Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume. 8 Number. 3 September, 2017                                             Pp. 46 -59

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Presupposition: A Semantic or Pragmatic Phenomenon?

Mostafa OUALIF
Department of English Studies
Faculty of Letters and Humanities Ben M’sik, Casablanca
Hassan II University, Casablanca, Morocco


There has been debate among linguists with regards to the semantic view and the pragmatic view of presupposition. Some scholars believe that presupposition is purely semantic and others believe that it is purely pragmatic. The present paper contributes to the ongoing debate and exposes the different ways presupposition was approached by linguists. The paper also tries to attend to (i) what semantics is and what pragmatics is in a unified theory of meaning and (ii) the possibility to outline a semantic account of presupposition without having recourse to pragmatics and vice versa. The paper advocates Gazdar’s analysis, a pragmatic analysis, as the safest grounds on which a working grammar of presupposition could be outlined. It shows how semantic accounts are inadequate to deal with the projection problem. Finally, the paper states explicitly that the increasingly puzzling theoretical status of presupposition seems to confirm the philosophical contention that not any fact can be translated into words.
Key words: entailment, pragmatics, presupposition, projection problem, semantic theory

Cite as: OUALIF,  M. (2017). Presupposition: A Semantic or Pragmatic Phenomenon?  Arab World English Journal, 8 (3).


Mostafa Oualif is a lecturer in the English Studies Department at the Faculty of Letters and
Humanities, Hassan II University, Casablanca, Morocco. He is a holder of an MA in Theoretical
Linguistics from the University of Wales in Bangor and a Graduate Certificate in Descriptive and
Applied Linguistics from the University of Essex, England. His research interests focus on
translation pedagogy, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and Universal Grammar and its relevance
to second language acquisition.