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Reading: Présuppositions et Actes de Parolf Dans L’Usage des Formes Syntaxiques


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Research Article

Présuppositions et Actes de Parolf Dans L’Usage des Formes Syntaxiques


Jean Costermans

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[The Role of Presuppositions and Speech Acts in the Use of Various Syntactic Structures]


Some sentences, although differing syntactically (and also lexically), may be considered as identical as to their semantic deep structure. The reason why a semantic structure gives rise to one surface sentence rather than to another (for instance, a passive rather than an active, or a negative, or an emphatic, or even an imperative or an interrogative) has to be found in the pragmatic field. Particularly, if deep structure is composed of a set of “propositions” (conceived as elementary content units), some of these are supposed to be accepted by both the speaker and the listener before communication takes on, and may lie viewed as presuppositions; other propositions are supposed to be accepted by the speaker, but not by the listener, and will constitute the assertional focus of the sentence. Communication, then, tends fundamentally to increase the universe of propositions they share. For a same semantic structure, what has to be considered as presupposition and assertion, respectively, depends on the (verbal and non verbal) context. Contextual variables determine what will be the syntactic (and lexical) structure in the surface sentence. Furthermore, since the presuppositions are prevented from negation, introducing them in a conversation constitutes a “speech act”, which allows the speaker to impose a general frame on the communication. The purpose of the present paper is to outline these ideas, which have become fundamental in psycholinguistic research and theory, and to report some related experiments from recent literature.

How to Cite: Costermans, J., 1980. Présuppositions et Actes de Parolf Dans L’Usage des Formes Syntaxiques. Psychologica Belgica, 20(2), pp.167–178. DOI:
Published on 01 Jan 1980.
Peer Reviewed


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