Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Presupposition 2up
Adrian Brasoveanu (abrsvn @ gmail . com) Rutgers University, Fall 2006 8. Introduced by:___________________ (hint: compare with Trinity kissed Neo)
9. Walter bought a white rabbit again.
Presupposition – The Basics 10. Presupposition:__________________
11. Introduced by:___________________
I. What does it mean to presuppose something? 12. Walter's rabbit is on the loose again.
14. Introduced by:___________________
In a head-on collision, both father and son are critically wounded. They are rushed into hospital
where the chief surgeon performs an emergency operation on the son. But it is too late and the 15. Trinity kissed Neo too.
boy dies on the table. When an assistant asks the surgeon, "Could you have a look at the other 16. Presupposition:__________________
victim?", the surgeon replies "I could not bear it. I have already lost my son". 17. Introduced by:___________________
(Consider: Who kissed Neo? vs. Who did Trinity kiss? vs. What did Trinity do to Neo?)
Does the chief surgeon's reply make sense?
A sentence S presupposes P if and only if the utterance of S implies P – and it implies that: (a) P
The class will feature (in order of appearance): is already part of the background against which S is considered and (b) P is taken for granted as
part of that background.
Morpheus Trinity Neo Agent Smith
A sentence S presupposes P if and only if it can be felicitously uttered only in a context in which
P is true.
That is, the presuppositions of S limit the class of contexts suitable to utter S.
II. What does it mean for a presupposition P to be part of the
• Assert: S.
• Deny: It is not the case that S.
• Question: Is it the case that S? (Command: S!).
• Hypothetically assume: If S, then ….
18. Morpheus has stopped drinking wine for breakfast.
1. Morpheus has stopped drinking wine for breakfast.
19. Morpheus hasn't stopped drinking wine for breakfast.
2. Morpheus used to drink wine for breakfast.
20. Has Morpheus stopped drinking wine for breakfast?
21. Morpheus, stop drinking wine for breakfast!
22. If Morpheus stopped drinking wine for breakfast, he must have found the One.
3. Morpheus regrets that Trinity kissed Neo.
23. Morpheus used to drink wine for breakfast.
5. Introduced by:___________________ (hint: regret / believe form a 'minimal pair')
Presuppositions are part of the background: they are implied by S not only when S is asserted,
6. It was Trinity that kissed Neo.
but also when it is: denied, questioned (commanded) and hypothetically entertained.
Compare this way of implying with:
IV. Accommodating presuppositions: how and what kind of
24. Trinity kissed Neo.
25. Trinity touched Neo. 37. Walter comes in and says: Sorry I'm late, but I couldn't find a spot to park my car.
(Interesting, Walter has a car… Maybe he can help me move.)
26. Annette has a child. 38. Walter comes in and says: Sorry I'm late, but I couldn't find a spot to park my spaceship.
27. Annette has exactly one child. (Walter has a spaceship?!?)
What is accommodation?____________________________________________
III. What does it mean for a presupposition P to be taken for
Accommodation of presuppositions is sensitive to the particular expressions that introduce them,
Here's an example of something backgrounded, but not taken for granted: i.e. to their particular triggers.
28. Trinity, who had just got out of the Matrix, kissed Neo. 39. Trinity kissed Neo too.
29. Trinity, who had just got out of the Matrix, didn't kiss Neo. (?!?)
30. Did Trinity, who had just got out of the Matrix, kiss Neo?
The infelicity indicates that the presupposition triggered by too does not have an existential form,
Why not taken for granted? Consider the following discourse: e.g. there is someone else besides Neo that Trinity kissed.
It is plausible that Neo wasn't the first man that Trinity kissed in her whole life – so, it shouldn't
31. As far as I'm concerned, the movie Matrix means only this to me: there's this virtual be hard to accommodate that there is someone else besides Neo that Trinity kissed.
reality called the Matrix that you can get into and out of; there's this guy Neo, there's this Anyway, it shouldn't be harder than accommodating that Walter has a car.
special lady friend of his Trinity and there's evil Agent Smith. Agent Smith shoots Neo
32. Trinity, who has just got out of the Matrix, kisses Neo and resurrects him. Neo kills Q: why is it hard to accommodate the presupposition triggered by too as opposed to the one
Smith. The end. triggered by my car? – i.e. why is it hard to accommodate particularized presuppositions like the
33. He (i.e. Agent Smith) realizes that Trinity has just got out of the Matrix. She kisses Neo one triggered by too?
and resurrects him. Neo kills Smith. The end.
Another example – compare: V. A systematic study of presupposition: three questions.
34. At first, Trinity suggests that she doesn't have any feelings for Neo. Next thing you know, • How are presuppositions triggered, i.e. introduced, and what is their form?
she kisses Neo, who has just been shot dead by Agent Smith. • How are presuppositions computed and how do they interact during computation?
35. At first, Trinity suggests that she doesn't have any feelings for Neo. Next thing you know,
• How do presuppositions project, i.e. what happens when something carrying a
she deeply regrets that Neo has just been shot dead by Agent Smith.
presupposition is embedded in a larger structure?
Q: We have talked about four kinds of implications. What implications can you find in the
following sentence and of what kind?
36. Trinity doesn't regret that she asked Neo, who does not have a driving license, to drive
three children to school.
(hint: … she asked Neo … implies … she asked someone … – what kind of 'implying' is this?)
introduced by still does not have a general existential form but requires a particular, salient
How are presuppositions triggered, i.e. introduced, and what is their form? 'witness'.
We've already looked at this – and we have seen that accommodation distinguishes between
different presupposition triggers and between different kinds of presuppositions, i.e. between How are presuppositions computed and how do they interact during
presuppositions that have an existential form vs. presuppositions that target a particular salient computation?
42. Walter's rabbit is on the loose again.
This raises the question: what are the presuppositions that have an existential form? Triggers:_____________________________________
For example: do the presuppositions triggered by again, stop or still have an existential form?
Annette and her husband are planning the birthday parties of their two children John and Mary. (hint: to get one reading, try fronting again, e.g. Once again, Walter's rabbit is on the loose; to
Annette says: get the other reading, try to replace Walter's rabbit with Peter, e.g. Peter is on the loose again.)
40. We will have pizza on John's birthday, so we shouldn't have pizza again on Mary's
birthday. Q: describe two situations such that: reading 1, but not reading 2, is felicitous in one of them;
reading 2, but not reading 1, is felicitous in the other.
Assume that you know that Annette and her family, like most people, eat pizza rather frequently, (hint: on the one hand, Walter can own different rabbits during his lifetime; on the other hand, a
but you do not know when John and Mary have their birthdays. rabbit can have different owners during its lifetime)
You spontaneously infer from this utterance that John's birthday precedes Mary's. This inference
is due to again: remove it and you can just as easily imagine the birthdays in the opposite
temporal order. Q: Give another example of multiple presupposition computation and interaction. Identify the
triggers and the readings. Describe different scenarios that establish that the readings you list are
If again simply requires the existence of some previous event of eating pizza and not a particular indeed distinct readings, i.e. scenarios in which only one reading is satisfied to the exclusion of
such event, then the requirement could be satisfied by the frequent pizza eating habit. the other(s).
But if the requirement is not satisfied by the event of eating pizza on John's birthday, how can we
infer that John's birthday precedes Mary's?!
Q*: how many readings does the following example have? What expression is responsible for
Stop: the difference between this example and the one above? How does the difference arise?
41. Neo is cooking. He will stop (cooking) tomorrow when his training starts. 43. That rabbit of Walter's is on the loose again.
Spontaneous inference: Neo is engaged in one single protracted cooking activity that started
before the speech time and will continue through the night. Why should this (implausible) How do presuppositions project, i.e. what happens when something
inference arise? carrying a presupposition is embedded in a larger structure?
If stop presupposes that there was some event of Neo cooking prior to the training time tomorrow Why call this 'projection'?
– and not a particular one –, then the presupposition can be satisfied by a (more plausible) event Projection was the term used to refer to meaning composition in early generative grammar.
of cooking breakfast tomorrow. In which case: there is no obvious way to derive the spontaneous
inference. "The semantic component of a linguistic description will be taken to be a projective device […].
Such a projective device consists of two parts: first, a dictionary that provides a meaning for each
Q: Make the same point with respect to still, i.e. provide an example, identify an implausible of the lexical items of the language, and second, a finite set of projection rules. The projection
'spontaneous inference' and show how you can derive it if you assume that the presupposition rules of the semantic component assign a semantic interpretation to each string of formatives
generated by the syntactic component. […] The projection rules then combine [lexical] meanings
in a manner dictated by the syntactic description of the string to arrive at a characterization of the
meaning of the whole string […]." (Katz, J. & P. Postal 1964. An Integrated Theory of Linguistic
Description, MIT Press, p. 12 – apud von Fintel (2003): 12) 52. Neo's children have super-powers.
44. It was Trinity that kissed Neo. 53. Neo has three children and Neo's children have super-powers.
45. It wasn't Trinity that kissed Neo. 54. Neo's children have super-powers and Neo has three children.
46. Was it Trinity that kissed Neo?
Presupposition:___________________ Q: Are the two examples below felicitous or not? Why (use your final characterization of
presupposition projection in conditionals and conjunctions to answer)?
47. If it was Trinity that kissed Neo, then she must be really in love with him.
Presupposition:___________________ 55. If it was Trinity that kissed Neo, someone kissed him.
56. It was Trinity that kissed Neo and someone kissed him.
Q: Based on the examples above, give a general characterization of presupposition projection.
Q: Does your characterization of presupposition projection in conjunctions cover the second
48. If someone kissed Neo, it was Trinity that kissed him. sentence in the following discourse?
57. If Neo is married to Trinity, then he has children. (As a matter of fact) Neo is married to
49. Someone kissed Neo and it was Trinity that kissed him. Trinity and all his children have super-powers.
Q: Does your characterization of presupposition projection in conditionals cover the second
Q: Does your general characterization of presupposition projection cover the above two sentence in the following discourse?
If not, focus only on conditionals: characterize presupposition projection in conditionals. Then, 58. If Neo is married to Trinity, then he has children. Moreover, if Neo is married to Trinity,
focus only on conjunctions: characterize presupposition projection in conjunctions. all his children have super-powers.
Can you see a more general pattern of presupposition projection that is common to both
conditionals and conjunctions?
50. If Neo was dead, it was Trinity that kissed him. presupposition accommodation is a form of cooperative behavior;
Presupposition:____________________ certain presuppositions, e.g. too, are harder to accommodate: they do not have an
existential form, but require a particular salient 'witness' with certain properties;
51. Neo was dead and it was Trinity that kissed him. presupposition computation is not a trivial task: a sentence with multiple presupposition
Presupposition:____________________ triggers can be ambiguous between different readings generated by the way the triggered
characterizing presupposition projection is not a trivial task: sometimes, a presupposition
Q: Does your characterization of presupposition projection in conditionals and conjunctions P triggered in a sentence S projects, i.e. if we embed S in a larger structure S', P is
cover the above two examples? If not, revise the characterization accordingly. What about the inherited by the larger structure S'; however, presuppositions do not always project;
there seems to be a general principle behind the projection and non-projection cases:
whether a presupposition P triggered in a sentence S is inherited by a larger structure S'
depends on whether the local context in S' relative to which we interpret S entails P. If
entailment obtains, P is not taken for granted anymore in the larger structure S', hence it
does not project.
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G. Ramchand et al (eds.), OUP.
3. Von Fintel, K. 2003. Pragmatics. Notes on Presupposition, available at http://semantics-
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