Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Semantics,pragmatics,lexicology, meaning school

The Use of Presupposition in Political Interviews and Debates

Author ZhangYu
Tutor ZhangWanJuan
School Jilin University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Presupposition Presupposition Triggers Primary Presupposition(s) Primary / Secondary Illocutionary Act(s) Primary / Secondary Illocutionary Point(s) Debating Principle (DP)
Type Master's thesis
Year 2004
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Presupposition, a concept stemming from philosophy, has been much discussed by philosophers. In the 1960’s, with the development of semantics, presupposition aroused great interest of linguists and was studied from the perspective of semantics. Later, the appearance and development of pragmatics also shed light on the nature of presupposition and brought about a comprehensive understanding of this concept.Presupposition has long been a great interest to lots of philosophers and linguists. Many of them have done careful research on some aspects of it; however, as far as presupposition and its use are concerned, there are still many problems that challenge explanations. Hence, this thesis will set out from presuppositions used in political interviews and debates and try to settle the following issues: What is the logical relationship between primary illocutionary points and primary presuppositions? How are the conversations taking place in real political interviews and debates ?speakers’ setting and hearers’ refuting unfavorable presuppositions ?associated with Cooperative Principle (CP) and Politeness Principle (PP)? What is the device that triggers implicit meaning when communicators breach CP and PP intentionally? This thesis also plans to bring up some contemplation on presupposition triggers. Meanwhile, in a tentative fashion, it will present all communicators with some tactics in manipulatingconversations by setting presuppositions as well as with some strategies in coping with language attacks which result from hidden presuppositions.Scholars in philosophy, semantics and pragmatics come up with various interpretations of presupposition. Frege (1848-1925), a German philosopher who is deemed as the founder of modern logic, is the first person that wrestles with this subject. He sketches a theory of presupposition with the following three propositions: 1) referring phrases and temporal clauses carry presuppositions to the effect that they do in fact refer; 2) a sentence and its negative counterpart share the same set of presuppositions; and 3) in order for an assertion or a sentence to be either true or false, its presuppositions must be true or satisfied. Frege’s interpretation exerts a great impact on the study of presupposition in the linguistic world. Nowadays, most linguists see presuppositions: as the conditions that must be fulfilled so that a statement can be assigned a truth value, or as speakers’ assumptions about the speech context, or as a set of conditions that have to be satisfied in order for the intended speech acts to be appropriate in the circumstances, or to be felicitous, or as the shared background information or knowledge by speaker(s) or hearer(s), or as an implicit meaning that must be pre-supposed, understood, taken for granted for an utterance to make sense, etc. As Fillmore argues, "We need a broader concept of presupposition, according to which a presupposition is viewed as an aspect of a pre-evoked or simultaneously evoked interpretive frame".Presuppositions used in political interviews and debates display all theessential properties of presupposition like 1) constancy under negation, 2) transitivity, 3) trivalence, 4) dynamic common ground or knowledge, 5) cancellability, 6) irreflexiveness and anti-symmetricalness, and 7) context-dependence. But property 1), 4), 5) and 7) are distinctive features of presuppositions used in political interviews and debates. It is the remarkable property 1) and 4) that help presupposition win preferences from communicators.In the case of presupposition triggers, they serve as signposts in communication. Levinson has collected 13 kinds of presupposition triggers such as 1) definite descriptions, 2) factive verbs, 3) implicative verbs, 4) change of state verbs, 5) iteratives, 6) verbs of judging, 7) adverbial clauses of time, 8) cleft sentences, 9) structures and expressions indicating comparison, 10) non-restrictive attributive clauses, 11) counterfacrual conditionals, 12) questions, and 13) intonation. However,

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