This book is a development of Stalnaker's dominant research program (going back to Stalnaker 1970), defending the “autonomy of pragmatics” thesis that “it is possible and fruitful to theorize about the structure and function of discourse independently of a specific theory about the mechanisms that languages use to serve those functions” (1). The program is broadly Gricean, explaining the contents of utterances and attitudes independently of how they are encoded in language or thought.

The central notion remains the common ground (CG), a body of information presumed shared by interlocutors, defined in terms of mutual acceptance: in its simplest form it is a set of propositions everyone in the conversation accepts, accepts that everyone accepts, and so on, ad infinitum. CG determines a context: a set of worlds compatible with it. The basic goal of inquiry is to shrink this set, eliminating uncertainty about how things are.

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