LINGUIST List 13.646

Fri Mar 8 2002

Books: Pragmatics

Editor for this issue: Dina Kapetangianni <>

Links to the websites of all LINGUIST's supporting publishers are available at the end of this issue.


  1. Ora Matushansky, Books - Pragmatics - Frege's Theory of Presupposition and Contemporary Alternatives

Message 1: Books - Pragmatics - Frege's Theory of Presupposition and Contemporary Alternatives

Date: Thu, 07 Mar 2002 17:57:07 -0500
From: Ora Matushansky <matushanMIT.EDU>
Subject: Books - Pragmatics - Frege's Theory of Presupposition and Contemporary Alternatives

MIT Ph.D. thesis 1976

Scott Soames "A Critical Examination of Frege's Theory of Presupposition 
and Contemporary Alternatives"
$12. For ordering information, visit our Web page:


This thesis consists of two separate but related studies on the notion
of presupposition as it occurs in philosophy and linguistics. In the
first study I examine the theory of logical presupposition found in
the work of Gottlob Frege. In the second I examine the theories of
Deirdre Wilson and Lauri Karttunen. These theorists reject the notion
of logical presupposition in favor of pragmatic and non-logical
conceptions. There are important problems with all three
theories. Frege's theory fails to account for the presupposition of
compound sentences. Wilsons's and Karttunen's fail to demonstrate
conclusively that the presupposition of simple sentences and their
negations are non-logical.

Frege's theory of presupposition:

Frege's theory of presupposition is a consequence of his more general
semantic theory. In Part 1 I show how two different notions of
presupposition can be reconstructed from his semantics; one applies
directly to sentences, and the other applies directly to
thoughts. This distinction is used to clarify Frege's discussion of
presupposition in "On Sense and Reference".

In Part 2 I maintain that a speaker who utters a sentence with a false
presupposition typically succeeds in making a statement. I argue
against those who interpret Frege as denying this and show how a
proper understanding of his semantics eliminates one of the main
problems that have led theorists to erronenous interpretations.

In Part 3 I examine the relationship between negation and
presupposition. I show that Frege's account of internal negation is
inadequate and must be supplemented with an account of external
negation. However, when external negation is introduced, his theory of
logical presupposition conflicts with his theory of truth. Finally, I
show that Frege's theory makes incorrect predictions about the
presuppositions of compound sentences. This undermines his view that
sentences are special kinds of "proper names".

In the essay on Frege I also consider certain issues that apply to any
theory of logical presupposition. I argue that logical presupposition
in natural languages should not be defined in terms of what is
entailed by a sentence and its negation. I also argue that redundancy
theories of truth and falsity conflict with theories of logical

Two theories of non-logical presupposition

In the second essay I investigate Wilson's and Karttunen's theories of 
non-logical presupposition. These theorists hold the following two theses:
A. Theories of natural languages require an account of non-logical 
B. The notion of logical presupposition should be eliminated from theories 
of natural languages.
(A) is correct, but the arguments for (B) are not conclusive.

In Part 1 of this essay I present Karttunen's notion of presupposition
that applies to conjunctions, disjunctions, and conditionals. In Part
2 I argue that this notion is non-logical, but that this result is
compatible with restricted theories of logical presupposition based on
simple sentences and their negations. In Part 3 I examine the
importance of negation for such theories and evaluate Wilson's
argument that negative sentences do not bear logical presupposition.
Parts 4 and 5 are concerned with the pragmatic accounts of Wilson and
Karttunen. In Part 4 I demonstrate that Wilson's theory is incorrect
and argue that it cannot be repaired. In Part 5 I indicate several
difficulties with Karttunen's view and propose modifications to
resolve them.

Ora Matushansky

Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue


----------------- Major Supporters ----------------



Academic Press



Arnold Publishers



Athelstan Publications



Blackwell Publishers




Cambridge University Press



Cascadilla Press




Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd




CSLI Publications




Distribution Fides



Elsevier Science Ltd.



John Benjamins����




Kluwer Academic Publishers




Lernout & Hauspie



Lincom Europa



MIT Press




Mouton de Gruyter




Multilingual Matters





Oxford UP



Pearson Education











Summer Institute of Linguistics





---------Other Supporting Publishers-------------


Anthropological Linguistics


Bedford/St. Martin's


Finno-Ugrian Society


Graduate Linguistic Students' Assoc., Umass


International Pragmatics Assoc.


Kingston Press Ltd.


Linguistic Assoc. of Finland


Linguistic Society of Southern Africa (LSSA)


MIT Working Publishers in Linguistics


Pacific Linguistics


Pacini Editore Spa


Utrecht Institute of Linguistics


Virittaja Aikakauslehti


Thursday, January 17, 2002