LINGUIST List 12.2319

Thu Sep 20 2001

Review: Kadmon, Formal Pragmatics

Editor for this issue: Terence Langendoen <>

What follows is another discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect these discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for discussion." (This means that the publisher has sent us a review copy.) Then contact Simin Karimi at or Terry Langendoen at


  1. Niladri Sekhar Dash, Review of Kadmon, Formal Pragmatics

Message 1: Review of Kadmon, Formal Pragmatics

Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 11:59:14 +0530 (IST)
From: Niladri Sekhar Dash <>
Subject: Review of Kadmon, Formal Pragmatics

Kadmon, Nirit (2001) Formal Pragmatics: Semantics,
Pragmatics, Presupposition, and Focus. Blackwell Publishers,
paperback ISBN: 0-631-20121-1, xi+430pp., $39.95.

Niladri Sekhar Dash, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata,

This book by Nirit Kadmon gives us a detailed discussion
about a comparatively new area of investigation in
linguistics. It deals with pragmatics - a new branch of
linguistics -- which is concerned with the understanding of the
relationships of sentences to the environment in which they
occur. Such understanding relies heavily on the analysis of
meaning, and implication of the texts with proper
ventilation to their contexts, discourse, and other relevant
aspects. For achieving this goal, Kadmon takes us with her to
the world of formal logic and proposition where everything
is measured in a formal framework, and judged with
principles of logic. Therefore, 'Formal Pragmatics' (the
title of the book) quite easily evades the boundary of
linguistic common knowledge, and moves into the world of
logical formalities where readers with no exposure to the
field will return with little gain. But people related to
this domain will definitely be delighted to read this volume
as it opens up many new avenues for further analysis and
research. Interested people will surely reap a rich harvest.

This large volume (over 400 pages) is divided into three
major parts, besides an introduction, and
preliminaries. Part I (Dynamic Semantics, Definites, and
Indefinites) covers three chapters [Chapter 2-4], Part II
(Presupposition) covers seven chapters [Chapter 5-11], and
Part III (Focus) covers ten Chapters [Chapter 12-21].

In Part I, Kadmon introduces some semantic theories, and some
related works on definite and indefinite NPs. She shows how
the material on definite and indefinite NPs involve
pragmatic processes of conversational implicatures, and
accommodation as well as the notion 'salience'. She takes
care to illustrate their interaction with semantic
interpretation and semantic theory. In next two parts, she
is concerned with two important areas in semantics and
pragmatics: presupposition, and focus. In both the parts,
she presents the-state-of-the-art in the research on the
fields, offers detailed discussion of a number of key
issues, and advances some of her own views and specific

In Part II, Kadmon discusses both the nature and status of
presuppositions, and their behavior in complex
sentences. While discussing nature (of presupposition), she
raises the question whether presuppositions are triggered
entirely by linguistic convention, or conversational
implicatures have any role to play. Again, in the context of
presupposition projection she dares to examine various
earlier approaches (developed by different scholars of the
field) where it is argued that a presupposition must be
satisfied by its local context. Finally, she pays attention
on the role of accommodation in satisfying presuppositions
in various types of examples.

In Part III, Kadmon narrates the phonological manifestation
of focus in some details. Next, she moves on to its
interpretation and function in semantics and pragmatics. She
likes to associate focus with a model-theoretic entity, be
it in a structured meaning or a set of alternatives. Her
central interest is to delve in some recent attempts for
capturing the function of focus by means of single
grammatical constraint from which various semantic and
pragmatic effects of focusing can be derived. She is also
interested in complex focal structures containing a
contrastive topic, and in the interaction of the focal
presupposition with other presuppositions.

The volume has a large list of reference (without reference
to the location of the publishers), and a general index.

As it is not possible here to provide detailed critical
analysis of each chapter of the book, I will instead
focus briefly on their central points.

In Chapter 1 [Preliminaries] (pp. 3-21), Kadmon discusses in
brief the interface between semantics and pragmatics, the
idea of conversational implicatures of Cooperative Principle
proposed by Grice (1975, 1989), the concept of
metalinguistic negation, the relation between context and
common grounds, the notion of presuppositions, interface
between presuppositions and context-dependent
interpretation, and the notion of accommodation.

In Chapter 2 [Discourse Representation Theory and File
Change Semantics] (pp. 25-67), Kadmon introduces the
discourse representation theory (DRT) of Kamp (1981), and
file changing semantics (FCS) of Heim (1982); summarizes
their main features; compares between DRT, and FCS; and
finally focuses on (i) the discourse representation language
(DRL) which is model-theoretically interpreted, and (ii) a
mapping from natural language discourse to DRL.

In Chapter 3 [ NPs with Numeral Determiners] (pp. 68-76),
Kadmon is concerned with the treatment of NPs of the from n
CN (numeral determiner + common noun phrase), and with the
notion of 'The Pragmatic Wastebasket'. This is a case where
semantic interpretation (formulated in DRT) is complemented
by conversational implicature.

In Chapter 4 [Semantics and Pragmatics with Definite NPs]
(pp. 77-111), Kadmon discusses the existential presupposition
of definite NPs where definites are realized as
anaphora; considers the uniqueness of definite NPs; focuses
on the file/discourse representation structure (DRS) as a
representation of the context of utterance; investigates the
salience and the geography of the context of utterance; and,
finally analyses referential and attributive definites in
the light of formalizing salience.

In Chapter 5 [Presupposition projection: The Basic Analysis]
(pp. 115-131), Kadmon focuses on presupposition projection on
conjunctions and conditionals; estimates the
Stalnaker-Karttunen analysis (1974); identifies the things
missing in the Stalnaker-Karttunen analysis; makes some
remarks on Karttunen and Peters (1979); and discusses Heim's
analysis (Part-I) where content and heritage are combined

In Chapter 6 [Presupposition Projection: Filtering
vs. Cancellation] (pp. 132-142), Kadmon presents a shot
description of the cancellation approach to presupposition
projection; evaluates the utility of cancellation
approach; and describes on the enhanced capacity on
filtering while combined with cancellation synthesis.

In Chapter 7 [Presupposition Projection : Interlude]
(pp. 143-144), Kadmon comes back to the theories proposed in
Chapter 5, and evaluates them referring to their core
ideas. This 2-page chapter stands an interlude evoking again
those theories and propositioned discussed earlier. The
length (in number of pages) of this chapter is probably
asymmetrical to that of other chapters of the book. In fact,
such inconsistency in length of chapters is a regular
phenomenon of this volume.

In Chapter 8 [Presupposition Projection: Negation, Shifts in
Contextual Assumptions, and Metalinguistic Operators]
(pp. 144-150), Kadmon analyzes shifts in contextual
assumptions; compares lexical hole vs. plug ambiguities; and
identifies the interface between presupposition and
metalinguistic operators.

In Chapter 9 [ Presupposition Projection and Accommodation]
(pp. 151-174), Kadmon is concerned with the process of
accommodation, and its role in determining our intuitive
judgments about presupposition inheritance. Here she
differentiates between linguistic vs. cognitive
presupposition; discusses local accommodation as
responsible for presupposition disappearance; judges the
value of modal subordination to locate presupposition
satisfaction in intentional contexts; and estimates the
status of both local and global accommodation in

In Chapter 10 [More on ps Projection and Accommodation: ps
Projection Below the Level of the Clause] (pp. 175-204),
Kadmon considers presupposition projection below the level of
complete clause. Here she first encounters existential
statements where she considers some unproblematic
existential statements, problems in existential statements,
role of intuitions, Heim's analysis on existential
statements, and Beaver's (1992) analysis on existential
statements without accommodation. Next, she discusses
quantified statements also referring to unproblematic
quantified statements, intuitions, and analyses provided by
Heim and Beaver.

In Chapter 11 [Presupposition Triggering and the Behaviour
of Presuppositions] (pp. 205-224), Kadmon examines a number
of relevant arguments on presupposition triggering to show
their inconclusiveness. To achieve this she differentiates
between conventional triggering and conversational
triggering; cites some examples of conversationally
triggered presuppositions; shows relations between
presupposition triggering and presupposition
projection; relates interfaces between presupposition
triggering and presupposition property; defines factive
presuppositions; and discusses presupposition disappearance
in simple affirmative examples. She is able to show that the
behavior of presuppositions of all types - from the most
easily disappearing to the most subtle and robust - is more
uniform than has often been assumed in the literature.

In Chapter 12 [Some Basics of the Phonology of Prosody]
(pp. 227-249), Kadmon discusses the importance of stress and
intonation of prosody in pragmatics; evaluates on the
separate existence of stress patterns; and discusses the
relation between stress and intonation. She sums up: "pitch
accent placement (which itself obviously serves
semantic/pragmatic purposes) plays in important role in
determining stress patterns (via the pitch accent prominence
rule (PAR)). At the same time, intonation-independent rules
like the syntax-dependent nuclear stress rule
(NSR) determine default stress patterns on the phrasal (or
compound) level, patterns show up wherever the stress
pattern is not completely determined by pitch accent
placement" (p. 249).

In Chapter 13 [Focus and Focus Identification]
(pp. 250-287), Kadmon supplies us a preliminary notion on
focus; defines some phenomena (discourse congruence, focal
presupposition, focusing adverbs, modals, adverbs of
quantification, generics, reasons, negation, superlatives,
scalar implicatures, sentence-internal contrasting phrases,
etc.) on pragmatic and semantic effects of focus; analyses
focus and question-answer pairs; relates between focus and
pitch accents; and interweaves the integration among focus,
prosodic phrasing, and peripheral tones. In the course of
her discussion, she duly refers to the focus principles of
Ladd (1980), and to the theory of pitch accent placement and
interpretation of Selkirk (1984, 1996).

In Chapter 14 [Focus: Focus-Induced Interpretations]
(pp. 288-302), Kadmon gives a brief discussion on structured
meanings and alternative semantics: two main formal,
model-theoretic theories of focus developed in the
1980s. Both the theories reflect Jackendoff's insight, and
specify in detail "what the focus-induced interpretations
are that are taken to be employed by the grammar, how these
interpretations are derived, and how they interact with the
semantics of questions, focusing adverbs, etc. to produce
the different pragmatic and semantic effects on
focus" (p. 289). Next, she considers focus-induced
interpretations; and describes normalization where she
emphasizes on some assumptions and some desiderata, focus
interpretation, etc. Finally, Kadmon shows that choice of
focused constituents is reflected in focus-induced
interpretations which can be modeled as structured meanings.

In Chapter 15 [ Problems with Focus-Induced Interpretations]
(pp. 303-310), Kadmon identifies problems directly concerned
with focus-induced interpretations (FII); discusses the
usual (limited) success with intentionality; and discusses
in some details Schwarzschild's (1994) general problem with
defining sets of alternatives in terms of full semantic

In Chapter 16 [Association with Focus: The "Domain
Selection"/"Free Parameter" Analysis] (pp. 311-314), Kadmon
raises the question which is not answered in Chapter 14: how
exactly the various effects of focusing are created? In this
4-page chapter, she tries to put at least one significant
step towards a more explanatory theory than the theory of
'association with focus' proposed by Rooth (1985), and

In Chapter 17 [Focus: The More Complete Analysis]
(pp. 315-355), Kadmon is more elaborate in dealing with the
questions raised in the earlier chapter. Here, she discusses
the optionality of focus effects; investigates the theory of
focus interpretation principle (FIP); describes some related
issues (the FIP and the focal presupposition, the 'strong
hypothesis' regarding focus effects, etc.); analyses
minimize focused material; introduces focus as a
discourse-regulating device; investigates the obligatories
of focus effects; evaluates focus as a discourse-regulating
device in the contrast constraint; verifies questions and
information structure in discourse; and estimates focus as a
discourse-regulating device in the question-under-discussion

In Chapter 18 [ Focus-Induced Interpretations: Some
Theoretical Choices to be Made] (pp. 356-366), Kadmon
considers focus-induced interpretations of constituents
other than a clause; evaluates recursive definition of
focus-induced interpretations; and analyses co-variation in
focus positions. She considers these as general issues
pertaining to any theory of focus-induced interpretations,
and not ones that could distinguish between the structured
meanings approach and the alternative semantics approach. As
is the usual practice in this book, the discussion is given
in terms of alternative semantics.

In Chapter 19 [Focus and Scope] (pp. 367-379), Kadmon
investigates the 'pure scope' theory of focus; combines the
'focus-induced interpretations + scope' theory where she
sails from 'pure scope' to 'focus-induced interpretations +
scope'; considers crossover effects and absence of island
effects; and raises a question if foci can take wide scope
(Part 1).

In Chapter 20 [ Complex Focal Structures with "Contrastive
Topics"] (pp. 380-401), Kadmon discusses relation between
TOPIC-focus and FOCUS-focus; evaluates some recent accounts
proposed by Roberts (1996), and Buring (1999); and finally
presents her own accounts with ample examples and
elaboration. Here again, she raises question if foci can
take wide scope (Part 2).

In Chapter 21 [Focus and Presupposition: The Focal
Presupposition and its Interaction with Other
Presuppositions] (pp. 402-414), Kadmon tries to reach a more
comprehensive integration of the study of focus, and the
study of presupposition than available in today's
literature. Moreover, she is intrigued with the interactions
between the focal presupposition and presuppositions of
other triggers. In this chapter she takes a quick look at
such matters. While dealing with the focal presupposition
she summarizes the views presented in the book and considers
further possibilities. Nest, she discusses the interface
between focus and the disappearance of presuppositions.
Finally, she defines the relation between focus and
altered presuppositions.

The writer covers a substantial body of formal work on
linguistic phenomena, and presents the way the semantics
pragmatics interface has come to be viewed today. She
rightly states that "this book is NOT intended to play the
role of a general introduction to semantics and/or
pragmatics, or to formal technique" (p. 2). Therefore, the
volume lacks the qualities to serve as a text book. However,
for reference or research, it is fine because it offers a
detailed discussion on some key issues and clearly explains
all important issues of this field of research.

One final observation. Devoting a whole page to the
pronunciation of the name of the author is excessive.
A simple line following the acknowledgment/preface
would have been sufficient.

Beaver, D. (1992) "The kinematics of presupposition", in
Proceedings of the 8th Amsterdam Colloquium, ILLC. Amsterdam.

Buring, D. (1999) "Topic", in Bosch, P., and van der Sandt,
R. (eds.) Focus - Linguistic, Cognitive, and Computational
Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press. Pp. 142-165.

Grice, H. P. (1975) "Logic and conversation" in Cole, P.,
and Morgan, J. L. (eds.) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech
Acts. New York: Academic Press. Pp. 41-58.

Grice, H. P. (1989) Studies in the Way of
Words. Harvard: Harvard University Press. (Originally
delivered as the William James Lectures at Harvard
University in 1967).

Heim, I. (1982) The Semantics of Definite and Indefinite
Noun Phrases. GLSA: Dept. of Linguistics, University of
Massachusetts, Amherst.

Heim, I. (1983) "On the projection problem for
presuppositions", in Barlow, M., Flickinger, D., and
Wescoat, M. (eds.) Proceedings of WCCFL 2. Stanford
University. Pp. 114-125.

Kamp, H. (1981) "A Theory of truth and semantic
representation", in Groenendijk, J., Janssen, T., and
Stokhof, M. (eds.) Formal Methods in the Study of
Language: Proceedings of the Third Amsterdam Colloquium,
Part I. Mathematical Center: Amsterdam. Pp. 277-321.

Karttunen, L. (1974) "Presuppositions and linguistic
context". Theoretical Linguistics. 1: 181-194.

Karttunen, L., and Peters, S. (1979) "Conventional
implicature", in Oh, C., and Dinneen, D. (eds.) Syntax and
Semantics 11: Presupposition. New York: Academic
Press. Pp. 1-56.

Ladd, D. R. (1980) The Structure of Intonational
Meaning: Evidence from English. Indiana: Indiana University

Roberts (1996) "Information structure in discourse: towards
an integrated formal theory of pragmatics", in Yoon, J.H.,
and Kathol, A. (eds.) Ohio State University Working Papers
in Linguistics. Vol. 49. Ohio State University Press.

Rooth, M. (1985) Association with Focus. GLSA: Dept. of
Linguistics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Selkirk, E. O. (1984) Phonology and Syntax: The Relation
between Sound and Structure. Mass. MIT Press.

Selkirk, E.O. (1996) "Sentence prosody: intonation, stress,
and phrasing", in Goldsmith, J. (ed.) The Handbook of
Phonological Theory. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell
Publishers. Pp. 550-569.

Stalnaker, R. (1974) "Pragmatic presuppositions", in Munitz,
M.K., and Unger, D.K. (eds.) Semantics and Philosophy. New
York: New York University Press. Pp. 197-213.

Niladri Sekhar Dash works as a Linguist in Computer Vision
and Pattern Recognition Unit of Indian Statistical
Institute, Kolkata, India. His research interest includes
corpus linguistics, text annotation, lexical semantics,
word-sense disambiguation, generative morphology, discourse
analysis etc. Among other works, he is currently working for
developing a dictionary of foreign words in Bangla.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue