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Kempson, Ruth M. (1973) Presupposition and the delimitation of semantics. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029168

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Abstract

The thesis is divided into three sections. In the first, I present the general theoretical framework within which the arguments of the thesis are considered. This framework contains an interpretive semantic component (in the sense of Katz 1966a, 1972, Bierwisch 1969, 1971) and the formalism assumed is that of Bierwisch. I argue however that this formalism in effect constitutes a statement of the necessary and sufficient truth conditions on the sentences of a language and that this is the correct basis for natural-language semantics. This hypothesis appears to be threatened by the concept of presupposition. In the second section, I therefore discuss two separate concepts of presupposition and consider the issues both raise for natural-language semantics. In brief, I argue (chapter 4) that to incorporate a concept of presupposition defined in terms of speakers' belief has consequences which necessitate its exclusion by fiat from a formal linguistic theory. Furthermore I argue (chapters 4-5) that a logically defined concept of presupposition refers to an empty set of sentences, since every postulated presupposition is in fact an example of an entailment relation. So I conclude that neither definition of presupposition should be part of natural-language semantics. Accordingly the semantic framework set up in the first part remains at present unfalsified. However in addition to such a semantics, in the final section I set up a theory of pragmatics (along lines suggested by Grice, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1969) to explain those aspects of sentences which are not captured by a truth-conditional (but non-presuppositional) semantics. In over-all terms, my aim is two-fold: (i) to justify in some detail the formal properties of an interpretive semantic component (based on a non-presuppositional logic); and (ii) to suggest a tentative specification of a pragmatic theory as part of some more general theory of performance.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00029168
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:08
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/29168

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