Enlightened Update: A Computational Architecture for Presupposition and Other Pragmatic Phenomena


We relate the theory of presupposition accommodation to a computational framework for reasoning in conversation. We understand presuppositions as private commitments the speaker makes in using an utterance but expects the listener to recognize based on mutual information. On this understanding, the conversation can move forward not just through the positive effects of interlocutors’ utterances but also from the retrospective insight interlocutors gain about one anothers’ mental states from observing what they do. Our title, ENLIGHTENED UPDATE, highlights such cases. Our approach fleshes out two key principles: that interpretation is a form of intention recognition; and that intentions are complex informational structures, which specify commitments to conditions and to outcomes as well as to actions. We present a formalization and implementation of these principles for a simple conversational agent, and draw on this case study to argue that pragmatic reasoning is holistic in character, continuous with common-sense reasoning about collaborative activities, and most effectively characterized by associating specific, reliable interpretive constraints directly with grammatical forms. In showing how to make such claims precise and to develop theories that respect them, we illustrate the general place of computation in the cognitive science of language.

Extracted Key Phrases

2 Figures and Tables


Citations per Year

58 Citations

Semantic Scholar estimates that this publication has 58 citations based on the available data.

See our FAQ for additional information.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Thomason2006EnlightenedUA, title={Enlightened Update: A Computational Architecture for Presupposition and Other Pragmatic Phenomena}, author={Richmond H. Thomason and Matthew Stone and David DeVault}, year={2006} }