Traditionally, linguists, psycholinguists and philosophers of language identify three main levels of content in ordinary conversations:
(i) the level of presuppositions
(ii) the level of what is explicitly said
(iii) the level of implicatures
For example, the utterance “I have given up smoking” presupposes that I have been smoking, explicitly says that I have given up smoking and it might implicate, depending on collateral assumptions, different contents, as, for instance, that “I have done something positive for my health” or “You ought to quit smoking too!”, or others.
While many works in the field of Experimental Pragmatics (i.e. the development of Pragmatics as a theoretical discipline by experimental methods) have developed experiments aimed at evaluating the psychological plausibility of theories at levels (ii) and (iii), an experimental research line on pragmatics and semantics of presuppositions is still underdeveloped.
EXPRESS – Experimenting on Presuppositions is a 3-years project associated with the XPRAG.de Network, financed by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research within the SIR – Scientific Independence of Young Researchers program, hosted at the DISFOR – Departiment of Educational Sciences – Psychology Unit – University of Genoa (Italy).
The goal of EXPRESS is to propose a new psycholinguistic research project aimed at evaluating the cognitive processes involved in understanding presuppositions. The project focuses particularly on the study of the cognitive load involved in processing presuppositions. The main expected outcome of the work is to support the thesis of the ‘reality of processing presuppositions’: in ordinary language processing, understanding presuppositions involves cognitive processes that require a large chunk of the cognitive resources available to the language users.