1. What is accommodation?
1.1. A simple example
Our heroine has landed herself in a dicult spot. From all sides dangerous
criminals are approaching. She reports (1).
(1) I knew they would show no mercy.
Innocent as it may seem, this example is problematic for theories of presupposition
that assume that whatever is presupposed must be known
to speaker and hearer prior to utterance. (1) contains the word know
and the use of this verb is generally assumed to presuppose its complement.
But our example may well be the rst time that our heroine
informs us of the treatment she expects at the hands of the villains. The
operation that helps us out here is accommodation, and involves making
it common ground between us and the speaker that the complement
is true. Lewis (1979), who brought the term accommodation into use
among philosophers of language and semanticists, conceived of it as
a repair strategy: the hearer recognizes that something is wrong, sees
that the day can be saved by adding the missing presupposition and
proceeds to do just that.1
Accommodation is something you do in deference to the wishes of
another. This explains why the word accommodation is used frequently
in the tourist industry. More worrying is that there is also another
technical linguistic use of accommodation, namely that in sociolinguistics
(Giles et al., 1987). Here it refers to conscious or unconscious
attempts by interlocutors to adapt their linguistic habits (e.g. in pronunciation,
choice of words and constructions, posture) to the habits of
other interlocutors, typically by taking over some of the other interlocutors
behavior. While both the sociolinguistic and semantic/pragmatic
uses of accommodation describe adaptations made to enhance communicational
success, the two coinages are distinct and historically