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“Speakers usually design

their linguistic messages on

the basis of assumptions of
what their hearers already

By: http://www.kau.edu.sa/SBANJER
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar http://wwwdrshadiabanjar.blogspot.com

Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 1

• Pragmatics is the study
of deixis, implicature,
presupposition, speech
acts, and aspects of
discourse structure.
(Levinson, 1983)
Stephen C. Levinson

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Two aspects of what is
communicated but not said

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A is
something the speaker
assumes to be the
case prior to make an
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar 4
•Speakers, not sentences,
have presuppositions,
symbolized as >> .

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• if someone tells you:

1. “ your brother is waiting outside for you”,
• there is an obvious supposition that you
have a brother.

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2) a. Kepler died in misery
b. Kepler did not die in misery.

The notion of presupposition is generally traced

back to German mathematician, logician and
philosopher, Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), who
noted in Frege (1952) that both (2a) and (2b)
presuppose that

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English philosopher, Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)
argued against this view in Russell (1905). He was
concerned with the fact that (3) is meaningful, whether
or not there actually is a King of France.

3) The King of France is wise.

He proposed that this involves three assertions.

There exists an x such that

a) x is a King of France
b) there is no other entity that is a King of France
c) x is wise

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presupposition triggers
• In any language, there are some
expressions or constructions
which can act as the sources of
presuppositions. This kind of
expressions or constructions is
called .
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Examples with presupposition triggers
(1) Definitive descriptions
• John saw the man with two heads >> There exists a man with two heads.
(2) Factive verbs
• John realized that he was in debt >> John was in debt.
(3) Change of state verbs
• Joan began to beat her husband >> Joan hadn’t been beating her husband.
(4) Iterative
• The flying saucer came again >> The flying saucer came before.
(5) Temporal clauses
• while Chomsky was revolutionizing linguistics, the rest of social science asleep
>> Chomsky was revolutionizing linguistics.
(6) Cleft sentences
• It was Henry who killed Rose >> Someone killed Rose.
(7) Comparisons and contrasts
• Carol is a better linguist than Barbara >> Barbara is a linguist.
• The negative form of the above sentences has the same presupposition.
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The relationship between two propositions:

Mary’s cat is cute. (p)

Mary has a cat. (q)

p >>q = p presupposes q

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If the speaker denies the
proposition p (NOT p), the
presupposition q doesn’t
Mary’s cat isn’t cute. (NOT p)
Mary has a cat. (q)

Not p >>q = Not p presupposes q

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Types of Presupposition

Presuppositions are associated with the use

of a large number of

These linguistic forms are considered as

indicators of potential presupposition,
which can only become actual
presupposition in contexts with speakers.

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1- Existential presupposition:

Entities named by the speaker

and assumed to be present
- noun phrase.
- possessive constructions.

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noun phrase :

"The Cold War has ended"

presupposes that the

existence of the entities
it refers to, in this case
the "Cold War".

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possessive constructions :

“Tony’s car is new”

we can presuppose
that Tony exists and
that he has a car.

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2- Factive presupposition:
identified by the presence of some verbs such as "know“, "realize“,
“be glad”, “be sorry”, etc.

She didn’t realize he was ill. (>> He was ill)

We regret telling him. (>> We told him)

I wasn’t aware that she was married. (>> She was married)
It isn’t odd that he left early. (>> He left early)

I’m glad that it’s over. (>> It’s over)

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3- Lexical presupposition:

In using one word, the speaker can act as if another

meaning will be understood. For instance:

Mary stopped running. (>>She used to run.)

You are late again. (>> You were late before.)
Are you still such a bad driver? (>> You were a bad driver)

"stop“, "again“ “still” are taken to presuppose another

( ) concept.

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4- Structural presupposition:
it is the assumption associated with the use of certain
- wh-question constructions.

When did she travel to the USA? ( >> she travelled)

Where did you buy the book? (>> you bought the book)

The listener perceives that the information presented is

necessarily true, or intended as true by the speaker..

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5- Non- factive presupposition:
it is an assumption referred to something
that is not true.
For example, verbs like "dream", "imagine"
and "pretend" are used with the
presupposition that what follows is not true.
I dreamed that I was rich.
(>> I was not rich)
We imagined that we were in London.
(>> We were not in London)
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6- Counterfactual presupposition:

it is the assumption that what is presupposed is not only

untrue, but is the opposite of what is true, or contrary to

If you were my daughter, I would not allow you to do this.

( >> you are not my daughter)
If I were rich I would buy a Ferrari.
(>> I’m not rich)
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Entailment is not a pragmatic
It is defined as what logically follows
from what is asserted in the
utterance, symbolized by II-.

Sentences, not speakers, have


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Speakers have presuppositions while
sentences have entailments.
Susan’s sister bought two houses.
This sentence presupposes that Susan exists and that
she has a sister.
This sentence has the entailments that Susan’s sister
bought something; a house, and other similar logical
consequences, now she has 2 houses. The entailments
are communicated without being said and are not
dependent on the speaker’s intention.
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1) a. The King of France is bald.
b. There is a King of France.
c. The King of France is not bald.

If X entails Y, the negative counterpart of X does not

entail Y. (2a) entails (2b), but (2c) does not.

2) a. The President of Polvenia is a bachelor. ENTAILMENTS

b. The President of Polvenia is unmarried.
c. The President of Polvenia is not a bachelor.

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Ordered Entailments

1)Rover chased three squirrels.

a) Something chased three squirrels.
b) Rover did something to three squirrels.
c) Rover chased of something.
d)Something happened.

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The speaker will necessarily produce a
very large number of background
entailments, but the speaker will indicate
how these entailments are to be ordered.
by stress
by using special structures
The hearer will understand which entailment is
assumed to be more important for interpreting
intended meaning.
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BOB ate three sandwiches.

Bob ATE three sandwiches.
Bob ate THREE sandwiches.

Bob ate three SANDWICHES.

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It-cleft construction/cleft sentences
a) It was that did the work.
b) It wasn’t who took your jacket.
Cleft sentences are used to help us focus on a
particular part of the sentence and to
emphasise what we want to say … Because
there are two parts … they are called cleft
(from the verb cleave) which means divided
into two.
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• Cleft sentences are particularly useful in
writing where we cannot use intonation
for purposes of focus or emphasis, but
they are also frequently used in speech.
• Cleft structures include the reason why,
the thing that, the person/people who,
the place where, the day when and
what-clauses which are usually linked to
the clause that we want to focus on
with is or was.
• From: BBC World service
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Presuppositions vs. entailments
Presuppositions are different from entailments:
1) She hasn’t stopped smoking.
Still presupposes
She used to smoke.
2) My dog didn’t eat my bag.
Still presupposes
I have a dog, and I (still, it seems) have a bag.
The emperor wasn’t assassinated.
Does not entail any more
XXXXXX 1)Someone was assassinated.
XXXXXX2)The emperor died.

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