On the status of 'Maximize Presupposition'

Sven Lauer


Heim (1991) postulated the principle MAXIMIZE PRESUPPOSITION (MP), which has proven useful in the explanation of a range of phenomena But what kind of principle is MP? Is it a normative constraint on language use, akin to a rule in a game? Or is it similar to Grice's MAXIMS OF CONVERSATION, which capture defeasible tendencies in behavior motivated by general considerations about cooperative communication? I argue that either construal faces significant challenges, and provide an alternative conception of MP as a 'linguistic preference' – a (selfish) preference between linguistic forms that speakers happen to have. In this view, MP is neither a normative rule nor a Gricean maxim, but it functions like, and interacts with, such maxims in pragmatic reasoning.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v26i0.3947

Copyright (c) 2016 Sven Lauer