Robert Stalnaker explores the notion of the context in which speech takes place, its role in the interpretation of what is said, and in the explanation of the dynamics of discourse. He distinguishes different notions of context, but the main focus is on the notion of context as common ground, where the common ground is an evolving body of background information that is presumed to be shared by the participants in a conversation. The common ground is the information
that is presupposed by speakers and addressees, and a central concern of this book is with the notion of presupposition, and with the interaction of compositional structure with discourse dynamics in the explanation of presuppositional phenomena. Presupposed information includes background information
both about the subject matter of a discourse and about the evolving discourse itself, and about the attitudes of the participants in the discourse, including who and where they are, and what they agree and disagree about. Stalnaker provides a way of representing self-locating information that helps to explain how it can be shared and communicated, and how it evolves over time. He discusses the semantic and pragmatics of conditionals and epistemic modals, and their role in representing
agreement, disagreement, and the negotiation about how a context should evolve. The book concludes with a discussion of the relations between contextualism and semantic relativism.
The Context and Content series is a forum for outstanding original research at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, and cognitive science. The general editor is Francois Recanati (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris).
Robert Stalnaker is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He got his PhD in philosophy at Princeton University, working with Stuart Hampshire and C. G. Hempel. He taught at Yale University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Cornell University before moving to MIT in 1988. He is the author of Inquiry (MIT Press, 1984), Our Knowledge of the Internal World (OUP, 2007), and Mere possibilities (Princeton University Press, 2010), as well as two collections of papers, Context and Content (OUP, 1999) and Ways a World Might Be (OUP, 2003). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.
INTRODUCTION ; 1. THREE NOTIONS OF CONTEXT ; 2. COMMON GROUND AND KEEPING SCORE ; 3. PRESUPPOSITION REQUIREMENTS ; 4. CONTEXT AND COMPOSITONALITY ; 5. THE ESSENTIAL CONTEXTUAL ; 6. MAY, MIGHT, IF ; 7. DISAGREEMENT AND PROJECTION ; 8. CONTEXTUALISM AND THE NEW RELATIVISM ; Appendix ; References