.
(C9)comparisonsPortia is / isn’t a taller girl than Nerissa.Nerissa is a girl.Portia is / isn’t as tall a girl as Nerissa.

Being pieces of encoded information, CIs are not defeasible. For the same reason, they can be detached (i.e. removed) by changing the trigger that encodes them to a neutral phrasing, or just by omitting it: Achilles is fast and clumsy. The tortoise is shouting at Achilles although he fed it. They discovered a chess knight. Afterwards they found some ancient objects. I met her. She danced. It is good if you speak. He saw the pendulum. I will be able to read Jacopo’s texts if I find the password. Portia is taller than Nerissa. As you see, the comparison (C9) is distinguished from (P9) by its detachability.

CIs are speaker-oriented, that is, they are attributable to the speaker, even if they occur in a subordinate clause. If I say ‘Peter thinks it is good that you speak’, I commit myself to the claim that you speak. Also, I wouldn’t say ‘Achilles told me that the damn tortoise was shouting at him although he had fed it’ if I didn’t at least share Achilles’s negative attitude towards the tortoise.

In Lemizh

As mentioned above, Lemizh sentences can only make one claim per sentence. This typically means that a CI translates into a pragmatically real part of the basic explicature (unless of course you split the sentence in two); sometimes, however, the CI becomes grammatically real in the Lemizh translation and the original basic explicature is demoted to pragmatic reality. Both ways, the CI falls inside the scope of a negation or other modification, and is therefore often defeasible in modified sentences. Detaching mostly works simply by omitting the object or compound modifier that carries the meaning, except where noted below.

Pragmatic adverbs (C1) and expressives (C2)

The pragmatic adverbs ‘but’ and ‘even’ translate as tmà. ‘lead to the opposite expectation [given previous information]’; ‘even’ needs an inner partitive. See the verbs of certainty for how this verb’s plot works; ‘assume’ is a near-antonym, though tmà. specifically relates to information given in the discourse at hand. Pragmatic ‘therefore’ is the opposition of ‘but’. Expressives are verbs of emotion with an inner dative/accusative (‘the hated’) or causative/persuasive (‘the reason for hate’). Honorifics are of little importance in Lemizh.

tmà kraxtcrày. axileÌs fetÌ kraxtcratmèy.The clumsiness is unexpected [based on previous information].Achilles is fast but clumsy.
but-fact1 nimble-fact-1/4-fact-acc2. Achilles-acc1 fast-nom-acc2 nimble-fact-1/4-fact-but-nom-acc2.
ráh (jnyè) axileystmynè fkrÌji.Achilles, among others, likes the tortoise; he unexpectedly [based on previous information].(Everyone,) even Achilles(,) likes the tortoise.
like-fact1 (1/1-acc-nom2a) Achilles-acc-but-partacc-nom2 tortoise-acc-dat2.
khná fkrÌje rahkyý axileÌsi.The damn tortoise is shouting at Achilles.
shout-fact1 tortoise-acc-nom2a like-fact-opposition-acc-acc3 Achilles-acc-dat2.

Negating the first example literally gives ‘It is not true that Achilles is fast and unexpectedly clumsy’. This leaves the decision what part(s) of this claim are false entirely to pragmatic inference, i.e. the unexpectedness is defeasible.

Connectives (C3)

The Lemizh solution is to include the connected property (‘ancient’) in the first sentence and reference it from the second one with a pronoun in a qualitative case, circumventing identity of action. Naming the property in the second sentence gives a meaning similar to the detached version (C3′).

ràdj jvelÌy Ìhwy mìy xpÌjyR. là pryàR xÙlska mlÌi sÌym.(claims that the first chess knight was ancient via pragmatic reality)They discovered an ancient chess knight. Afterwards they found several such objects.
discover-fact1 chess-acc-acc2 horse-acc-acc3 make-dat-acc4 7/8-acc-dur5. do-fact1 front-acc-temp2 search-fin-fact2 several-acc-dat3 PIIn−3-acc-qualacc4.
ràdj jvelÌy Ìhwy. là pryàR xÙlska memlìi xpyjÌR sÌym.(no claim about the age of the first chess knight)They discovered a chess knight. Afterwards they found several ancient objects like it.
discover-fact1 chess-acc-acc2 horse-acc-acc3. do-fact1 front-acc-temp2 search-fin-fact2 make-nom-several-dat-dat3 7/8-acc-dur4 PIIn−3-acc-qualacc4.

By the way, the bracket translating ‘chess knight’ having ‘chess piece’ as predicate and ’horse’ as object is a good example of placing objects first that aid in assigning the right referents and applying the right disambiguations.

Implicative verbs (C5)

The translation of ‘manage’ was treated under the presupposition trigger (P2) above. ‘try’ implies that the tried action is difficult in Lemizh as it does in English, and can be made grammatically real if desired. Detaching works as usual for the positive sentence – by simply omitting ‘try’ –, but the negation needs some juggling with inversions to arrive at ‘She didn’t dance’. If the difficulty is the main point, we can express it directly.

dràw grÌa.She danced with difficulty.She managed to dance.
dance-fact1 difficult-acc-fact2.

‘avoid’ and ‘abstain’ are exactly parallel to ‘don’t manage’, but with the modal verbs ‘must/should’ and ‘want’, respectively, instead of ‘try’. Their CIs, too, can be detached by removing the modals and leaving the negator in place.

‘deprive’ and ‘spare’ are also analogous. The pronoun ‘you’ prevents compounding in these examples:
níl viè[l] lýxty zeè dràwy.You have made the dance that was wanted by me nonexistent.You have deprived me of the dance.
not-cons1 PIn−2-dat-nom/caus2a want-acc-acc2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a dance-fact-acc3.
níl viè[l] laxtnýy zeè dràwy.You have made the dance that was unwanted by me nonexistent.You have spared me the dance.
not-cons1 PIn−2-dat-nom/caus2a want-fact-not-acc-acc2 PIn−3-nom-nom3a dance-fact-acc3.

The other tiggers (C4, C6, C7, C8, C9)

The other triggers are unsurprising: they are translated as shown in the tutorial and the dictionary (linked from the table above) and modified in the usual way. The translation of (C6) turns the CI into grammatical reality, and detaching the CI needs demotion to pragmatic reality with an inversion. Detaching the CI of (C8) needs a factual conditional, i.e. a switch of the main predicate from negation to uncertainty.


Speaker-orientation is not built into the Lemizh equivalents of CIs. It has to be expressed explicitly if necessary. Sometimes there is a direct way with a first-person pronoun.

wáx axileysè khnáy fkrÌje rahkÌy jè(n)e, vèi.Achilles told me that the damn tortoise was shouting at him. (I [too] hate the tortoise.)
speak-fact1 Achilles-acc-nom2a shout-fact-acc2 tortoise-acc-nom3a like-fact-opposition-acc-acc4 PIn−5-(part)nom-nom5 PIn−2-nom-dat3.

In this example, the PIn−5 pronoun cannot be part of what Achilles told me because it points to my parole. In general, speaker-orientation can be achieved by weak linking with a contextual case. (The linked example, ‘You said that you would visit your uncle, a wise man’, is actually a non-restrictive construction, to which we will turn now.)

Non-restrictive constructions

A non-restrictive construction encodes information that, like a CI, does not contribute to the basic explicature. It is inserted into a sentence to give rise to an additional basic explicature, but in an explicit way. Like a CI, it falls outside the scope of modifications and, being encoded, isn’t defeasible but detachable. Non-restrictive constructions are sometimes classified as CIs, but we will treat them separately.

TriggerExampleAdditionally explicatesFurther examples
(N1)relative clausesThe poodle, which was born at midnight, is / isn’t / might be yelping. / Is the poodle, which was born at midnight, yelping?The poodle was born at midnight.The man, who was speaking to the child about elephants, forgot to buy the artichokes. (explanatory relative clause)
(N2)circumstantial clausesSpeaking to the child about elephants, the man forgot / didn’t forget to buy the artichokes.The man spoke to the child about elephants.
(N3)appositivesThe child talks / doesn’t talk to Nechwatal, a mechanic.Nechwatal is a mechanic.Nechwatal, as a mechanic, knew how to repair the ship.
Nechwatal, skilled in the extreme, knew how to repair the ship.
(N4)adjective and participle attributes*The mouse over there is / isn’t the valiant Reepicheep.Reepicheep is valiant.
(N5)referentially used descriptionsThe dunce talking to the beaver is / isn’t a butcher.The person talking to the beaver is a dunce.

* This kind seems to be defeasible at first sight: The mouse over there isn’t the valiant Reepicheep because Reepicheep isn’t valiant at all. However, the ‘because’-clause causes the adjective to be re-interpreted as restrictive. This is possible because English grammar does not distinguish restrictive and non-restrictive adjective (or participle) attributes.

While it might look similar to non-restrictive constructions, (C6) hasn’t ‘You speak’ explicitly inserted; compare the dependent clause in ‘I doubt that you speak’, which has no such explicature. A similar argument can be made for (C7).

The two basic explicatures in each of these sentences are processed separately by the addressee. This can be seen by comparing the explanatory and circumstantial clauses with either two separate sentences (which also have two basic explicatures) or a compound sentence with ‘and’ (which only has one): The man forgot to buy the artichokes; he was speaking to the child about elephants. The man forgot to buy the artichokes and he was speaking to the child about elephants. In structures with two basic explicatures, one can be interpreted as an explanation for the other; thus, (28) is typically understood as ‘The man forgot to buy the artichokes because he was speaking to the child about elephants’ just as the explanatory and circumstantial phrasings. This interpretation isn’t possible for the compound sentence (29).

Like CIs, non-restrictive constructions are speaker-oriented: if I say ‘Susan complained that the poodle, which is in fact extremely well-behaved, is yelping’, I am the one claiming that the poodle is well-behaved; and if I say ‘Edmund believes that the dunce talking to the beaver is a butcher’, I am calling that person a dunce.

In Lemizh

As discussed in unit 16, translating a non-restrictive construction as a bracket is appropriate whenever the referent can be clearly identified beforehand; otherwise, we need to move it into a separate sentence (and thus, in modified sentences, out of the modifier verb’s scope – usually making it non-defeasible). If we use weak linking and want the non-restrictive information to be non-defeasible, the contextual or motivational object has to be an object of the modifier verb.

nà hráy oRwxyfé mesìlyl2 feÌ prilneytfÌaR.The poodle isn’t yelping; he having been born at midnight is the context of not yelping.The poodle, which was born at midnight, isn’t yelping.
not-fact1 yelp-fact-acc2 poodle-acc-nom3a mother-cons-ctx2 PIIn−1-nom-acc3 midnight-acc-temp3.

Strictly speaking, there is no rule saying that the first sentence has to uniquely identify the referent. However, moving part of the identifying information away from the word or phrase in question (here ‘poodle’, ‘man’, ‘Nechwatal’, ‘Reepicheep’, and ‘[the one] talking to the beaver’) would mean considerably more processing effort; so the addressee normally understands it as additional information, i.e. as non-restrictive.

The translations with brackets have much the same properties as CIs: they make only one claim, that is, they have only one basic explicature as opposed to two in the English sentences. In other words, the brackets are only pragmatically real and consequently can be defeasibile, especially in modified sentances. Regarding detachability and speaker-orientation, the situation is exactly the same as with CIs.

The difference between English ‘two-explicature’ constructions and Lemizh brackets is nicely illustrated by questions. If the poodle is actually yelping but wasn’t born at midnight, the question Is the poodle, which was born at midnight, yelping? would be answered in English with Yes, but it wasn’t born at midnight. where the affirmative refers to the main clause. By contrast, in Lemizh we would answer No, but it is yelping. where the denial refers to the complete claim that (30) asked for, which is basically the logical conjunction of ‘The poodle is yelping’ and ‘The poodle was born at midnight’.

Explanatory and circumstantial clauses are translated into Lemizh as conjunctional clauses, becoming CIs of the kind (C7).

Taking everything into account – especially entailment of scales, number of explicatures, scope of modifications, defeasibility of CIs, and speaker-orientation –, we conclude that translations from English into Lemizh (and vice versa) often have quite different pragmatic implications.

Missing topics

Speech act theory is not treated on these pages. Its concept of illocutionary acts more or less corresponds to propositional attitudes such as believing in the truth of one’s statement, feeling sorry for someone, expressing a (speaker’s or addressee’s) desire, or promising something. Perlocutionary acts are effects of what is said on the addressee, such as convincing, persuading, eliciting an answer, reassuring, scaring, etc.; they are largely language-independent, and to some extent dependent on culture, and at any rate beyond the scope of this website. Indirect speech acts are conveyed by implicatures such as ‘Susan believes that her kiwis were too sour. I want you to ring Susan and cheer her up’. See also the paragraph on speech acts in unit 9 of the tutorial. More on speech act theory can be found in the literature given below, and also in Sperber and Wilson (1995).

Under construction

I am planning to add chapters on politeness and utterance modifiers, and maybe – just maybe – on conversational structure and procedural meaning (a concept for explaining CIs), some time in the future. And some words on presupposition projection would be appropriate.