ozarque (ozarque) wrote,
ozarque
ozarque

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Linguistics; presupposition problems...

A little while ago, mtz322 [at http://ozarque.livejournal.com/520498.html ] commented:

"This part of your post brings out something I've been wishing to ask you to address but haven't been able to think of how to ask the question. You, in retrospect, identify a presupposition you made, but you are an expert. Many of us need to be able, at least after the fact, be able to do this. Better yet would be to learn how to do such before jamming both feet in mouth up to the knees! With written communication, and particularly email, we do have that opportunity although very few of us seem to even realize that.
I also am thinking that it isn't major blunders that I worry about. I don't think I am likely to make the sort of really offensive blunders you wrote about in the written communications book. It is the little things that slip by that seem to cause the most trouble. Sort of like paper cuts, small but very, very irritating."

And then there was an anonymous comment that said:
"All my life I've been frequently surprised when people get offended by remarks I make that wouldn't bother me a bit if someone made them to me. Tortuously thinking out statements before uttering them doesn't often help and sometimes makes matters worse. (I'm referring to oral conversation; in writing, I have plenty of time to revise and get things right.) So the best solution, when I can remember to employ it instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, is just to say as little as possible. Which I do have trouble remembering, because I do like to run off at the mouth. Sigh. Ever since I first heard the term, I've wondered whether I might have a mild form of Asperger's. But probably that's only grasping at a convenient excuse for my social ineptitude."

I responded with a promise to try to find a way to discuss this question, and I've been trying -- but I'm getting nowhere with it, so I'm hoping that you [youall] can help me at least get it started.

Suppose, hypothetically, that I gave you just this one example:

========

I suggest being very careful when you say or write "manage to [X]." As in these sentences:

1. "How did you manage to make that mistake?"
2. "Somehow, you managed to offend your mother."
3. "I don't understand how you managed to publish a short story."

The problem with "manage to [X]" is that in that construction "manage" presupposes that the person spoken to went to considerable trouble and effort to do whatever is included in [X]. Sentences #1 and #2 presuppose, therefore, that you went to considerable trouble and effort, deliberately, to make the mistake, and to offend your mother.

Sentence #3 is even worse. Because it presupposes not only that you went to considerable trouble and effort, deliberately, to publish a short story, it also presupposes that the person saying it is amazed that -- even with all that trouble and effort -- you were capable of getting a short story published.
====


If I did that, would I be addressing the question that mtz322 and Anonymous were asking? And would I immediately find myself buried in irritated comments from people telling me that in their dialect of English none of what I said is true?

Over to you...
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  • Wednesday; "Gone With The Wind"...

    I just want to mention something here, in case you're not already aware of it. I want to mention the extraordinary craftsmanship that's demonstrated…

  • Saturday; the new novel...

    I have to re-write the new novel, in longhand, from start to finish -- which will take a while. It does have to be done in longhand, and there's no…

  • Monday; the new novel...

    I'm pleased to report that the writer's block has come to an end. Apparently, all it took was a blogpost to the Magic Live Journal, and I was…