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Saturday, November 30, 2013


1.      Definition of Presupposition
Presupposition is what the speaker assumes to be the case prior to making an utterance. Entailment, which is not a pragmatic concept, is what logically follows from what is asserted in the utterance. Speakers have presuppositions while sentences, not speakers, have entailments.

For example :
Ø  Jane’s brother bought two houses.
This sentence presupposes that Jane exists and that she has a brother. The speaker may also hold the more specific presupposition that she has only a brother and her brother has a lot of money. All these presuppositions are held by the speaker and all of them can be wrong.

2.      Types of Presupposition
In the analysis of how speakers’ assumptions are typically expressed, presupposition has been associated with the use of a large number of words, phrases and structures. These linguistic forms are considered here as indicators of potential presupposition, which can only become actual presupposition in contexts with speakers. The types of presupposition are:

ü  Existential presupposition: it is the assumption of the existence of the entities named by the speaker.
 For example, when a speaker says "Tom’s car is new", we can presuppose that Tom exists and that he has a car.
ü  Factive presupposition: it is the assumption that something is true due to the presence of some verbs such as "know" and "realize" and of phrases involving glad.
For example. Thus, when a speaker says that she didn’t realize someone was ill, we can presuppose that someone is ill. Also, when she says "I’m glad it’s over”, we can presuppose that it’s over.
ü  Lexical presupposition: it is the assumption that, in using one word, the speaker can act as if another meaning (word) will be understood. For instance:
Andrew stopped running. (>>He used to run.)
You are late again. (>> You were late before.)
In this case, the use of the expressions "stop" and "again" are taken to presuppose another (unstated) concept.
ü  Structural presupposition: it is the assumption associated with the use of certain words and phrases. For example, wh-question in English are conventionally interpreted with the presupposition that the information after the wh-form (e.g. when and where) is already known to be the case.
When did she travel to the USA? ( >> she traveled)
Where did you buy the book? (>> you bought the book)
The listener perceives that the information presented is necessarily true rather than just the presupposition of the person asking the question.
ü  Non- factive presupposition: it is an assumption that something 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 am not rich)
We imagined that we were in London. (>> We are not in London)
ü  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 facts. For instance, some conditional structures, generally called counterfactual conditionals, presuppose that the information, in the if- clauses, is not true at the time of utterance.
If you were my daughter, I would not allow you to do this. ( > you are not my daughter)
3.      Definiton of Entailment
Entailment is the relationship between two sentences where the truth of one (A) requires the truth of the other (B).
For example, the sentence (A) The president was assassinated. entails (B) The president is dead. Notice also that if (B) is false, then (A) must necessarily be false. To show entailment, we must show that (A) true forces (B) to be true and (B) false forces (A) to be false.
Entailment also differs from presupposition in that in presupposition, the truth of what one is presupposing is taken for granted. A simple test to differentiate presupposition from entailment is negation. For example, both The king of France is ill and The king of France is not ill presuppose that there is a king of France. However The president was not assassinated no longer entails The president is dead (nor its opposite, as the president could have died in another way). In this case, presupposition remains under negation, but entailment does not.
There are two other types of entailment, namely one-way entailment and two-way (or mutual) entailment.  
One-way entailment is the entailment that works in only one direction. The example of One-way entailment:
3 (a) Jenny saw a bear
3 (b) Jenny saw an animal
The front and behind have meaning relationship and the sentence can be paraphrased. If the (a) sentence is true, the sentence (b) is also necessarily true.
Meanwhile two-way entailment is the entailment that has meaning relationship and the sentences that contain mutual entailment are paraphrases of each other.
Two-way (or mutual) entailment:
4 (a) my mother is in front of my father
4 (b) my father is behind my mother
1.      Presuppositions are inferences about what is assumed in an utterance rather than directly asserted.
The example : 1 (a) where has David look for the books? It means David looked for the books.
The types of presupposition are: existential presupposition, factive presupposition, lexical presupposition, structural presupposition, non-factive presupposition, and counterfactual presupposition.
2.      Entailments are inferences that can be drawn solely from our knowledge about the semantic relationship in a language. This knowledge allows us to communicate much more than we actually “say”.
The example : 1 (a) Annie caught a trout, 1 (b) Annie caught a fish
In each case, we can say that sentence (b) is an entailment of sentence (a). That is, other sentences which are automatically true if the original sentence is true.
Lecture Notes. LING 590. 2009
Areej As'ad Ja'far. Entailment and Presupposition. Babylon University

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