12 November 2019: Ellen Breitholtz

Enthymemes and topoi in dialogue – an approach to reasoning in conversation

Abstract: Interacting with others frequently involves making common-sense inferences linking context, background knowledge and beliefs to utterances in the dialogue. These inferences are often enthymematic, that is, the premises given do not by necessity lead to the conclusion.

If a dialogue participant presents the argument ”P therefore Q”, an interlocutor must supply a warrant that P is a valid reason for Q in order for the argument to be successful. In rhetoric, these warrants are often referred to as topoi.

To produce and interpret enthymemes, interlocutors thus draw on background knowledge or contextual information, and for an enthymeme to be accepted, some such information must be accommodated if it is not already present in the discourse model. However, sometimes an enthymeme can be warranted by different topoi. Thus, the pragmatic meaning conveyed by an enthymeme in relation to a listener depends partly on which topos the listener accesses in the interpretation process.

In this talk I will present an approach to dialogue where enthymemes and topoi play a role for interpretation and production of conversational moves. I will present some phenomena which are frequent in dialogue and how these are related to enthymematic reasoning, and suggest how some of these may be accounted for in a game board style model cast in Type Theory with Records.