On Defining "Presupposition" Author(s): Jerrold J. Katz Reviewed work(s): Source: Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring, 1973), pp.
256-260 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4177770 . Accessed: 09/04/2012 01:47
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(i969) "Some Observations on Tense 45. One reason for its importance is that. Forms. Universals Holt. 6i-86.J. Bresnan. J. D. Ross. Katz. 542-543." Linguistic Bach. R. Fillmore and D. The other is that the presupposition of a sentence is another sentence that logically follows from the sentence and also its negation. 2 Linguists have mostly occupied themselves with identifying the presuppositions that certain types of sentences have rather than with trying to explain what it is that a sentence has when it has a presupposition. Harms. MIT
An important aim of linguistic research at present is to find an adequate definition of the logical notion of presupposition.A." in C. The attempt to incorporate the Fregean conception into the theory of transformational grammar reveals a
' We wish to thank Boruch Brody for a helpful discussion at an early point in our thinking about these matters. in Linguistic eds. there is no adequate definition of this notion available. J. Huddleston. (I97I) "Tense and Time Reference in English. Rinehart and Semantics.."
JerroldJ. Rinehart and Winston. J.3 There are two candidates for a definition of the logical notion of presupposition that linguists have considered seriously. Langendoen. and R." Language McCawley. eds. Inquiry Linguistic III. (I972) "Doubl-ing. T.
. W. One is the conception of presupposition stemming from Frege (I952. Holt. and Deixis in English. 69) and more recently Strawson (1952. New York. E. 777-806. I also want to acknowledge the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
"UnderstoodTense and Underlying
Inquiry II. I75) which is that a presupposition is a condition under which a sentence expressing an assertive proposition can be used (in standard uses) to state a truth or a falsehood. 297-32 I. (1970) "On Complementizers: Toward a Syntactic Theory of Complement Types.. New York.2 Another is that an adequate definition is necessary to dispel the confusion created by the practice of labeling almost every newly found semantic or pragmatic feature of sentences as some sort of presupposition.256
Andrews." in E. Studies Winston. although presupposition has recently become a central topic in linguistics. R. 3 See my discussion of some aspects of this practice in Katz (in press). D. T. (I968) "Nouns and Noun-phrases. Bach in LinguisticTheory. This work has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health grant 5POI MH I 33go-o6." Foundationsof Language 6.
it is not at all obvious what property corresponds to the property of statementhood (bearing a truth value) in each of these cases and the indefinitely many others (involving other performative verbs). That is. (2). both directions: the property of a sentence and also by its neganor sufficient for being a pre(6) and (7) are false.S.
. Horn (1 969) and Schnitzer (I 97 1) . for example. it has been urged as the proper definition of presupposition by a number of linguists. and (3).
45) states it as follows:
A sentence S logically presupposes a sentence S' just in case S logically implies S' and the negation of S. The other candidate offers such an approach. as much reason to accord presuppositions to sentences like these as there is to accord presuppositions to the declaratives corresponding to them. what property does the use of a sentence like (4) have when its presupposition-say.
But this definition fails in being logically implied by tion is neither necessary supposition.
Who ate the cookies? Find the ring before eating any more cookies! I promise to pay back the loan. were there some cookies around to eat!
serious problem with this conception:4 it has no direct application to sentences that express propositions of other kinds.
Nonetheless. For example. 120-150)5
See. that there are no cookies in the immediate vicinity of the speaker-is satisfied (and not satisfied)? (4) Oh. then S logically implies S' and the negation of S. this conception has no direct application to sentences like (i). For instance. is to find a generalization of this conception that specifies the set of properties corresponding to the property of statementhood in the case of questions. Moreover. also logically implies S'. clearly.5
(I97I. that is. Because the solution to this problem looks a long way off. etc. it seems desirable to find a simpler and more direct approach to defining the logical notion of presupposition. to sentences that are not designed to make statements and so are not bearers of truth values. requests. there is.
4 See Katz (1972. -S. . then. promises. both (6)
If S' is the presupposition of S. And on independent grounds. also logically implies S'.
but is not implied by the negation of the sentence. for any arbitrary sentence. (I2) is in no sense preferable to any of these logical truths. also logically implies S'. Cf. on par with (12). -S. one might question whether (g) is legitimately classified as the negation of (I). however. (io) Hence. namely. (I) presupposes (the truth of) (8). 8 That is. (i). the presuppositions of a
6 We can allow that (8) is implied by (i). (8). Since.7 One might entertain hopes of getting around this objection. If someone is rich. unless (7) is defensible the property of being logically implied by a sentence and also by its negation is at best empirically correlated with presupposition. does not presuppose (8).
(i i) (I 2) (I
The king of Franceis bald. which is the negation of (i). which is the presupposition of a sentence. Also. then it is no longer clear that the conception of presupposition expressed in (5) is free of the problem that initially makes it seem superior to the Fregean conception.
There is someone who is presently king of France and who is unique in this. leads to overwhelming difficulties.8 (7). since a logical truth is implied by every sentence. according to (7). as is generally conceded. but unless (7) can be defended.6 Therefore.258
If S logically implies S' and the negation of S. besides the commonly cited presupposition (I 2).
Moreover. The theoretical side of this difficulty is the following. then S' is the presupposition of S.
Consider (6). (5) is inadequate. Katz (1972. (8) Someone ate the cookies. (7) entails that the presupposition of each and every sentence of a language includes the (infinite) set of logical truths. But (9). Hence. (9) presupposes (io). each of the infinitely many sentence in (I3). (6) is false. 7 We wish to thank Yuji Nishiyama for the point underlying this argument. Seven plus five is twelve or seven plus five is not twelve. That is. there is. Chapter 5). say (i I). too. (I2) is just another one of these infinitely many conditions. it is empirically true. then someone is rich. as is required by (6). If it is not. there is a case of a sentence. even though (i) is an interrogative and (8) is a declarative. First. (9) Who did not eat the cookies? Someone did not eat the cookies. namely. as a fact about negation and presupposition in natural languages.
second order. Katz
(I972. (5) is superfluousbecause this criterion already does what (5) was intended to do. But since any sentence that implies something false is false itself. could not be represented in the grammar as having these presuppositions.
. This means a considerable revision of the standard conception of grammars as sentence generating devices. 2I I-2I6). If (I4) were introduced into (5). furthermore. Is it alive or is it not?
Thus. will do so because it contains some criterion for deciding when a sentence. But S and . A formulation of (I4) that distinguishes. that (5) cannot be saved from this criticism even at the price of adding an ad hoc clause like (I4).
That everything is either alive or not is surprising. (i 6).9 (i8) Is it red or is it blue?
Finally. or (I 7).). etc. third. Let us suppose that the presupposition of a sentence S were false. bears the appropriate relation to S to qualify as a presupposition of S. But if we have such a criterion.SQUIBS
sentence S are determined by the principles that express the grammatical structure of S. the presupposition S' is implied by both S and -S.S is the
9 Cf. there is no way to formulate a clause like (I 4) to rule out just the unwanted logical truths (as presuppositions) without rendering (5) totally useless. we can no longer assume that the assignment of structural descriptions is recursively enumerable (assuming them to be constrained to represent the presuppositions of a sentence). Note. like ( I5). As a consequence. by virtue of its grammatical structure.
S' is not a logical truth.S are false.S cannot both be false because . then sentences that have logical truths as their presupposition. (7) commits us to claiming that a grammar contains all the laws of logic that determine the logical truths (first order. we could not explain why sentences like (I 5) necessarily succeed in having a truth value or what the essential difference between interrogatives like (I7) and (i8) is. it follows that both S and . generally. between logical truths that are genuine presuppositions of a sentence S and logical truths that are not.
(i 6) (I7)
Not only Melvin is either alive or not alive. By (5). Another difficulty is that (5) has the unnatural consequence that the presupposition of a sentence cannot be false.
Oxford. New York. namely. a promise. M. whereas (5) does not.. J. namely. Now we see that the difficulties with (5) are so great that we are happy to settle for a more complex approach whose working out depends on obtaining solutions to unsolved semantic problems by not too well understood apparatus from the theory of grammar. T." in R.
10 I am indebted to James F. R. (in press) "Interpretive Semantics Meets the Zombies. Langendoen. L. J. no presuppositioncan be false. Papers from the Fifth RegionalMeetingof the Chicago LinguisticSociety.10 We note that this argument cannot be gotten around by claiming that if the presupposition S' is false.Basil Blackwell. Thus. University of Chicago. Binnick et al.260
negation of S. Chicago.
Strawson. Methuen.. Schnitzer." Foundationsof
Language 7. Rinehart.
. eds. J. Geach and M. eds. This brings us full circle round. 297-299. The attractiveness of (5) lay in its simplicity. etc. and Winston." in C. Horn. London.). F. Entailment. (197I) "Presupposition. J. Katz. its freedom from dependence on unsolved problems of semantic description. a condition that tells us what must be the case in order that (standard) uses of the sentence make a statement (ask a question. Keenan. and therefore. J. Holt. E. eds. and its reliance on well-understood apparatus from logic. Black. Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege. then the sentence is neither true nor false because this reply would admit just the point we are arguing for. Studies in Linguistic Semantics. New York. References Frege. Fillmore and D. We note further that we might well have known this from the start. P. (I972) SemanticTheory. (I952) Introductionto Logical Theory." in P.." Foundations of Language. G. Thomson for the point underlying this argument and for other helpful suggestions. L. (1952) "Sense and Reference. L.Harper & Row. that the Fregean definition is the basic definition of logical presupposition. and Russell's Theory of Descriptions. it cannot be that the presupposition S' is false. make a request. (I969) "A Presuppositional Analysis of Only and Even. Katz. (I97I) "Two Kinds of Presupposition in Natural Language. since the Fregean definition explains what it is that a sentence has when it has a presupposition. Illinois..