How to Deny a Presupposition

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Abstract

This paper deals with the puzzle of sentences like (i.a), which denies (i.b).
(i) a. The King of France is not bald, because there is no
King of France.
b. The King of France is bald.
In previous analyses of such examples two problems are often overlooked: the first is that (i.a) is supposed to express denial of (i.b)
specifically on the grounds that the existence of a King of France is its
presupposition, but it is not clear how, if at all, (i.a) does so; the second
is that (i.a) is not very natural—when speakers wish to deny presuppositions, they usually choose different constructions, e.g. (ii).
(ii) The King of France can’t be bald, because there is no King of
France.
I argue that the negation in (i.a) and (ii) is the standard descriptive
negation. Sentence (ii) demonstrates that the existence of a French
king is a presupposition of (i.b), and rejects (i.b) on these grounds.
Sentence (i.a) is entailed by (ii); hence, when the latter is true, so
is the former. However, (i.a) is not as good a sentence because it,
unlike (ii)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhere Semantics Meets Pragmatics
EditorsK. Turner, K. von Heusinger
PublisherElsevier
Pages95-110
Volume16
ISBN (Print)0-08-044976-X
StatePublished - 2006

Publication series

NameCurrent Research in the Semantics Pragmatics Interface

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