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On the sources of presupposition Mandy Simons Department of Philosophy Carnegie Mellon University.

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1 On the sources of presupposition Mandy Simons Department of Philosophy Carnegie Mellon University

2 2 Two Foundational Questions What is presupposition? What is it a relation between? What is the nature of the relation? Is it always the same thing? Where does it come from? Conventional content of lexical items Inference driven by conversational norms Non-linguistic conventions

3 3 A third question How do the questions impact on one another? Not all possible combinations of answers are possible.

4 4 The phenomenon We identify presuppositions of sentences/utterances using the “P-family” test of Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet 1990/2000: Presuppositions are propositions which tend to “escape” the scope of entailment cancelling operators (negation, modals), and thus are typically implied by (utterance of) any member of the “P-family”.

5 5 Presuppositions as conventional content Conventional is what could have been otherwise. Conventional content is lexically specified. It cannot be derived from any underlying principles. “In some cases, one may just have to write presupposition constraints into the dictionary entry for a particular word.” (Stalnaker 1974) The specification of presuppositional content will depend on your answer to the “what it is” question.

6 6 Example 1: Presupposition as condition on truth value. [[know]] is a partial function from worlds w to individual-proposition pairs, such that for any w: [[know]](w) = { : x knows that p}, if p(w)=1; otherwise [[know]](w) = undefined.

7 7 Example 2: Presupposition as condition on dynamic update c+x know that p = c [[x know that p]], if c entails p; otherwise, undefined.

8 8 Example 3: Presupposition as content: Karttunen and Peters 1979 For each lexical item, specify independently: Truth conditional content Presuppositional content (conventional implicature) Specify “inheritance properties” of particular constructions and connectives.

9 9 Pros and Cons Pros Nice and easy: specify the presup and you’re done! Except: Presuppositions of clefts (it- or wh-): If you don’t think these are linguistic units, you can’t talk about their conventional content. Apparent attachment of presuppositions to atomic clauses is explained; natural accounts of presupposition projection become available.

10 10 Cons: Appearances of non-conventionality The conventional-property account fails to explain certain regularities of presuppositional behavior. Presuppositions show a number of standard properties of conversationally-generated inferences: defeasible inferences based on conversational norms.

11 11 Argument #1: Regularity All referential expressions have existence presuppositions (identified by P-family test). All change of state predicates have “start- state-held” presuppositions: Jane left/didn’t leave the house. The painting fell/didn’t fall off the wall. Jane became/didn’t become a US citizen.

12 12 The issue Explanatoriness of the theory: Stipulating presupposition as part of conventional content of each member of these sets misses a generalization. Fails to explain why we don’t find members of these classes with different patterns of presupposition: e.g.: Why not stop which presupposes start state, and one stop which presupposes end state?

13 13 More evidence New words: New change of state predicates have standard presupposition. Cross-linguistic Across languages, expressions which have the same truth conditional content seem to have the same presuppositions. (Anecdotal evidence; Levinson and Annamalai 1992 on English and Tamil; but see also Matthewson 2005)

14 14 Argument #2: Relation to truth conditional content Presuppositions of a sentence are always entailments of atomic member of the P- family. Jane left the house. Entails that Jane was in the house prior to event time. Exception: anaphoric presuppositions e.g. of too. Presups-as-conventional doesn’t explain why two types of content should be related.

15 15 Response: Presupposition is attached to abstract representation which is shared by all members of the class: E.g. Start-state-holds presupposition attached to change-of-state event schema (Rappaport Hovav and Levin 1998) But it seems implausible that all of these classes have such abstract representations associated with them.

16 16 Argument #3: Conversational properties of presupposition Conversationally generated inferences are inferences based on: Linguistic content of utterance Presumption that speaker intends to follow conversational norms (Cooperative Principle) Knowledge of these norms (First rough approximation: Quality, Quantity, Relation, Manner) Presuppositions share hallmarks of such inferences

17 17 Cancellability: Cancellation under ignorance Implicature: [To a waiter]: I’m waiting for a friend. [About another diner]: Maybe he’s waiting for a friend. Presupposition: [About a sad-looking lone diner]: Maybe his dog died. Generalization: Presuppositions inconsistent with what is known about speaker’s knowledge are cancelled.

18 18 More cancellation: cancellation under irrelevance Implicature example: Some of Bill’s students might be interested. Presupposition example: I’m sorry, I’m no use for your experiment. I haven’t stopped smoking.

19 19 Two points Susceptibility of presuppositional inferences to discourse context reminiscent of conversational inference. Cancellation of this sort is hard for conventional accounts, which entail that presupposition is always present. (Has to be dealt with by local accommodation.)

20 20 Nondetachability A:Do you want to go to the movies? B:I have some work to do. B’:I have to work. B’’:I have to get some work done. B’’’: I have some stuff to do. Inference is nondetachable from the content expressed; no particular form is required.

21 21 Nondetachability of presuppositions 1.Jane didn’t stop/quit/cease laughing. 2.Jane didn’t leave/exit/go out of/depart from the house. 3.Jane realized/learned that/became aware that she had failed her drivers test. Conclusion: Presuppositions are typically generated by expression of particular content, not by particular forms.

22 22 Summary A fully explanatory account of presupposition should explain where presuppositions come from. Evidence suggests that at least some presuppositions (perhaps most) arise through conversational inference.

23 23 Stalnaker 1974 again “I conjectured [in this paper] that one can explain many presupposition constraints in terms of general conversational rules without building anything about presuppositions into the meanings of particular words or constructions.”

24 24 Other advocates of an inferential approach to presupposition Jay Atlas (Atlas 1977, 1979 and elsewhere) Boër and Lycan 1976 Grice 1981 Stephen Levinson (Atlas and Levinson 1981, Levinson 1983) Deidre Wilson (Wilson 1974)

25 25 But not everyone is convinced “Stalnaker holds out some hope that pragmatic presuppositions do not need to be traced back to hardwired encoding in the sentence meaning of natural language sentences. The vision is that they might rather be derivable from presupposition- free sentence meanings together with simple pragmatic principles…I am very skeptical that any such story can succeed” (von Fintel)

26 26 Abbott’s view? von Fintel reads Abbott as equally skeptical about non-conventional account of presupposition. Abbott in a nutshell: 1.Assertoric utterances typically express multiple propositions. 2.Only one of these can be the main point. 3.Main point can be indicated by linguistic features.  Presuppositions are non-main point propositions.

27 27 Abbott’s view? Her view involves an interaction between the inferential and the conventional. But the conventional part is not conventional encoding of presuppositions, but of (something like) main point vs. non-main point material. Where main point is not grammatically encoded, I think Abbott is committed to an inferential source for presupposition.

28 28 Abbott’s view? Good news: We can hash this out over the weekend!

29 29 Review so far Raised the question: what are the sources of presupposition. Standard view: Presuppositions are “hardwired” into the conventional content of particular expressions. This view doesn’t commit one to any particular view of what presuppositions are. But would speaker beliefs be conventionally constrained? Considerations against the conventional-content view, and in favor of conversational inference view. I haven’t given you any account of how presuppositions may be inferentially derived. To do this, we must first commit to a view of what presuppositions are.

30 30 Strawson (1950) on existence presuppositions Attributes the existence and uniqueness presuppositions of definite NPs (and other referring expressions) to conventions governing their use. “…the fulfillment of more or less precisely stateable contextual conditions is conventionally…required for the correct referring use of expressions” Conventional requirements arise from the nature of the act of referring, not by being “hardwired” into the semantics of the expression. Not clear that “conventional” here means “could have been otherwise.”

31 31 Next Some clarifications: Inferring content vs. inferring status Presupposition vs. implicature Semantic vs. pragmatic presupposition Semantic vs. speaker presupposition

32 32 Deriving content vs. deriving status 1.Jane left the house. 2.Presupposition: Jane was in the house. Entails that Jane was in the house: no explanation needed for how this is conveyed. Explanation needed for why this has presuppositional status. Standard (dynamic) assumption: This is lexically encoded. My assumption: Explanation will involve conversational norms.

33 33 Deriving content vs. deriving status 1.Jane didn’t leave the house. NOT entailed that Jane was in the house: so we need to explain both that this proposition is conveyed; and that it has presuppositional status. Dynamic view explains both via the claim that the non-negated sentence bears conventional presupposition (plus dynamics of negation). Conversationalists must in this case provide a conversational account of both facts: but they can be presumed to be related.

34 34 Presupposition vs. implicature Saying that presuppositions are conversationally derived is not the same as saying that they are implicatures. Although some conversationalists do say this. Implicatures are part of what speaker means (Grice 1957). Presuppositions need not be, and usually are not.

35 35 Presupposition vs. implicature What the speaker means ≈ propositions with respect to which she has a communicative intention. Communicative intention with respect to p (assertoric) ≈ an intention to get addressee to believe p.

36 36 Presupposition vs. implicature A:Are you coming to the workshop? B:I’m not sure. I might have to take my cat to the vet. B conveys that she has a cat, and knows this. But she has no distinct communicative intention relative to this proposition. It is not part of what she means. Hence, although B’s utterance presupposes that she has a cat, B does not implicate this. But same kind of inferential strategies may be involved.

37 37 Semantic vs. pragmatic presupposition Semantics vs. pragmatics Distinction #1: between truth conditional content and other types of encoded restrictions (e.g. usage restrictions) Distinction #2: between conventional content and what can be inferred on the basis of general conversational principles. Distinction #3: between what pertains to sentences/utterances, and what pertains to speakers.

38 38 Semantic vs. pragmatic presupposition Stalnaker 1974: Called his account a pragmatic account of presupposition, using Distinction #1. His account is pragmatic in the sense that he does not take presupposition to involve conditions on truth values. It is not pragmatic in the sense of distinction #2. No commitment to presupposition being uniformly conversationally derivable although Stalnaker leans in that direction.

39 39 Semantic vs. speaker presupposition Distinction is made in the framework of the “constraints on context” (common ground) view of presupposition. Semantic presupposition: common ground constraints on the meaningfulness of a sentence or utterance. Pragmatic / speaker presupposition: speaker beliefs about the common ground. A speaker is presumed to believe that semantic presuppositions are satisfied. In addition, utterances may indicate additional speaker beliefs about the common ground. Additional speaker presuppositions may be identified inferentially.

40 40 Semantic vs. speaker presupposition Semantic presuppositions are constraints on the actual common ground; speaker presuppositions are (constraints on) speaker beliefs about the common ground. Cf. Gauker 1998: Distinction between external and internal norms: External norm: tells us something about what a speaker should think or do given that the world is in fact a certain way. Internal norm: tells us something about what a speaker should think or do given that he or she has certain beliefs and desires.

41 41 Semantic vs. speaker presupposition To maintain Stalnaker’s agnosticism about sources of presupposition, we would have to allow that semantic presuppositions (i.e. constraints on the actual common ground) can have either a conventional or a conversational source. In fact, most common-ground theorists are not agnostic. Assumption: Semantic presup = conventional Speaker presup = inferential (pragmatic)

42 42 Semantic vs. speaker presuppositions To insist on the distinction between semantic presupposition and speaker presupposition is to beg the question as to the sources of presupposition.


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