Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Presupposition

Definition: 

A presupposition is background belief, relating to an utterance, that

  • must be mutually known or assumed by the speaker and addressee for the utterance to be considered appropriate in context
  • generally will remain a necessary assumption whether the utterance is placed in the form of an assertion, denial, or question, and
  • can generally be associated with a specific lexical item or grammatical feature (presupposition trigger) in the utterance.
Examples: 

The utterance John regrets that he stopped doing linguistics before he left Cambridge has the following presuppositions:

  • There is someone uniquely identifiable to speaker and addressee as John.
  • John stopped doing linguistics before he left Cambridge.
  • John was doing linguistics before he left Cambridge.
  • John left Cambridge.
  • John had been at Cambridge.
Source: 
179–181, 204–205, 216–217
79–80
97–98