On not-at-issueness in pictures

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In this paper, I make novel empirical observations about not-at-issue content in pictures, focusing on prohibition signs, and discuss the implications of these observations for our understanding of how meaning works in linguistic and non-linguistic systems. In particular, I show that for certain pieces of pictorial content, the at-issue vs. not-at-issue distinction is highly pragmatic, in a way that strongly resembles the restricting vs. non-restricting distinction in natural language modifiers. I, furthermore, demonstrate that such pieces of pictorial content also behave like modifiers for the purposes of ellipsis/anaphora resolution and alternative generation under only. Thus, I argue that the at-issue vs. not-at-issue distinction in these cases should, in fact, be analyzed in terms of restricting vs. non-restricting modification, rather than presuppositions contributed sublexically. These findings point to substantial parallels between pictures and natural language with respect to both pragmatic reasoning and compositional structuring of meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number83
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/.


  • At-issueness
  • Composition
  • Non-restricting modifiers
  • Pictorial semantics


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