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Sentence Relations and Truth

In dealing with the semantic relations between sentences we should first

consider the meaning of particular word but in other cases the meaning is
the result of syntactic structures

The notion truth (grown out of the study of logic) is an important

approach to characterize semantic relations of entailment and

Generative linguists approach the study of meaning through the question

of what kind of semantic knowledge native speakers have? And semantic
theory should reflect the speaker`s knowledge:

1.a. She is a spinster (synonymous)

b. She has never been married

2.a. The criminal killed the police officer (entailment)

b. The police officer is dead

3.a. john drives fast (contradictory)

b. john does not know how to drive.

4.a. I talked to the instructor (presupposition)

b. The instructor is in his room

5.a. poor people are poor (tautologies)

b. Iraq is Iraq

6.a. That white car is not white. (contradictions)

b. Now is tomorrow

Logic and truth

What all truth conditional theories have in common is to give an account of

meaning of a sentence is to specify the conditions under which it would be
true or false of the situation. if The truth condition of sentences is the
same then they have the same propositional content as in :

-Bill is not married.

-Bill is a bachelor.

The property of true and false sentences is called contingency because we

need access to the facts of the world, so a contingent or (empirical)
sentence is not necessarily true or false. there are 2 types of contingent
sentences are recognized : logically true sentence (true in all possible
contexts) and logically false sentence(false in all possible contexts like
Aristotle`s modus ponens in :
A -If Bill left school early, then he is at the gym.

B -Bill left school early.

C -Bill is at the gym

A and B are premises and C is the conclusion. If premises are true

then conclusion is true. Truth here means the correspondence
correct descriptions of state of affairs in the world.

So in the sentence :

-Water boils at 60 F

Depends on static scientific facts or phenomena

Semanticists call a sentence`s being true or false truth value and the facts of
reality which make sentences true or false truth conditions

As in :

A- The conference has been cancelled.

B- The conference has not been cancelled.

If A is true then B is false and vice versa. The scheme which logicians use is
the logical form representing statements with lower case letters i.e (p.k.r
etc..) and a special symbol for negation : -

A- P -P
In case of compound statements connected by and the truth of the
constituent determines the truth of the compound i.e
The player is injured,

the medics are hurrying to him.

The player is injured, the medics are hurrying to him.

If either of A OR B is false then the compound is false according to truth

table representing and with /\

P q p /\ q
And for the case of a compound connected by disjunctive or (\/). It is true if

P q p \/ q
In the following sentence:

- I`ll take either sausage or beef

It is only false if both are false.

Other type is the exclusive or (\/,) with the following truth table:
P q p \/, q
-You will study hard or you will fail
The next connective is the material implication with the symbol
With the truth table :

P q p q
p q is false only when p( the antecedent) is true and q (the
consequent) is false (like the use of if..then)
- If it rains, I will go to the movies.
It can be false if it rains and I don`t go to the movies so we say p is a
sufficient condition for q (rain is the cause to go)but not a necessary
condition (other reasons might make him go)
The logical relation of the material implication captures some but not all
aspects of ifthen.
Another related connective is the bi-conditional represented by
Corresponding to (if and only if ). P q only when they have the same
truth value (if q then p and if p then q)

P q p q
To sum up these statements have truth value which corresponds to facts,
and various ways of connecting statements have different effects on the
truth-value of the compound produced.

Necessary truth
It is another type of truth which is a function of linguistic structure. How
can we know that a sentence is true or false without referring to reality?.
The truth that is known without experience is called priori in contrast with
posteriori truth (depends on empirical testing).
Another related concept is that the distinction between necessary truth (
which we cannot deny unless we force contradiction) and contingent which
can be contradicted according to facts. Sentences are necessarily true only
when we should change the present facts of the world to make them false
i.e one plus one equals two or necessarily false i.e He was killed but
fortunately stayed alive .however we can hypothesize that it is the nature
of reality which ensures that one plus one equals two.
We also have the terms analytic, (where the truth follows from the
meaning relations within the sentence regardless of any relationship with
the world), and synthetic (where truth corresponds to the facts of the
world) with respect to tautologies :
- The sun is the sun (analytic)
- The sun is a big planet (synthetic)
Predicate logic:
When dealing with sentences with quantifiers like all, ever , each also
called logical words then it is a second type of logic called predicate logic
-All birds that fly are birds.
Necessary truth, in case of verbs, is indicated by the semantic relationship
between the verbs (individual lexical relations)
- If Germany beat brazil then brazil lose to Germany .
Necessarily true sentences can also derive from lexical relations i.e
- If she is dead then she is not alive
- If he is my father then I am his son
- An elephant is a primate

Entailment :
Entailment is not inference, we just know it instantaneously because of our
knowledge of English. Entailment relations are given to us by linguistic
structure, we don`t have to check any fact in the world to conclude the
entailed sentence from the entailing sentence. The source can be lexical or
A -They assassinated the emperor.
B -The emperor is dead.
B entails q and the truth of q guarantees the truth of p and the falsity of
q guarantees the falsity of p
Here the source of entailment is lexical, between assassin and dead
The syntactic source is expressed with the passive/active structure as in
the following sentence:
A- The Romans invaded Britain.
B- Britain was invaded by the Romans

Presupposition is an elusive concept that has much been discussed in both
philosophy and linguistics. It is not an ignorable subject in semantics
because it raises the problem of how to interpret the relation between
semantics and pragmatics- between meaning and use.

Two approaches to presupposition:

According to the first approach meaning is seen as an attribute of sentences
rather than something constructed by the participants. semantics then
consists of relating sentence objects to sentence objects and to the world.
The approach is then semantic.
The second approach views sentences as the utterances of individuals
engaged in a communication act (speaker / hearer strategies to communicate
with one another ), the approach is then pragmatic.
Let`s take the following sentence
A Bill`s dog has chased a wolf.
B - Bill has a dog
From semantic point of view and with reference to truth relation:
If p (the presupposing sentence is true ) then q the( presupposed sentence )
is true.
If p is false then q is still true
If q is true then p could be either true or false
Bill still has a dog whether it chased a wolf or not. So viewing this as truth
relation enables us to set up a truth table and allows us to capture a great
difference between presupposition and entailment which is that if we negate
entailment then it fails. While negation allows presupposition to survive:
A- I saw my father today
B- I saw someone today
If we negate A then it no longer entails B
A I didn`t see my father today
B I saw someone today
Presupposition failure:
This problem arises when there exists no referent for the nominal :
A The king of France is bald
B There is a king of France
The question is what if there is no king or if sentence B is wrong. The
truth table would be like below:
P q
T or F T
?(T\/F) F

However for interactional approach, it claims that speaker`s use of definite

NPs like names and definite descriptions to refer is governed by
conventions about the accessibility of the referents to the listener, so it
shifts the attention from the question of truth value to of statements to the
general question of conventions license a speaker`s referring use of definite

Presupposition triggers:
They are particular words or constructions which produce presupposition.
Some derive from syntactic structure :
A it was plying with snakes that frightened me.
B - What frightened me was his playing with snakes.
C - something frightened me.
Other triggers :
Lexical triggers like verbs as in factive verbs i.e realize and regret which
presuppose the truth of their complement clause:
A Bill realized that he had skin wrinkles
B Bill thought that he had skin wrinkles
C Bill had skin wrinkles.
Another example is the change of state verbs like start and begin :
A- Bill stopped seeing horror movies
B- Bill used to see horror movies

Presupposition and context:

The presupposition behavior is often sensitive to contexts and Different
levels of context can cause fluctuation in presupposition behavior whether
the context is knowledge dependent or it depends on the topic of
conversation and the linguistic context of the surrounding syntactic
structures :
A- Bill loved Kate
B-Kate loved Bill
Here they describe the same situation but the belong to different
conversational contexts whether the participants were discussing Kate or Bill
, the same phenomena with intonation where the stress placement
emphasizes presupposition. Moreover the use of capitals:
A BILL loved Kate
B Bill loved KATE
Another contextual problem is the projection problem that is sometimes the
presupposition produced by a simple clause doesn`t survive when the clause
incorporated into a complex sentence:
A Bill will regret doing linguistics
B - Bill will do linguistics
Pragmatic theory of presupposition:
Stalnaker (1974) considers that presupposition is a pragmatic
phenomenon. Speaker-hearer interaction is called common ground. This
approach can cope with the problem where presuppositions are not
necessarily already known to the hearer using the principle of
accommodation which means presupposition can be introduced as new
Serper and Wilson (1995) argue that presupposition is not an independent
phenomena but one of a series of effects produced when a speaker
employs syntactic structure and intonation to show the hearer how the
current sentence fit in the previous background