10. The discourse functions of the present perfect

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The interpretation of the present perfect is often assumed to require pragmatic inferences. However, what rules speakers use to perform these pragmatic inferences is not clear. This paper reports two corpus studies of the present perfect in English and Japanese that show that the inferences required to interpret the present perfect follow from general default rules or commonsense entailment rules. These studies also show that the use of the perfect helps discourse coherence in two ways. First, the presence of the state the perfect introduces helps establish discourse relations or allows the establishment of additional discourse relations between discourse segments. Second, the pragmatic inferences required to interpret the perfect can indirectly trigger the rules needed to establish discourse relations.


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