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UDC 81
E.A. Shugaeva
Moscow city pedagogical university
Moscow, Russia
[Является ли пресуппозиция иллокутивным актом?]
The article deals with the act of presupposition, which is differently interpreted by linguists: as success condition
of an illocutionary act, as comment for an illocutionary act, or as an illocutionary act. To define the status of
presupposition, the notion of illocutionary act is studied because different criteria are proposed to describe this notion.
Classical variant of the speech act theory names purposefulness, ability to accomplish the speaker’s intention as the
main criterion of illocutionary act. From this point of view presupposition can’t be called an illocutionary act, it is
considered as success condition of an illocutionary act. Another point of view defines presupposition as comment for an
illocutionary act. At last, in opinion of French linguist O. Ducrot, presupposition is an illocutionary act because the
criterion of illocutionary act is ability to change the situation of communication.
Key words: presupposition, illocutionary act, illocutionary complex, communicative intention, implied.
One of the most important constituents of linguistic pragmatics is a speech act theory, dealing
with the language utterance as an action and nominating a speech act as a minimal unit of speech
activity. Within the speech act theory a speech act is represented as a three-level formation,
involving locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. At that, much attention is paid to the
illocutionary act study. The main feature of the illocutionary act is a communicative intention of the
speaker; illocutionary act is considered to be a way of achieving a definite extralinguistic goal.
Alongside with the actualization of illocutionary act affirmation , the speaker performs a
presupposition act , conventionally encoded within the language, not depending on the context and
circumstances of communication. According to N.D. Arutyunova , presupposition is involved in
semantics of the sentence as a general knowledge fund and a preliminary agreement b\n
interlocutors. Presupposition is proactively implied in the meaning of the phrase , actualized
through the utterance. Being evident and indisputable, it relates to literal sense of the utterance .
In terms of the speech act theory presupposition is considered as a condition for a speech act
efficiency. A false presupposition results in a speech act failure. G. Ostin characterized the
utterances with presuppositions failing the reality not as false ones, but as invalid. The following
utterances are inoperative: “ A current French king is bald ( a false presupposition “ There is a king
in France” ; “ I legate the watch to my brother”( presupposition “ This watch exists and belongs to
me” is likewise false , if the speaker doesn`t actually possess the watch).
O.Ducrot, a French linguist, designates presupposition as an illocutionary act. Therefore, 2
illocutionary acts are performed \accomplished simultaneously, since presupposition cannot be
performed by itself, without another illocutionary act.
To explain possibilities for a simultaneous fulfillment of 2 illocutionary acts A.Berrandonner ,
a Swiss linguist, introduces the notion of an illocutionary set, being an interconnection, set b\n 2
elementary illocutionary acts . One of these acts is certainly a presupposition. Presupposition
determines functioning of the second illocutionary act. It acts as an utterance of current dialogue
conditions; it allows another illocutionary act to obtain relevance and serves as its verification.
Nevertheless, A. Berrandonner comes to conclusion that presupposition cannot be an illocutionary
act, since it doesn`t exist by itself, freestanding from the illocutionary act . So, he puts forward that
presuppositions should be considered to be comments for illocutionary acts, designed for explaining
their interactive meaning.
O.Ducrot holds a different view on the matter of simultaneous accomplishing of several
illocutionary acts. His counterpoint theory presumes a distinction b\n a speaker responsible for the
utterance, and a vocal or several vocals, whose point of view is rendered by the speaker, identifying with
him or not. At this rate, the illocutionary set belongs to the speaker, introducing several vocals. The
presupposition act belongs to one of these vocals, at that, this vocal acts like a definite general vote.
The theory given allows to explain speaker`s possibility to simultaneously actualize several
illocutionary acts, which can be accomplished by different vocals. This possibility is thought to be
inappropriate in classical act theory, implying a correspondence : one utterance-one communicative
goal- one illocutionary act.
The stating of possibility for accomplishment of several illocutionary acts( by one of which
presupposition is recognized), indicates a special illocutionary act understanding . At this rate,
within the speech act theory illocutionary act is considered as a way of fulfilling speaker`s
intentions , the intention, entitled to recognizing, or a communicative intention ….. forms the most
significant moment in illocution defining. But intention of the speaker, performing a speech act ,
doesn`t consist in presupposition stating. O. Ducrot agrees with this point : “ the speaker bears
responsibility for presupposition content, but the stating of this content is lacking, this statement
isn’t the aim of speech.
Understanding of the illocutionary act as an action, expressing speaker`s communicative
intention, leads to exclusion of presupposition from a majority of illocutionary acts such as: an
order, a piece of advice, a request, a promise, an interrogation etc.
If a criterion of possibility to alter the situation of communication, to change the rights and
obligations of interlocutors, taken as a basis for illocutionary act defining (according to Ducrot) ,
the presupposition act can be nominated as an illocutionary one, since it modifies intersubjective
relations b\n speakers, creates engagements, sets rights and obligations , attributes roles.
For instance, accomplishing the utterance “ Father Frost is kind” , the speaker has intention to
inform the listener about the qualities of the character. This utterance has a presupposition “ Father
Frost exists”. The speaker performs a presupposition act by means of one of the vocals, and at that
he obliges the listener to take the alleged within presupposition as a right one under these
communicative conditions. It makes him act so , as if presupposition content is taken as realness,
which cannot be turned down.
In case of irony, presupposition can be an indicator of the alleged. By the stated O.Ducrot
understands a special process of coding or decoding, a way of displaying speech acts. It is not
marked within a phrase, it doesn’t belong to literal sense. The speaker may reject responsibility for
the alleged. The alleged is calculated by the listener through speculating on conditions of message
For example, a certain Ivan is suspected of a theft. The utterance “ Ivan no longer steals” has
a presupposition “ Ivan used to steal” . This statement can be ironic, if the speaker upholds an
opposite view, not identifying himself with the vocal , thinking Ivan not to steal any more.
Whereupon the speaker`s aim is to inform the listener of that it is Ivan who committed a
robbery\theft. The speaker chooses an utterance with the inference, since it allows him to say
without having said. He out speaks explicitly in Ivan`s favor and can object “ I didn`t say, that he
thieved, on the contrary, I said that he went straight. Within the example given the inference is
calculated judging by the presupposition “ Ivan used to be a thief”, which lets the listener conclude
that a man , who used to steal, can steal\do it again.
To give an illocutionary act status to presupposition stands for admitting the presence of
illocutionary acts common characteristics within presupposition. Presupposition corresponds to the
main criterion of illocutuvity, mentioned above. According to Ducrot – it possesses a capacity of
changing situation of communication. But another illocutionary act peculiarity , recognized both in
Ducrot`s and classical speech act theories, is the fact that illocutionary power of the utterance can
be unmarked within a phrase , used for accomplishing the act. In this case, if presupposition is an
illocutionary act, so it cannot be always marked in the phrase meaning , but it can occur at the
utterance level , and it can also act as inference.
Let us view the following example. The statement\utterance “ Your neighbor jogs in the park
in the morning(mornings-American variant) may have an implication “ Your neighbor lives a
healthier lifestyle, than u” . But for this inference another implication is necessary : “ Jogging in the
park in the morning means leading a healthy life”. The second inference functions as a
presupposition, it is not the aim of speech, but in cannot be skipped, since it provides relevancy of
the first one, being the aim of the utterance.
Presupposition “ Jogging in the park in the morning- means leading a healthy life” cannot be
figured out from the phrase “ Your neighbor jogs in the park in the morning” , it relates to the
utterance of a given phrase. Consequently, presupposition can be viewed either at the utterance level
or at the phrase level. Classical criteria of presupposition defining consist in preserving it in case of
negation and interrogation, but these criteria are applicable only for phrases , not for utterances.
That`s why Ducrot distinguishes a new presupposition defining criterion- a criterion of coherence.
Within the utterance presuppositions are facts , with which the vocal doesn’t want (or pretends not
to want) to associate a cohesion. Different utterances of one and the same phrase may have various
semantic elements of a given phrase by way of presupposition.
For instance, a phrase “ Dima is very intelligent, just like my son Peter” can be used in 2
utterances with various presuppositions. In the first utterance the speaker`s aim is to appraise Dima ,
presupposition of this utterance is “ I ve got a son called Peter. He is clever\bright” . In the second
utterance of the phrase the speaker has a different aim- to appraise his son Peter. In this case,
presuppositions of the utterance are as follows : “ I ve got a son called Peter. Peter resembles
intelligent Dima”.
O.Ducrot also marks other similarities b\n presupposition and classical illocutionary acts.
There(being made) is a comparison b\n a presupposition act and an interrogation act made.
Interrogative phrases possess their own syntactic peculiarities , their utterances represent
accomplishing of interrogation illocutionary act. But not only interrogative phrases can be referred
to interrogative utterances, inducing speaker`s response. In case of a presupposition act , the
phrase has X presupposition, so the utterances of this phrase also have this presupposition. But it
doesn`t mean that if the utterance has X presupposition, so the phrase actualized through this
utterance possesses this presupposition either. Therein lies the sameness b\n presupposition and
other illocutionary acts. Moreover, questions may be rhetorical , which is to say interrogative phrase
utterances ,not demanding\requiring a response.
The utterance “ I`m sorry for failing your request ‘ has the aim to announce the speaker to
have failed a request , whereas, in accord with a phrase structure this info should be related to
Therefore, an answer to the question, whether a presupposition is an illocutionary act, can be
negative , providing that a criterion of speaker`s intention is taken as a basis of illocutivity ; and
positive, if the main criterion accepts an illocutionary act possibility to change communicative
situation, interlocutors` rights and obligations. At that, presupposition is viewed at the phrase level
as well as at the utterance one. As much as other illocutionary acts, presupposition of the utterance
may be unmarked within a phrase, actualized within this utterance, and vice versa, presupposition
marked within a phrase can be not a presupposition of a given phrase utterance.
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August, 21, 2014
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