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A: I’ve just got back from the market.

B: So you did the shopping.

It can be seen that speaker B assumed that speaker A did not go shopping while the fact shows that he did. Speaker B’s presupposition indicates that the early information that she heard was speaker A did not intend to go shopping. The fact that speaker A went shopping was out of her knowledge.

These quotes come from an article written on the topic of 'presupposition' of pragmatics in English language.

Frustratingly I don't understand any of the ideas proposed in the third quote, which supposedly explains the previous two. Reasons for this could be that my semantic interpretation of the third quote is wrong and/or that I'm not understanding what it explains.

  1. How does "So you did the shopping" show that speaker B actually assumed speaker A did not go shopping? If she actually did make such an assumption, then shouldn't the remark be something like "why did you go there?" or "did you go to the market to do the shopping?"

  2. In what way can "I've just got back from the market" be understood as "I just came back from the market place and I did not intent to go shopping there"?

Do my questions make sense at all? It is painful to think that I'm not understanding what's going on and that my questions might actually mean nothing.

Thanks in advance for your help!

1 Answer 1

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If speaker B had previoiusly assumed that A would do the shopping, and they heard that A had returned from the market, then "putting two and two together" they would assume that A had done the shopping at the market. In that case they would be unlikely to ask if A had done the shopping.

If on the other hand B had assumed that A wouldn't do shopping, then when they hear that A has come from the market, there is doubt, so it would be natural enough to check.

Now we are only looking at two lines of text. And the whole point of pragmatics is that much communication is outside the text. It is in tone of voice, context, prior knowledge. We may be able to infer facts of prior knowledge from the text.

The line of A doesn't mean "... and I did not intend to go shopping there". It suggests that A thinks that B doesn't know where A has gone. But it also means that A thinks that by telling B where A has gone, then B will understand what A was doing at the market. If A was a market trader, for example, and B knew that, then the understanding of A's sentence would be different.

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