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A sentence like ‘the boy stopped working’ gives the inference that he was working before. Is this inference an implicature or a presupposition? Is it possible that it is both?

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    Give it the negative test. If it's still true when the sentence is negated, it's a presupposition. He didn't stop working also gives the inference that he was working before, so it's a presupposition.
    – jlawler
    Feb 8, 2023 at 17:13
  • Please indicate some research.
    – Lambie
    Feb 8, 2023 at 19:53

1 Answer 1

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There are a lot of conflicting definitions of "implicature" out there (and a few of "presupposition"), but the Linguistics 101 version is usually that implicatures can be cancelled out without making the sentence nonsensical, while presuppositions cannot. If I say "the boy stopped working, but he was never working", that's nonsensical, so it's not an implicature.

But is it a presupposition, or just part of the meaning of the sentence? The 101 definition here is that presuppositions persist when you negate the whole sentence. If you say "the boy didn't stop working", then you're still saying that the boy was working previously. In other words, if I ask you "did the boy stop working", an answer of either "yes" or "no" will mean the boy was working previously. Therefore, this is a presupposition.

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  • Thank you so much for your explanation. Everything is very clear. It was very obvious that it is a presupposition. However. I was also thinking the same way that the sentence is nonsensical when I tried to cancel it, somehow I felt like the reinforcement test was working which is also a test to see if an inference is an implicature ‘the boy stopped working, in fact he was working before’. For that reason, I thought maybe it is both which I believe it is not possible, generally speaking? Feb 9, 2023 at 18:22
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    @MohammedBakr No, at least with these definitions, which draw a clear line between semantic presupposition and pragmatic implicature.
    – Draconis
    Feb 9, 2023 at 18:31

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