Foundational Issues in Presupposition
Carnegie Mellon University
This essay provides a brief introduction to the topic of presupposition, and then
discuses three major approaches to this phenomenon, focusing on the answers
which each approach gives to two foundational questions: What is presupposition?
And how, or why, does it arise?
1. The phenomenon
Consider sentence (1):
(1) Jane has stopped drinking coffee in the evening.
Among other things, this sentence entails:
(2) Jane has stopped drinking coffee after 10pm.
Unsurprisingly, the negation of sentence (1), shown in (3), does not share this entailment. Neither
does the yes/no question formed from this sentence. Similarly, if we add a possibility modal to the
sentence, or construct a conditional of which (1) is the antecedent, the resulting sentences do not
share the entailment of the original, as we see from the examples below:
(3) Jane hasn't stopped drinking coffee in the evening.
(4) Has Jane stopped drinking coffee in the evening?