Nested presuppositions: A manipulative type of informative presupposition
Keywords:nested presuppositions, pragmatic presupposition, cognitive linguistics, manipulation, relevance theory, Arab Spring speeches, ben Ali, Mubarak, cognitive pragmatics, critical discourse analysis
This paper introduces the new pragmatic concept of Nested Presuppositions (NestPs) and develops a relevance- theoretic account that explains its cognitive dynamics and manipulative mechanisms. The first section lays necessary theoretical foundations, by defining pragmatic presupposition, compiling a taxonomy of the types of presupposition and their triggers, identifying and critiquing research gaps in eight of the most relevant studies and drawing the conclusion that none of the existing definitions or accounts of pragmatic presupposition can adequately capture the manipulative characteristics and mechanisms of the instances of informative presupposition at issue. In section two, I shall introduce the concept of NestPs as the filler of those gaps, grounding it in Textual Rhetoric and Relevance Theory and highlighting its defining characteristic of information structures, i.e. how the message is segmented and its degrees of prominence and suppression are assigned in order to achieve strategic goals. I further problematize the relationship between NestPs, on the one hand, and informativeness and manipulation, on the other, in light of Gricean and Relevance-Theoretic linguistics, establishing that NestPs are inherently manipulative. I finally expound the manipulative dynamics of NestPs, in terms of the information processing mechanisms they employ, by capitalizing on the concepts of Ostensive Stimulus, Cognitive Principle of Relevance, Principle of Optimal Relevance and Comprehension Procedure, and suggesting the two new mechanisms of Cognitive Underpassing and Structure-Content Cognitive Conflict.
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