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Presupposition without Common Ground Mandy Simons

Summary: -1-
Presupposition without Common Ground
Mandy Simons
Carnegie Mellon University
September 2006
There are two foundational questions to ask about presupposition: What is it? And where does it
come from?
The philosophical work which has most influenced linguists' understanding of presupposition
is that of Robert Stalnaker (Stalnaker 1973, 1974, 2002). One aspect of Stalnaker's work on
presupposition is an attempt to decouple these two questions. Stalnaker does this by providing a
characterization of presupposition which allows us to say what all cases of presupposition have in
common, while also allowing that the sources of presupposition may be various. The over-arching
characterization is framed in terms of constraints imposed by an utterance on the contexts in which
it may appropriately be uttered. Contexts, in turn, are characterized in terms of speakers' beliefs
about the common ground. What is left open is the reasons why particular utterances would impose
particular constraints. Stalnaker 1974 acknowledges that "in some cases, one may just have to write
presupposition constraints into the dictionary entry for a particular word." But he also conjectures
that "one can explain many presupposition constraints in terms of general conversational rules
without building anything about presuppositions into the meanings of particular words or


Source: Andrews, Peter B. - Department of Mathematical Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University


Collections: Mathematics