This is an essay about Neurolinguistic Programming and Psycholinguistics. In particular it is about the way certain types of English language patterns - presuppositions - and in particular a type within the set which are known as counterfeit presuppositions, can be deliberately used to subtly affect consciousness. Although the essay refers to the English language it is, since there is evidence to suggest that all languages are universally patterned, likely to be applicable to others.
This essay refers to English usage - not about 'English', 'language', semantics or grammar per se - although specific forms are inevitably discussed since language patterns are the central theme.
For related pages, follow the links.


Presuppositions - the meaning of the word 'presuppose' is to 'assume beforehand; involve, imply' - represent some of the most powerful of language patterns. They are in common, everyday use by all of us and are built into the structure of the English language; indeed it is probably impossible to utter a sentence of any consequence without making some kind of assumption - and hence without the use of presupposition. Presupposition is the mechanism used implicitly to make assumption in day to day language whereas direct assertion is the means used to do so overtly (although all but the simplest assertions will themselves contain presuppositions). The difference between the two is that the latter is a type of communication that is accessible to direct, conscious processing whilst the former - the assumptions in which must normally be accepted for a given sentence or phrase to have meaning or sense - normally represents subconscious processing. The contents of any given presuppositional sentence will normally have to be assumed to be true 'a priori' in order for the sentence to be even understood as meaningful 'language'.
Take for example the nine word opening sentence presented in this introduction: it contains (at least) the following presuppositions:
a) presuppositions exist
b) they are language patterns
c) they are powerful
d) there is a scale of power in language patterns
e) there are other (powerful) language patterns
f) language exists
g) language is patterned
h) patterns exist
i) power exists
As will be further discussed, presuppositions may be 'fair and uncontroversial' - based upon knowledge which is common to all parties privy to a communication, or 'unfair', 'counterfeit' or 'controversial' - made upon the basis of covert knowledge by a communicator with a hidden agenda.
In addition to discussing the nature of fair and unfair forms, the refutation of the latter, and the illustration of several complex forms, this essay also presents examples of everyday presuppositions in the form of examples/exercises intended to alert the reader and aid in the recognition of some of the typical language patterns and their underlying assumptions.

Examples of Fair and Unfair Presupposition

Consider this sentence:
A. 'The sun shines.'
The sentence assumes the existence of an singular object commonly known as 'the sun', and further assumes that one of the attributes of this object is that it shines - and is doing so now by the tense of the verb. By common knowledge and agreement, these facts are 'true', hence the presuppositions made in the sentence are fair, accurate and factual.
Now look carefully at this one:
B. 'Why did you steal the money?'
In simple terms, the sentence assumes the existence of a sum of money, that the money has been stolen and further that 'someone' - in particular 'you' - have stolen it, and that you have a reason ('why') for doing so. Four assumptions in six words (there are more if a complex analysis is carried out - e.g. that the money had a rightful owner, that 'money' exists, that there are notions of property and logic and so on). The assumptions, if true as a matter of widely agreed fact and evidence, are fair and reasonable. If non factual - in total, or perhaps in part - then the series of assumptions, posing as a question, represent a compound, unfair, inaccurate presupposition.

Presupposition and Comprehension

As indicated above, it is virtually impossible to speak without using presupposition, so - since the language patterns themselves are inevitably part of everyday life - what is this essay all about?
The previous paragraphs point the way by demonstrating that there are on the one hand 'fair' or 'honest' or 'non-controversial' presuppositions based upon common knowledge and agreement of observable fact: on the other there are 'counterfeit' or 'controversial' presuppositions which can be, and are, used by the unscrupulous for purposes of propaganda, deceit and the general subtle manipulation of others. The reader might be tempted to say at this point: 'So what? I'll just take on board the honest presuppositions, and ignore the rest.'
Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple, not at all.
The nature of language is such that meaning/comprehension, as well as depending upon context and syntax, relies upon heavily upon implication, implication which often self refers in an almost circular fashion. Furthermore, a significant proportion of language processing takes place subconsciously - the decoding of syntax, the assignment of the actual meaning of words and the relationships between meanings: to actually understand a sentence we must subconsciously make large numbers of assumptions in order to even make sense of what is being said. To return to the simple example 'The sun shines', as well as actually assuming the existence of 'sun', 'shines' and the definite article 'the', any listener to this sentence must assume, and somehow bring into play, underlying concepts for the words and some means of fitting those concepts into a network of understanding to do with 'sun' and 'shines'. To test this, the reader should examine how the meaning of the simple example sentence changes/or turns into non-meaning - with any of the three words deleted.
In the words of McClauchlin
[ - see links later]:
'It is clear that anytime we are listening to others speaking, watching TV, or reading, we are for the most part entirely unaware of what we have accepted as presuppositions. Some of these presuppositions may have major consequences of our behaviour, thoughts and actions. This, of course, also means that any time we are speaking to others, we are constantly, and unconsciously, using presuppositions which affect how they perceive the world. In other words, we affect how/what they think, believe, think and act with our speech and for the most part we do this without knowing what we are presupposing to be true for them.'

In listening to speech (and note that although this essay refers primarily to the spoken word it, applies equally to the written word - the latter being simpler in that it is both easier to compose and analyse at leisure - is assumed to be covered by default), the listener decodes meaning as a sentence proceeds, using ongoing clues in syntax and context/implied context to converge on a meaning. This all happens very rapidly. Because of the 'real time' nature of the spoken word - the typical listener will be between 200 and 500ms behind in integrating the meaning of 'normal' speech as it unfolds - and, given the often complex form of presupposition, the listener will often be forced to tacitly accept the implied meaning of a given sentence before the next one is upon him and then the next. Given an ongoing stream of presuppositions, he thus becomes progressively 'caught' in a mind set of subconsciously accepting the speaker's point of view - indeed there are those in the NLP fraternity who would have it that, given a set of three or four stacked presuppositions, it is impossible, owing to the way the human brain processes information, for the listener NOT to accept the assumptions/inferences made by the speaker.
A further factor mitigating against the reader's 'So what?' approach is, that, without practice, he/she is hardly likely to be able to even identify the simplest of the welter of presuppositions encountered in the course of a normal day, let alone determine which are honest.
It is possible, as will be demonstrated, for someone with the proper skills and sufficient motivation to subtly and deliberately distort a speech stream by means of carefully chosen inferences and implications in the form of presupposition. Anyone without sufficient insight will inevitably fall prey - to some degree - to such cleverly constructed schemes of counterfeit presuppositions, the ultimate aim of which would be to PERSUADE and get the a potentially mendacious communicator's otherwise questionable point of view accepted uncritically.

'Fair' and 'Counterfeit' Presuppositions Defined

The basis of a 'fair' or 'counterfeit' form of presupposition or its underlying assumption(s) or proposition(s) is defined by May who discusses the two types as being either 'uncontroversial' (true, factual or fair as described previously) or controversial (false, unfair or non-factual) thus:
'It seems to me that a true presupposition is based on an unconsidered assumption by the encoder. That assumption is that the decoder will draw the same suppositions from the non-asserted elements of a message as the encoder holds. Hence the notion of a presupposition being uncontroversial.'

...and on the other hand:
'I propose to use the term counterfeit supposition to describe the kind of supposition that is forced onto a decoder by virtue of a FORM OF WORDS, but which is not shared innocently by the encoder. It is worth studying because where it dominates (for example, in propaganda) the communication cycle becomes corroded by cynicism. Note that the phenomenon differs from a regular proposition [i.e. in a 'fair' or 'true' presupposition - DS] in which unshared information is openly asserted.'
[see for full text and examples]. Proposition in the foregoing paragraphs means the proposition(s), or assumption(s), upon which the presupposition is based: the 'encoder' is the speaker, and the 'decoder' the listener: [capitals are by DS].

Unfair, (Counterfeit or Controversial) Presuppositions

Following May's definition regarding 'innocence' on behalf of the speaker, the 'unfair' or premeditated form of presupposition can be defined as that used by a speaker to get the listener to presuppose (i.e. assume to be true, as a matter of fact) spurious assertions. This is achieved by burying the said counterfeit assertions in an enveloping and obscuring word form - the presuppositional language pattern - of which more later.
The listener's test for the veracity or not of the assumptions or or supposed 'factual' elements embedded in presupposition patterns is: 'On the balance of probability & practical experience, are the assumptions the speaker is making statements of undeniable and obvious fact - or are they baseless or spurious assertions/projections and therefore false?' Note also that sweeping generalisations will fall into the 'false' category by being factually non-specific.
A further feature to consider in all this is the motivation of the speaker. In the event that the assumptions of the speaker, which underly the presupposition, have been discovered by the listener to be false, the latter should realise that the pattern of language he has been presented with is quite probably premeditated and that the speaker is unlikely to have delivered it innocently - i.e. there is some underlying hidden agenda. The listener should draw his own conclusions from this and respond accordingly in the given situation.

Presuppositions in Everyday Life

The following list, which comprises a presupposition form followed by the associated underlying assumption/assertion in brackets (the presupposition may be fair or unfair in that there may or may not be 'correct assumptions' on behalf of the speaker - 'fairness' or otherwise is irrelevant at this stage since these are mostly examples as proposed by the particular 'speaker' in each case), was compiled from material present in everyday speech and UK radio and TV broadcasts.
The presuppositions, which are mainly simple - and are generally concerned with the of existence of things or actions - are presented to show the diversity of the form AND to give the reader some preliminary practice in digging out underlying propositions/assumptions, assumptions which are the nub of presupposition.
[Where necessary, in order to simplify the content of the statements themselves, and limit the length of this document, the substitution of lengthy noun and verb groups by the terms 'X', 'Z', etc. has been employed. This, quite usefully, both simplifies and generalises the presuppositions.]
Although a number of the examples that follow may seem trivial, (some are most certainly not), they are important in that they are representative of, and illustrate the diversity of, the forms in EVERYDAY use. They are thus useful prototypes when it comes to recognising/composing compound forms with natural appearance.
Presupposition (Underlying Assumption/Assertion)
Note that the terms: 'my', 'I', you, etc. refer to the speaker and the person being addressed respectively.
1. Every time you... (you are repeatedly doing something)
2. Let me address your concerns. (you have concerns: I assume I know what they are)
3. When you look at this the right way... (you are looking at it the wrong way - in my opinion)
4. Every reasonable person knows that... (what follows is universally reasonable according to some undisclosed system of measure - to which the speaker has privileged access)
5. I checked out what X had been up to. (X had been up to something: I have examined it according to some unspecified criteria)
6. You should take this opportunity. (there is an opportunity - in my opinion)
7. I will offer you my vision of X. (I have 'vision' of X: I'm going to inflict it on you)
8. The important thing is that Z... (Z alone is important, and important beyond other things, on some undisclosed system of measure. I am the arbiter of importance)
9. Z has lost his motivation (there is/was motivation, Z once had it)
10. She wants the salesman to leave (the salesman is present: I know what 'she' wants)
11. I will arrange for extra money to be spent on this (money is already being spent on this: the speaker has control over the amount being spent)
12. The number of people eating pies and peas has fallen (there was more than one person eating pies AND peas: someone is doing so now)
13. I want to discuss the issues underlying Q (there are issues underlying Q: there is someone to discuss them with)
14. Of all the issues that cause Q, Z is the most important (there are several issues causing Q: assertion of and arbitration of importance as in [8] above)
15. I want you to propose ways of doing Y (there are ways of doing Y: I assume you know some)
16. The real issues are... (there are other issues deemed not real. The speaker assumes arbitration of reality)
17. To be clear and effective, then we must Z (Z is clear, effective and also unique in the speaker's view. Speaker assumes arbitration of clarity and effectiveness)
18. Nobody in their right mind could want X (X is incorrect: anyone who disagrees is, in the speaker's judgement, insane)
19. How bad were conditions in Byumba? (there were conditions in Byumba, they were bad, Byumba exists)
20. How fast were you going? (you were going fast)
21. How slow were you going? (you were going slow)
Note that the last two examples, by presupposing degrees of 'fastness' and 'slowness', demonstrate how a question can be very easily loaded implicitly by using terms at the extreme ends of a relative scale - old/young, fat/thin, tall/short, loud/quiet, violent/peaceful, etc. are similar word pairs. In the example given, a 'fair' question would be 'What speed were you doing?'.
Questions, other than the ultra-primitive monosyllabic form of 'who, why, what, when where and how?' (but the latter will have some context), are ALWAYS based upon presuppositions embodied in the question form. The 'question' form of the presupposition is used to complete this list:
22. What is your reaction to that? (you have a reaction to something)
23. How does she feel about X? (she feels something about X)
24. Why do you always Z? (you invariably Z)
25. Where did they go on Thursday? (they went somewhere on Thursday, 'they' as a definable group, and Thursday exist)
26. When will you be coming back from Y? (you are going to, or, at Y, and it is assumed that you will be returning)
27. The government of Byumba is a dictatorial regime of bloodthirsty killers who overthrew the democratically elected administration two years ago: what action are we going to take against them? (the simple presupposition is that 'we' are going to take action against 'them' BUT everything that precedes the colon is also a presupposition - which may or may not be 'fair' - with respect to the question that follows. This type of stacking - sometimes in single leading sentences, sometimes extending to multiples of sentences, is common in radio and TV interviews.)
28. What action are you going to take against the government of Byumba? They are a dictatorial regime of bloodthirsty killers who overthrew the democratically elected administration two years ago. (this is as [27], but broken into sentences with the position of the extended presupposition in a trailing position)
29. Are you sure about this? (There is a state called 'sure' which you may or may not be in. The fact that The speaker is asking the question implies that he assumes the listener is unsure)

Preliminary Practice at Detecting Underlying Assumptions

Ultimately, the reader will have to be self reliant in detecting the underlying assumptions made in the language patterns of others - and him/herself. Because the decoding of meaning in language is something we do subconsciously and extremely rapidly - and real life doesn't stop and wait while we take a measured look at it - the detection and analysis process will seem difficult to do at first in real time. The task is to practice becoming conscious of a process which is normally subconscious (before letting it become subconscious again - see later) and significant results can be expected in days rather than hours. With practice, it is possible - since the process becomes habitual - and it gets easier with time. Note that as the reader examines presuppositions in the language patterns of others, he is on a journey of discovery and will learn a lot about them (and himself) that s/he didn't know before - their points of view, assumptions they make, their internal conditioning/presumptions/world view being the bottom line.
The author strongly recommends the 'start little and build' approach: a suggested scheme is as follows:
1. When listening to any kind of speech, the reader should ask: 'What is the speaker assuming?' Assumptions are the basis of presupposition.
2. TV and radio news, chat shows and advertisements, by virtue of their structure, are a rich source - avoid scripted drama, most of which is simplistically artificial (advertisements, on the other hand, whilst being carefully constructed, do use some clever presupposition). The trick is to IGNORE WHAT IS BEING PRESENTED AS THE CONTENT OF THE MESSAGE/CONVERSATION and observe the assumptions implicit in the language patterns (the real content). It is easiest to start by listening to questions - which are relatively simple to analyse: listen to one question, ignore the answer and work out the presuppositions in the question by asking: 'what assumptions did the speaker just make?' or 'what were the assumptions in that?' The reader should keep asking what the assumptions are/were. Once this is done, the procedure should be repeated again and again and again. Particularly sticky/compound questions might be written it down and assessed at leisure. All questions contain presuppositions - that's why they are an easy place to start.
3. When the reader is are competent at questions, a start can be made working on answers. If 'answers' are long and convoluted, they can be evaluated one phrase at a time: a pocket tape recorder is handy for this.
4. Given some TV radio work, it can be useful to listen in unobtrusively to real life conversation - statements as well as Q and A. This is a lot easier in some respects since vocabulary is usually simpler, as is phrasing and sentence length, and the general public tends not to speak in the convoluted fashion of those who frequent radio/TV news - although there may be a few surprises. The complicating thing is that there are likely to be a lot of direct assertions - overt statements along the lines 'X is Y' mixed in - which may or may not themselves contain presupposition. Most everyday direct speech is richer in assertion than it is in presupposition.
Note that at this stage it is unlikely that the reader will be able to identify the majority of presuppositions and underlying assumptions (indeed, the more subtle forms of presupposition haven't been discussed yet & 'ultimate' identification - which lies at the very roots of language and meaning - is impracticable), but there will be a start. Fortunately, most presuppositions in everyday use tend to be 'fair'.
The foregoing exercises relate to the spoken word, the analysis of real time 'live' speech being the ultimate objective. Should the reader find these too difficult, a start could be made in analysing newspaper and magazine articles in order to get the hang of things - transcripts of political speeches and interviews (especially unscripted ones) are good sources - but it should be remembered that the written word is often edited several times before it goes to press.

Counterfeit Presuppositions: Some Examples in Short Form

The presuppositions that follow - and they are referred to as 'short forms' since, in the definition of the skeleton structures shown, the enveloping verbiage has been stripped - are given as examples of how counterfeit presuppositions can be constructed. The structures - which may be used for counterfeit or fair presupposition (but are language patterns more frequently found in the presence of the former) - are taken from everyday experience. In the examples for each, a compounded/extended illustration of the form is provided.

1) Do you want/need/like/etc X before Y?
Whatever X is, it is mainly irrelevant & used to misdirect or confuse OR it is given as a false choice (choice being limited to X or Y with all other possibilities deleted by exclusion): the principle presupposition here lies in the Y element.
a. Do you need (another test drive) before (you sign up?)
[it is assumed that you are going to sign up]
b. Would you like (another drink) before (I take you home?)
[it is assumed that I am taking you home]
c. Would you like (another Coke or a whisky) before (I take you home?)
[as b, but beginning to compound with an 'or' - see later]
d. Would you like (another coke or a whisky) before I (take you home, or are you taking me home?)
[with further compounding]
e. While you are deciding what colour you want, and whether to go for the manual or automatic model, I have to enquire if you need another test drive before you sign up?
[as a, but put in a compound form with three significant presuppositions and a lot of either/or confusing information - not quite grammatically correct either, just as is likely to be encountered in the real world]

2) You/I'll Z and/while/if/etc W. (the element that follows 'you' is the principle presupposition)
This type verge on commands, almost saying 'you will'. That's easy to see in the short versions, not so obvious in the longer versions, which can be used to hide even more insidious implied assumptions.
a. I'll give you my pen and then you can sign just here.
[assumes you will sign]
b. I'll lend you my pen while you write your phone number here.
[assumes you will write the phone number]
c. I'll settle the bill while you order a taxi.
[assumes you will order a taxi: implies you are leaving... together by context]
d. You can say goodbye to your friends while I nip to the men's room.
[assumes you are saying goodbye - further implies you are leaving]
e. You can go and warm the bed ready for me while I just say goodnight to my buddies and get a pack of condoms from the machine.
[compound assumptions - some by implication]

3) Now/Since C, then D. (C is the principle presupposition - and flies past the subject's attention - with secondary 'qualifying' presuppositions often occurring in D, the part of the sentence normally reserved for the implantation of suggestion).
This is a causative form with the implicit assumption that C is 'true' somehow causes D in some assumed logical fashion. That is the assumption - but in the general case that assumption is not necessarily true: in the case of the counterfeit presupposition it is usually (always?) false. Note the word 'then' is often unsaid.
a. Now, since the car fulfils all your requirements (THEN) we can make a deal.
[car assumed to fulfil all requirements and assumption of making a deal: NB the logic of 'C causes D' is false]
b. Now we know each other so well (THEN) we can start talking about more intimate matters, like...
[assumed intimacy is invoked in order to assume even more intimacy]
c. Since I'm the man of your dreams, (THEN) you should be sleeping close to me tonight.
d. Now that you have opened up, (THEN) can you tell me honestly how the fire started.
[assumed 'opened up': further assumed that 'you' will speak honestly and have knowledge about the said fire]
e. So, you want the station wagon with the alloy wheels: I think you've made a good decision - considering the excellent discount we're giving you, and I can see your wife is happy with it. Now you've chosen the model you really want and I've got your credit clearance, (THEN) I need you to sign just here and here.
[assumptions, opinions, false causality and fiction mixed with fact: this is how it comes]

4) If X then Y. This is a causal form of logic/conditional statement often seen in computer programming, the difference being that in computer programming the logic is based on fact. It is related to the last form but less definite (form 3. has the first part of the sentence stated as 'fact') and can be further compounded in the form (If X then Y and Z and P and Q and ...). This looks fairly obvious and easy to fathom... but it isn't when the 'If', 'Then', and 'And'' mysteriously begin to vanish. Note that the reader should bear in mind that the implied CAUSALITY in this, and some of the other, more complex forms that follow, is also presupposed by the speaker.
a. (IF you) sign up today and (THEN) you get free carpets and kitchen units.
[replace the word 'If' by 'assuming': that's what the speaker is assuming ultimately: the second part of the sentence - following the word 'then' - is a presupposition based upon the assumption in the first part of the sentence being true. This is a convoluted form]
b. If I said you had a beautiful body, (THEN) would you hold it against me?
[replace 'If I said' by 'assuming': second half of sentence, which is a question, contains the presupposition
c. If you don't go immediately (THEN) I'll scream AND call the police AND set the dog on you.
[assuming you stay, then speaker assumes screaming/police/dog]
d. If I give you the jack and (THEN) you can change the tyre.
[assuming jack is handed over then assuming that 'you' will change the tyre]
e. If you had listened to what I say (THEN) you wouldn't be in such a mess.
[you didn't listen, therefore(assumed causality), you are in a mess]

5) If X then Y or Z. More computer logic, but with optional outcomes in the apparent causal chain of events based on condition X being met. This can chain into an extended list of outcomes in the form: IF X THEN Y OR Z OR/AND A OR/AND B OR C OR... etc. although more than three is rare - unless a list is presented. Often used in order to selectively reduce choice by presenting apparent choice from an impoverished set: type 9) is a more general form of this.
a. Would you like free carpets or kitchen units (if) when you sign here?
[the pattern is inverted - but the logic's the same: assumes that either carpets or kitchen units are available: no other choice: assumes you have to sign to get one of the offered items]
b. If you use my pen, you can sign here or here.
[this is the more standard form: assumes that you will sign in one of the places using said pen]
c. If you want to get into the best part of the stadium, you can use the east gate or the south gate and park by the fountain - you know where that is.
[assumes you will use one of the two routes, by exclusion of others: assumes you want to get into the part of the stadium which the speaker assumes to be 'best': assumes you will be driving and that you know of/know where the fountain is

6) You might be wondering (word group = numerical choice)
Equally well, you might not have been wondering - but you will be by the time the speaker has finished the sentence. This language pattern is of a powerful type known as 'Suggestive Predicates'. The innocent looking word group is directive and actually leads the listener's attention into the word group shown in the brackets. (see elsewhere on this site for more details). The actual phrase 'You might be wondering' is typical: other phrases of the same essential form are shown in the examples below.
a. Have you thought which of your feet you are going to notice first?
[assumes you are going to notice one of your feet and that you can/will think about it (you will because of the structure of the predicate)]
b. Are you wondering whether to buy three or four loaves at the supermarket?
[assumes you are going to buy three OR four loaves at a supermarket: assumes you are wondering]
c. Would you say that I earn $200,000 or $250,000 a year?
[assumes either/or: assumes you can say]
d. I'd like you to consider whether we are going to eat three times or four today, at home or in the Chinese restaurant, in the cafeteria on the ferry or at the burger bar on 41st street.
[assuming a. we are going to eat three or four times, b. in one of four places, c. that we are going on the ferry, d. we are going to 41st street, e. that you can/will consider these limiting options - to the exclusion of all others. Since you already have enough to think about, you probably will exclude others!]

7) Now A, and while B, then C.
A is a past or ongoing event, which may or may not be fictional. B is normally a presupposed ongoing event and C is normally an out and out presupposition: the content of each element may be variable, but that indicated is the norm. Note that the form shown above is relatively simple in that it can be extended along the lines Now A (and A1 and A2), and while B (and B1 and B2) then C ( and C1 etc). This is the realm of the conversational therapist, where compound presuppositions of this type are used to variously pace, lead and confuse the dominant hemisphere of the brain. Note once again the presence of the false causative links, links which emulate the process of logic whilst denying logical content. This type may be split across sentences in the form: Now A. So while B. C and so on - but this is less advantageous for the speaker since the effect of compounding is diluted.
a. Now you're feeling relaxed, and while we have a little time, you can tell me about your sexual fantasies.
[assumes you are relaxed, that 'we' have a little time, that you have sexual fantasies and that you can tell the speaker about them: four presuppositions in one relatively simple sentence - plus the presuppositions of causality implied by the now/while/you can chain]
b. Now you're at last telling the truth, and while the jury is aware of that fact, tell us about the last time you beat your wife.
c. Now you have committed yourself to answering my questions, and while you are in a talkative mood, can you tell me why you started the fire?
[speaks for itself]
d. Since you have now admitted that you quite often break the speed limit and jump red lights, and while we have you safely out of a car and sober for once, you can rest assured that once you've given us the details about that hold up you pulled last Thursday we won't question you about your kidnapping attempts until tomorrow.
[compound presuppositions - there are at least ten in the single sentence]

8) As/while/when/etc you M, you N.
Another compounding form, but simpler than type 7. M is normally, but not always, and ongoing event, with the presupposition usually being present in N. False causality is again used in this type. Can be compounded in the fashion of When you M (and M1 and M2), you N (and N1 and N2).
a. As you sit in that chair, you will immediately feel relaxed.
[assumption of immediate relaxation AND if the listener is not sitting in the chair, and assumption that he will]
b. As you told me yesterday, you can remember walking your dog, remember perfectly.
[assumes you have a dog, you walked it, you can remember it perfectly and that you told the speaker so yesterday
c. When you breathe in and out slowly, you will suddenly notice you're blinking.
[assumes you are blinking: even more, the speaker asserts that you will notice it AND - since this is a clever circular form - that you will breath in and out slowly. A causal link is set up between blinking - which the statement INSTRUCTS the listener to notice, and breathing in a particular manner]
d. When you agreed come back to my apartment willingly and behaved in a seductive manner, what did you expect? You knew exactly what was going to happen.
[you agreed to go back willingly, behaved in a seductive manner, you were expecting something, you knew something was going to happen and you knew exactly what it was]

9) R or S? (either/or)
By restriction of available choices to R or S, all other choices are assumed to be unavailable. This form is used to set up the 'double bind', a situation in which the same outcome occurs irrespective of which of the (apparently) available choices is made.
a. Do you want to go to bed at 8.30, or 9.30?
[you want to go to bed: the only choices are 8.30, 9.30. Note that accepting either of the answers accepts going to bed - a double bind. The double bind is common in all these examples]
b. Are you going to confess now, or tomorrow?
[you are going to confess: you may do so now or tomorrow]
c. Are you going to kiss me now, or shall we wait a while?
d. Are you going to sign up now, or after another test drive, or after you've chosen the colour?
[you are going to sign up: the 'or's' have been concatenated to give three apparent options, but the underlying fundamental presupposition is fixed
e. So what's it to be, free carpets or kitchen units with your new house?
[you are assumed to be having the new house - part of the deal is curtains or carpets

10) Not X causes Y
This can be concatenated in the form Not X (and X1, X2 etc) causes Y (and Y1, Y2, etc). A more complex alternative but similar form is Not X causes not Y - which can also be concatenated. This form is similar to form 4), and is singled out for special attention in that it is both a) powerfully causal and b) the negatives - particularly the in multiple form - make it difficult to process and integrate by a listener, as is demonstrated in the examples.
Tunes can be played on this form in that X causes not Y (and Y1, Y2, etc), (X and not X1, etc) cause (Y and not Y1, etc) are also possible patterns.
a. Not following my advice will land you in trouble.
[I have offered advice which I assume is to your benefit, ignoring it will CAUSE you trouble]
b. You can't escape feeling guilty as you look at the facts.
[I assume you are guilty, that there are what I assume to be 'facts' available and that looking at them will cause a feeling of guilt in you]
c. Not listening and evading the issues will make easy for you not to confess and avoid facing your guilt.
[the words 'evading' and 'avoid' are negatives and thus are effectively 'nots'. Failure to listen and evasion, are assumed as is guilt and that a 'confession' for something is available and appropriate. The causal chain is that both of first two are each responsible for each the latter.]
d. You are not a shrinking violet and your powerful physique ensures that you'll never be attacked by muggers.
[the direct presuppositions are obvious: the presupposed - and partially implied - causality is 'not X and X1 ensures Y']
This concludes the first group. Stated baldly, and shown as skeletons with small groups of enveloping words, as in most of the foregoing examples, the given presuppositional forms might seem simple enough to detect and evaluate both in terms implied causality & assumption. That such is not the case should become apparent from the examples where the presuppositions are stacked together in groups - and there are more difficult forms to follow.
The reader should note that some speakers have either 'naturally' occurring presuppositional language patterns (probably learned in childhood - speech patterns are inherited/assimilated from others) or have purposely studied forms of presuppositional speech for whatever reason. Such people are skilled in the day to day these language patterns and their practised and rapid delivery makes the forms particularly difficult to untangle when the medium of the spoken word is involved.
In order to test this, the reader should try modifying the nouns and verbs in say forms 7) and 8) above to suit a few appropriate everyday contexts, compounding them and delivering the resulting patterns(s) in spoken form, without warning, to a couple of friends for effect. The test is in checking which assumptions the friends miss.

Refuting Counterfeit Presuppositions

i) Why Refute?
If a speaker makes counterfeit suppositions during the course of a presentation or statement, and such remain unchallenged, then any discussion or exposition that follows is necessarily tainted by falsehood. The 'dialogue' proceeds on the basis of the joint assumption that what is false is true. Note that this is a JOINT assumption and that even tacit (or unknowing) acceptance makes it so. The listener, by not challenging and destroying the deceit, is tacitly colluding and allowing himself to be subconsciously led into an illusory world created by the speaker - who won't relent with the spurious patterns since s/hecontinues on the basis of having the listener's approval. Restating this in the rather more formal language of Walton [1]:
"1. At some point x in the sequence of dialogue, A is brought forward by the proponent, either as a proposition the proponent explicitly asks the respondent to accept for the sake of argument, or as a non-explicit assumption that is part of the proponent's reasoning.
2. The respondent has an opportunity at x to reject A.
3. If the respondent fails to reject A at x, then A becomes a commitment of both parties during the subsequent sequence of dialogue."
In short, the message is 'Refute or Accept' - and the listener accepts at his peril. [Those who tend to favour the strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - that language significantly affects consciousness (i.e. that something which is accepted as fact in word, in consciousness is fact) - will no doubt feel strongly inclined towards the refutation of counterfeit assumption.]
This is the relatively formal reasoning behind refutation. A more informal way is for the listener to consider why he/she should allow anyone to put to them, in a premeditated and pernicious form, inaccurate and/or deceptive information? Looked at this way, it becomes a matter for the disruption of deliberate and contrived deceit.

ii) Presuppositions in Questions
Whenever a question is put, the questioner is ALWAYS assuming something - even single word questions: 'what?', 'why?', 'how?' will have an ongoing context to relate to. The reader/listener needs to practice and learn how to listen to questions - as given previously, news/current affairs shows are useful material - and work at detecting what the assumptions of the questioner are, - and it gets easier with practice. The questions may be based upon 'fair' or 'unfair' assumptions, that doesn't matter for the time being: the purpose of practice is to identify them at the rate they appear in the spoken word.
Presuppositions in short questions are usually relatively simple to identify: with a little day to day practice, this becomes easy and automatic. [Aside: presupposition exists in forms other than words.] With longer questions, single or multiple sentence or phrase predicates are usually followed by short question sentence or phrase (although this order may be on occasion reversed). The predicate sentences/phrases - which are in effect statements - will often contain the majority of the assumptions, whilst the phrase containing the question will typically contain one or two.
When the time comes to identify underlying assumptions behind questions put in the real world, the listener should pause, take a breath and identify them before replying: if doubtful assumptions are detected then they should be refuted - as the basis of the question - immediately. See following section on one to one encounters for more.

iii) Presuppositions in Addresses to Groups
This refers speeches, presentations, formal addresses, official statements and the like - any spoken address to a group of people by an individual speaker. Many such situations occur in everyday life ranging from the relatively informal 'pep talk' from a manager or team leader to a small group through corporate presentation to formal events such as summings up in a court of law.
The essential ingredient from the listener's point of view, insofar as dealing with such presuppositions are concerned, is that the listener is unable, or not permitted - or perhaps not expected - to interrupt according to circumstances or etiquette: that is the negative side. On the positive side, the listener will usually pass unnoticed as one of a crowd, and it is therefore possible to deliberately not pay full attention to what is being overtly said - other than the key points. More importantly, it becomes possible for the listener to take notes of any fallacious assumptions being promulgated & carefully formulate retaliatory statements and/or questions. Because the effect of presuppositions tends to be cumulative - with earlier assumptions being used as a basis for later ones - particular attention should be paid to the earlier points made in an address.

iv) Presuppositions in Advertising
This is normally a simpler situation to deal with. The listener will (usually) have time to review the material offered at leisure - with or without notes - and can refute, if needs be, by carefully formulated statement/question as indicated above. Modern advertising is a rich source of presupposition - but note that visual and audio messages often conspire.

v) Presuppositions in One to One Encounters
These are the most demanding situations of all to deal with owing to the speed and complexity of the information transferral process, the need to pay at least some attention to 'content' (with the ongoing tendency to become embroiled in such), and the need evaluate the assumptions/pressuppositions in real time. This is rather difficult, (the understatement of the year!), since the listener has the job of keeping track of the content and process of conversation as well as visual and other inputs, however, with practice, and a little rearrangement of things as given below, it is possible. Ultimately real time integration (and it is integration - it happens too fast for conscious analysis) is the goal: once the listener has had sufficient practice, it will happen automatically.
Tip 1: analysing questions is an easy place to start - it is normal in any dialogue to allow someone time to think before replying, so the listener won't look odd when he pauses to evaluate what has been said.
Tip 2: when someone says something, the listener might look away as if thinking (true), PAUSE and work out as many underlying assumptions, beginning with the earliest ones (see earlier), during the pause.
Tip 3: if time is required/the listener is unsure of a point, the speaker should be asked to slowly repeat what has been said.
Tip 4: the listener should never be afraid to INTERRUPT. If the speaker is going too fast, speaking in too complex a pattern, or there is a suspicion that counterfeit presuppositions are present, then interruption is the order of the day. Interruptions are also useful in breaking mind set (see Interrupts page elsewhere on this site).
Tip 5: to create time - and to permit step by step analysis - the listener can slowly paraphrase/repeat what the speaker has said point by point, digging out - and if necessary refuting by question or counter statement - each assumption one by one.

vi) Assumptions and their Refutation
Since assumptions are the underlying meat of presuppositions they are, in all cases, the ESSENTIAL things to identify (see previously) and then attack.
Forget word orders, fancy names, whether it is an interrogative or declarative language pattern the speaker is using, the questions the listener should be asking are always 'What is the speaker assuming. What, if anything, is counterfeit?' In terms of handling presuppositions, that, if nothing else, is the THE message that the reader should go away from this essay with - 'What is the speaker assuming? Is it valid, or false?'. Ultimately, this becomes an exercise in awareness, not logic. The listener can be endowed with the greatest logical mind in existence and will still be overcome by counterfeit presuppositions if he is not alert enough (this is how the college professor gets taken in by the used car salesman - the latter uses an overwhelming battery of prepared and practised language patterns).
There is no need to be particularly aggressive in the process of challenging assumptions - although discovering that one has been presented with biased or fallacious information by the speaker might rightly provoke an emotional response. This could range from a walk out to an outright rejection of anything the speaker has said and might say in the future: the author would recommend a 'stay put and learn' approach. Often, the shock of the challenge - by exposing fallacious assumptions to the light of day and putting the speaker on the defensive - is quite often enough to significantly put them on the wrong foot.
One way to do this is for the listener to reframe what has been said, overtly stating the assumptions and then vigorously challenging the basis of each in turn. The speaker often won't like the tables being turned and, having to work hard at explaining rather than being glib, will probably wriggle and resist - perhaps making even more assumptions. The listener must not be fobbed off in such an event, and should be determined in getting his/her own case across (by playing the part of ignorance/the fool if necessary) and demonstrate understanding of the language patterns without digressing into any explanation of them. A determined approach is likely to prevent the speaker trying the same thing again: if he/she does, the listener should attack again without let up. In a situation where counterfeit presuppositions exist, it is the speaker who is attempted to mislead, not the listener.
Typical word patterns that might be used in refutation are:
'Why are you assuming X, Y and Z (assumptions)?' 'Your presumptions are all wrong', 'You are assuming (assumptions): why?', 'Most of what you've just said is just plain wrong/bullshit (and don't explain why - they said it, not you)', 'I don't agree with your assumptions (followed by silence).', 'Who says that {assumption/assumptions}?', 'Your logic that A leads to B and C is wrong (challenges false causality)' and - if you're feeling charitable and have plenty of time: 'You've made a lot of assumptions there, let's go through them slowly one by one.'
If you are not feeling charitable/don't have any time, a blank statement of: 'You're wrong,' is very effective - since you don't specify how/where/why/etc. Ultimately, the reader/listener should work out their own preferred way.

Counterfeit Presuppositions: Physical Environments

This section concerns physical - time and space or 'event' - environments rather than word or syntactic environments.
As given in the introduction of this essay, it is probably impossible to utter a sentence of any consequence without making some kind of assumption - and hence without the use of presupposition. Accordingly, presuppositions - apart from involving convoluted ways of speaking - are not a problem per se. It is when language patterns are deliberately abused to the advantage of a presenter that the difficulties arise, i.e. in the case of a speaker using counterfeit propositions or assumptions and hiding them in the language form. The majority of communications between humans, in both the written and spoken form are 'uncontroversial', to use May's words, and the decoder indeed 'will draw the same suppositions from the non-asserted elements of a message as the encoder holds'. Hence the notion of most presuppositions being uncontroversial.
As for the controversial form, the form based upon false assumption/supposition: 'the kind of supposition that is forced onto a decoder by virtue of a form of words, but which is not shared innocently by the encoder', this is likely to turn up in some types of situations more than others. ALL these are characterised by what could be broadly described as a 'power' scenarios - situations where one entity is attempting to manipulate another entity and PERSUADE the latter into some course of action (the communication process may often be nominally two way, but one entity will usually predominate as 'persuader' for extended periods of time). Eeach reader will no doubt be able to imagine situations which match the given criterion: to assist, here are some that occur in everyday life (the list is not exhaustive):

a. courtroom
b. confrontational debates - political or otherwise
c. police interviews
d. advertising
e. political broadcasts
f. 'sales' situations
g. seduction
h. business meetings
j. one to one disputes

Further Examples of Presuppositional Forms and Implication

A number of the more complex forms - many of them as given by Bandler and Grinder [2] in 'The Structure of Magic' - are presented below and in Appendix I along with examples of use in potentially counterfeit mode. These are typically 'syntactic environments' - more often than not identifiable by the presence of a single keyword - in which presupposition may well be present. Many of forms use the meaning available in some words to imply things which may be left unsaid explicitly - and thus make the listener work overtime in unravelling the complexity of the word form and evaluating some pattern of meaning (or alternatively, and more significantly, failing to identify it). These forms are equally as important as the preceding ones, perhaps even moreso since their often inherent complexity tends to make them more difficult to fathom.
To take an example from the earlier pages of this essay, we have the notion of speed. 'Speed' is not an absolute term but a relative: it may, for example, be variously described as 'fast', 'slow' or 'medium', indeed all manner of other appendages may be used - reckless, snail like, full, breakneck, sedate, etc. As demonstrated in the earlier example, when the question 'How fast were you going?' is put, it implies that the person being asked was going at a 'fast' speed insofar as the listener(s) and any observers - like a jury - image and understand the meaning of the word used. The question: 'How slow were you going?' evokes altogether different imagery, and consequently different connotations.
The various forms offered below are inevitably interleaved, in part, with those previously given. Ultimately, with presuppositional form, a point is reached where classification into strict 'type' becomes impossible. Similarly, although a number of the forms that follow illustrate the use of implicative words in presupposition, the reader should remember that implication can also be used in the forms that have gone before, indeed it is possible to mix all types into compound hybrids.
>i) Adjectives and Adverbs of Opinion
Both these will often be found in presuppositional forms of speech. These are words that modify or qualify the primitive form of what is being said, and since they are words selected by the speaker to reflect the speaker's perception of events, will often reveal some of the assumptions the speaker is making. Adjectives modify nouns - the speaker's perception of 'things', whereas adverbs modify verbs - and reveal the way in which the speaker perceives/assumes action, the manner in which events occur(ed).
Adjectives and adverbs which describe what would normally be agreed as 'absolutes', or fact, usually fall into the 'fair' category insofar as evaluating the nature of a presupposition is concerned: the ones the listener should be particularly aware of are the words which describe relativity, generality or manner. This is illustrated in the examples that follow:
a. The woman in the purple dress behaved badly.
[assumptions are that there was a woman in a purple dress who behaved in some manner and that manner was 'bad'. Few would argue with the adjective 'purple' - either the dress was purple or not as a matter of agreed 'fact': the problems occur with the adverb 'badly': good and bad are relative and matters of opinion]
b. The ugly woman in the ugly purple dress behaved badly.
[as given previously - but in this case we have an additional value judgement in the adjective implying beauty/ugliness]
c. You were seen leaving the bank shouting wildly and running at breakneck speed.
[implies you were in the bank, someone claims to have seen you leave, you were shouting and running at speed. Further suggests, by adverb and adjective 'wildly' and 'breakneck' - both opinions added to the 'fact']
d. When you had cruelly satisfied your evil, perverted, lusts on this helpless, innocent victim, you callously ignored her whimpering pleas for mercy, didn't you?
[cruelly/evil/perverted/callously versus helpless/innocent/whimpering: all opinion, painted in adjective and adverb. Hopefully, you've got a good defence lawyer]
e. I am completely satisfied with your performance over the past twelve months.
[the manner of the satisfaction - 'complete' is specified by the speaker. In this case, the adverb 'completely' is an absolute and is used fairly]

ii) Relative Clauses: WHO, WHICH, THAT.
A noun, or phrase ending with a noun, which is followed a phrase beginning with one of these words. The existence of the noun is presupposed.
a. Your accomplice, WHO we have yet to capture...
[implies you have an accomplice - i.e. accomplice exists and you are implicated: the assumed accomplice is still at large]
b. We have the axe, WHICH you used as the weapon...
[we have 'the' axe - 'axe' exists: note that it is 'the' and not 'an', yet another assumption about a specific axe - which it is assumed was used as a weapon by you]
c. We have recovered the car THAT you used in the getaway.
[a car, that has been 'recovered': specific 'car' is assumed to exist and is assumed to have been used, by you, in an assumed getaway]

iii) Time Clauses
A versatile set. These can readily be arranged to contain implication - every 'before' implies an 'after' in a sequence of actual ongoing (or assumed ongoing) events - and are demonstrated by means of example below. By now, the reader should easily be able to extract the assumptions, hence little commentary is provided - the patterns are shown in quotes.
a. AFTER: What will you do 'AFTER you give up housebreaking'?
[implies you are currently engaged in housebreaking]
b. BEFORE: What did you do 'BEFORE you became a bank robber'?
[implies you are now a bank robber & that you did something else previously]
c. DURING: 'DURING the robbery', did you not think of your victim?
['during' - plus the trailing phrase - implies you were involved and victimised someone, etc.]
d. PRIOR: Tell us what you were doing immediately 'PRIOR to robbing the bank'.
e. SINCE: Have your feelings of guilt subsided 'SINCE you stopped beating your wife'?
f. WHEN: What will you do with your time 'WHEN you are in prison'?
g. WHILE: What were you doing 'WHILE your accomplices were stealing the money'?
So much for the first set in this category. The second set - and a double dose of examples is presented since this is a powerful and flexible form - are a little subtler and more directed at double binds, personal feelings and (often vague) ongoing experiences. Accordingly, because they are more difficult to decode, they appear to be slightly more convoluted in form. One or two fuller explanatory notes are offered:
h. Would you like to take your shoes off 'WHILE you unwind'?
[double bind - the action of unwinding is implied with shoes on or not: note, as an aside, that 'unwind' is a non specific term]
i. How do you think you are going to react 'DURING your realisation' that you are free of guilt?
j. Would you like a whisky or a gin BEFORE you go to bed?
[double bind: you are going to bed whichever drink is chosen]
k. I hope it will make you happy 'WHEN we go to the Zoo'.
l. 'AFTER you have calmed down and come to your senses', we'll discuss the implications of all this.
[you are going to calm down, etc.]
m. I don't know what you were thinking of 'PRIOR to sitting down here relaxing with me', but now you have calmed down, I'd like to talk about it.
n. 'SINCE you've accepted my opinion on this', I'd like you to explore the issues further PRIOR to you signing a confession.
[you have accepted the speaker's opinion: you are going to sign a confession]

iv) Words Indicating Repetition
These words may be used to imply that an event is/has already happening/happened and is being/can be repeated.
a. You can do what Tom is doing TOO
[implies that something is ongoing and you have the ability to do whatever it is]
b. I'd like you to go over your confession AGAIN.
[you've already confessed at least once: even if you haven't 'confessed', the implication is that what you have done is being defined as a confession]
c. EITHER you got it wrong last time, or you've got it wrong now.
[there exists a 'last time' which it is assumed should be identical to the present, and there is something assumed that is 'right']
d. If you answer incorrectly AGAIN then you'll be in trouble.
[implies you have answered 'incorrectly' before - whether you did or not, the assumption is that you did]

v) Use of the Definite Article
This is the form often used in the 'leading question' so beloved of courtroom dramas. By using a definite article - typically 'the' although there are other ways, it is implied that a particular object or actions had or has existence.
a. What was your reaction when you saw the jigsaw?
[implies that you saw a PARTICULAR jigsaw and you had a reaction to it]
b. What did you do when you saw the defendant rob the bank with the shotgun]
[implies you saw particular person at particular bank with particular shotgun - i.e. that the 'defendant' did as implied - and that you did something in response]
c. Which of the three defendants pulled the trigger?
[one of them is implied to have done so]
d. I want you to take charge of the project and sort out the trouble makers.
[the specific identity of the project is assumed to be common knowledge between speaker and listener - as is that of 'the' trouble makers, whose existence is implied]
e. Go down to the stores and fetch three welding masks.
[three welding masks are assumed to exist in the stores: this is also an Ordinal Numeral type presupposition - see Appendix I]

vi) Verbs and Adverbs Indicating Repetition of Event(s)
Those beginning with RE-. REpeatedly, REpeating, REstore, REplicate, REtell, REplace, REnew, REiterate, REstate, REwork, RE-establish and so on.
a. I am pleased to REnew our acquaintance.
[speaker assumes 'we' have been acquainted before]
b. You are going to have to do something to REstore my confidence in you.
[I once had confidence in you]
c. If she REturns, I want to talk to here.
[Implies she has been here before]

vii) Change of Time Verbs and Adverbs
These words are often used to imply that some kind of ongoing process is in place - even though it isn't: because of the implicative nature of the words, the inference will more often than not slip past the listener's attention. In the examples below these look easy to detect owing to the capitalisation - in the real world, they aren't.
a. I wonder whether or not you understand that you can CONTINUE to feel comfortable and relaxed.
[the implicit assumption is that you already have been feeling comfortable and relaxed]
b. Now you have STARTED/BEGUN to see the sense of what I'm saying, we might be able to get somewhere.
['sense' is assumed and it is implied that the listener is already seeing it]
d. I want you to STOP looking at things from that angle, and reconsider.
[implies that you are already 'looking at things' from some angle]
e. The way to END your discomfort is to confess.
[ongoing discomfort assumed: assertion that confession will end it]

For more of these presuppositional forms - and examples - see Appendix I. Note that the forms shown in the appendix are equally as difficult to unravel as the foregoing and are worthy of equal attention by the reader. They are only separated out in order to contain the main body of the text of this essay within manageable proportions.

Closing Remarks

In this essay the nature of genuine and counterfeit presupposition has been presented along with some examples of the language environments in which presuppositions are likely to be encountered. As the reader will by now realise, presupposition in language can take many forms, and it is well nigh impossible for anyone - however alert and well trained - to integrate a continuous, fast moving (spoken at 150/200wpm), set of compound presuppositions more than say a dozen items long. The exact number is arguable - if some in the NLP community are to be believed. (evidence?) it is perhaps impossible to effectively decode presuppositions in a continuous string more than three or four items long - but there is no doubt that at some point, the language processing system of the listener will overload, cease to fully process what is being said, and 'lock up'. Beyond, and around this 'lock up' point, the listener will become tacitly, and subconsciously, 'committed' to the world view being assumed/presented by the speaker and, insofar as behaving according to his own rational system of volition with regards to the matter in hand is concerned, be lost.
This is the way literature, drama and movies work: given a sufficiently credible opening to capture consciousness, the story takes over and we become entranced by the scenario presented by the images. [the Word Interrupt page, elsewhere on this site, can be used to experiment with 'lock up']. As an aside, Milton Erickson - father of conversational hypnosis - used presuppositional form extensively in his inductions.
Having said that a continuous stream of presuppositional speech cannot be integrated, it can be dealt with in other ways thus:
a. General Practice: continually asking oneself what a speaker is assuming - and challenging assumptions in 'real time' encounters - definitely helps.
b. Environment: being aware of the type of environments in which counterfeit presuppositions are likely to be encountered - and being particularly alert in such environments.
c. Keywords: learning the keywords that are commonly used in making presuppositions - opinionated adverbs/adjectives, change of time, change of place words, etc.
d. Structured Practice: taking one form from each of those given and using it oneself to actually make presuppositions/listening out for it for two or three days at a time (the technique advocate by some NLP schools).
e. Vehement interruption: especially when the first counterfeit presupposition in a potential stream is encountered.
Of these, a. and b. are likely to be the most practicable aids. Accordingly, therefore, it is important - particularly during the early stages of any encounter - that the listener tests the ground and pays particular attention to the presuppositions (plus direct assertions) of the speaker and IMMEDIATELY interrupts so as to prevent a breach once any counterfeit presupposition is detected - the interruption should be such as to contradict the false assumptions and disrupt the speaker's flow and his/her view of the world. For the reasons outlined in the previous paragraph, no listener should allow ANY speaker to rant on endlessly and every spurious presupposition should be met by a corresponding challenge at, or close to, the time it is uttered.
Once embarked upon, interruptions should be as vociferous and regular as needed: pleas for 'time to finish' should be entirely ignored when a speaker has been discovered (deviously) to be using counterfeit presuppositions. Counterfeit presuppositions should NEVER be allowed to compound since they will adversely affect the listener's point of view, or consciousness (see Sapir-Whorf theory), and cause the listener to commit to an illusory view an already vague world as presented by the speaker for the latter's own unspoken reasons.
To each of us, the world 'out there' is not as it is, it is as we think it is - and, like it or not, because we 'think' in words, what we think it is inevitably influenced by words.
If necessary, in extreme circumstances, the listener is advised, without reserve, to fight fire with fire and deliberately use honest complex forms of compounded presupposition in order to disrupt the speaker's position. There is enough ammunition in the present essay to enable any reader of average intelligence to do this by developing some pro forma configurations - but remember, since these are likely to be complex patterns, they will need practice.

Epilogue: Learning by Doing

In this essay, much emphasis has been placed upon the need for the reader to PRACTICE the process of identifying the assumptions underlying presuppositions and to become accustomed to listening out for, and challenging, counterfeit presuppositions in various environments. There is good reason for this. On the one hand - since presuppositions are normally structured in a complex manner and can come so fast as to be inaccessible to the conscious mind - this is futile advice. On the other, the practice will actually alert and train the subconscious mind in the identification of counterfeit presupposition: one that is achieved, the process will become automatic. the practice therefore is the most important element: once some degree of conscious competence is attained - by learning by doing - the reader need do no more, except but perhaps being aware of an uneasy feeling that something is wrong in certain situations & reapplying his conscious learning: destructive subconcious behaviours can only be reintegrated by making them conscious once again - and then reassimilated by forgetfulness.

Appendix I: More Presuppositional Forms & Examples

These forms are equally as 'valid' or 'effective' as those given previously insofar as the delivery of counterfeit presupposition is concerned. Each one is worthy of in depth examination in its own right - i.e. of observation of operation in the day to day world.
>Change of Place and State Verbs
By inferring change, these verbs imply that something was in one place/state and is now in another place/state - in other words that, as well as change having occurred, other places/states exist. For the purposes of example, place and state are split into two groups.
Place Change Examples:
a. When you LEFT the bank vault, where did you go next?
[you were in the bank vault & you went somewhere else]
b. Where are you going when you DEPART?
[you are/will be somewhere, are going to depart & you are going somewhere]
c. Before you ENTERED the arena, what was the last thing you saw?
[you entered the arena: you saw things in the place you were before you did - more than one thing as implied by 'last']
State Change Examples:
a. If Joe ASSUMES the form of a toad, that would be a surprise.
[Joe is not at present in the form of a toad]
b. I'll give you two minutes to CHANGE your mind on this.
[your mind is fixed in some particular state: it can change]
c. When you look at things in dim light, the illumination can be such as to MODIFY perception so that you don't quite see exactly what's taking place. You start to fill in the gaps and ASSUME things. Don't you think you could have done that?
[The presuppositions predicated in the first two sentences set up the question in the third: this is more like a real life form - the assumptions are that the place was dim, the listener's perception was modified and was him/herself assuming or making up things.]

Tactive Verbs and Adjectives
A strange bunch these - and note that all of them are expressions of some opinion on behalf of the speaker. As well as implying, this group divert attention. from the primary purpose of the sentence, to a secondary issue set up by means of using the particular verbs. This is best demonstrated by example:
a. Isn't it ODD that you should plan such a perfect robbery and yet make a simple mistake?
[the principle presuppositions lie in the second half of the sentence - yet there is a secondary, attention diverting one which makes it appear that the essential question is one about 'oddness'. The listener who responds by debating 'oddness' is bound by the trailing assumptions and is sunk.]
b. You have made several mistakes in your analysis: I wonder if you are AWARE what they are?
[the presuppositions lie in part 1: the matter of awareness is a secondary, diversionary one]
c. Do you not find it STRANGE that you have not REALISED yet that the more you attempt to mislead me, the more entangled in your own words you become.
[matters of (potentially false - at least opinion) strangeness and lack of realisation are at first implied - and an ongoing a process by the word 'yet' - followed by the main assumptions]
d. Some people might find it PECULIAR that you left your house at 3am.
[you left your house at 3am: this is implied as being peculiar in the speaker's view]

Commentary Adjectives and Adverbs
As suggested in the title, these words incorporate comment - and therefore opinion - on the part of the speaker. They operate in much the same fashion as the tactive modifiers, and accordingly only one or two examples are given:
a. UNFORTUNATELY for you, and LUCKILY for us, you left a key piece of evidence behind.
[you left a piece of evidence which the speaker regards as key: misfortune and luck are the speaker's personal opinion. It is implied that whatever the evidence is, it is good for him and bad for you.]
b. It is WONDERFUL that you can become aware of these experiences.
[you can become aware etc. The rest is the speaker's opinion - trying to imply the experience is good for you]

Rhetorical Questions
Questions that the speaker asks without the expectation of any answer.
a. Who cares if you jump in the lake?
[implies that nobody cares]
b. What's the point in me giving you all this information if you don't use it?
[implies there is no point: implies you don't use the information]
c. How are you going to discover the answer to the last question?
[implies there is a question and a means of discovering the answer]

Complex Adjectives of Time
EARLIER, FUTURE, FORMER, LATER, NEW, OLD, PRESENT, PREVIOUS and so on. Each of these implies that some other generic state of time can/does/did exist in tandem with certain (possibly) non-specific events.
a. I'd like you to remember your PREVIOUS experience of this now.
[present experience is implied in addition to the past one]
b. Your NEW outlook is for the better.
[you had an old outlook which wasn't 'for the better']
c. You didn't perform as badly as this, even when you were fired from your FORMER job.
[you are presently performing 'badly': you have a present job in which you are assumed to be performing worse - all relative/matters of judgement]

MORE, LESS, LONG, FAST, RIGHT, WRONG, BEST. Words ending in -ER/-EST and their roots.
These words, and there are a whole host of them, imply relativity of some feature - even though such might be misrepresented as some kind of absolute (the words represent speaker's assumption/opinion remember) AND they are non-specific. If there is 'more' of one thing that another, the implication is that the other thing is 'less'. If one thing is proposed as 'right' then the implication is that all others are 'wrong'. Similarly with longER/long/shorter, fastER/fast/slower, greatER/lesser, smallER/larger, tiniER/bigger, tallER/shorter and so on.
a. There aren't many bikes that are fastER than a Mazouwki.
[the Mazouwki is a 'fast' bike]
b. You took MORE than your fair share of the robbery proceeds.
[there was a robbery, and you took some of the proceeds & what is assumed 'more' than a 'fair' share - this implies that the proceeds were split and someone, or others, got 'less' than a fair share.]
c. You may find that leaning back in the chair makes you feel LESS uncomfortable.
[you are feeling 'uncomfortable']
d. It'll be for the BEST if you confess.
[not to confess is for the 'worst' & your state can be 'improved' by confession. Note the non specific definitions of 'best' and 'worst']
e. How LONG have you been suffering from heartburn?
[you are suffering from heartburn]

Comparative A AS< X >AS B
A and B are being compared, but in the comparison something is implied about the nature of A and/or B.
a. I hope you aren't AS screwed up AS your wife.
[your wife is screwed up - so are you by the implication provided by 'AS']
b. Bloggs is about AS funny AS and open grave.
[an open grave, by common agreement, is not funny: hence Bloggs is not funny]
c. When you are AS convinced by the evidence AS I am, then you will convict.
[the speaker is convinced by the evidence - so is the jury, but not AS much]

Ordinal Numerals
The statement that there is one (or more) numbers carries with it the implication that there are other numbers.
a. If you can find an ADDITIONAL nut to fit this bolt then we'll fix the engine.
[presuppose the existence of at least one other nut that fits the bolt]
b. I'm asking you for the THIRD time: 'Did you steal the cake?'
[you have already been asked twice]
c. NEXT time I come here, you'd better be gone.
[I am coming back here and intend returning]
d. ANOTHER thing to consider is your rate of breathing.
[there is/are some thing(s) to consider other than your rate of breathing]

These indicate number and can be used to generalise plurality, totality or absence. Examples are thus:
a. All the cheer leaders ate ice cream after the game.
[this implies there were a number of cheer leaders present after the game and then generalises that 'all' without exception ate ice cream: totality is implied]
b. Each of the cheer leaders ate ice cream after the game.
[again plurality is implied and totality generalised]
c. A few of the cheer leaders didn't eat ice cream after the game.
['few' is non-specific and thus a generalisation: the word also implies that more than a few - i.e. a majority - ate ice cream after the game]
d. None of the cheer leaders attended the game.
['None' is absolute - and implies by generalisation that they were not there, supporting any side, nor observing]
e. I won't be getting under your feet MUCH longer now my new flat is almost ready.
[implies that the speaker has 'been getting under your feet' for a long time]

Marking (by Voice Stress and Otherwise)
Used in isolation or in conjunction with the foregoing forms to place special emphasis on some particular word or group of words and thereby indicate, that in the view of the speaker, they have a particularly important meaning. This is often done in a supposedly 'knowing' way - as if the speaker were sharing some special, inside information with the listener(s).
The most common means of marking is by voice - the word(s) to be marked are uttered at a different volume, at a different pitch, are drawn out or heavily inflected, etc.
Alternatively, some other means of analogue marking might be used - rolling the eyes, nodding the head, hitting a table, tapping a foot, and so on.
a. I'll let you off for it THIS time.
[implies there have been/will be other times]
b. Do you mean your drove down here in the RED car?
[there are other colours - you could have used one of them]
c. I'm going to give you THREE REASONS why we need this contract.
[there may be other reasons: by emphasising - and calling them to attention - the speaker infers they have pre-eminence above all other reasons]
d. This is your LAST CHANCE.
[implies you have had other chances, also implies finality/importance]

Cleft Sentences
These begin with the words IT IS or IT WAS - followed by a noun argument: the form can be concatenated.
a. IT WAS next door's cat that dug the forty foot hole in our lawn.
[there is a hole in the lawn: unless there is evidence to demonstrate that the said cat dug the hole in the lawn, then the first part of the sentence is an out and out assumption by assertion]
b. IT IS next door's cat that is responsible for digging the forty foot hole in our lawn OR IT IS that dog from across the way.
[concatenated form]

Pseudo Cleft Sentences
These are arranged in the form WHAT IS . The form may be concatenated.
a. WHAT next door's cat needs IS dousing with a bucket of water to keep it out of here.
[again the assertion that 'next door's cat needs something' is a total assumption: it is further assumed that dousing with bucket of water will keep it out of here AND that it has been in here in the first place]
b. WHAT next door's cat needs AND that dog from across the way IS dousing with a bucket of water.
[concatenated form]

Complementary or Copulative Verbs
The copular or copulative verbs indicate a special case of relationship. They are used in a statement to allow an entity to be qualified in potentially elaborate manner and not to express a formal relationship. Notwithstanding this, these verbs do qualify their complement's existence.
[definition from ]
Verbs of this kind will use adjectives rather than adverbs as qualifiers. A reasonably exhaustive list of copulative verbs is: subjective complements: `be', `become', `grow', `get', `feel', 'stay', 'turn', 'speak', 'keep', `seem', `appear', `taste', `sound', `smell', `look', `remain', `act', `go', `turn': objective complements: `make', `prove', `imagine', `consider'.
In the majority of cases verbs of this class will be discovered in direct assertions - assertions which, although they might contain controversial assumptions, are generally simple to decode. The verbs of this type used in presuppositions are more likely to be verbs related to change - 'become', 'get', 'grow', 'turn', 'stay', 'remain', 'keep', etc: some of these have already been discussed in earlier forms. That being said, some of the other verbs, a few of which signify that non-attributable opinion is being/about to be expressed, also need to be considered..
a. When did you become frightened of the consequences?
[assumes change from non fear to fear by means of the verb of change 'become': implies current state is 'frightened', and that consequences exist]
b. How do you manage to appear so young?
[assumption is that you 'appear' young: that is an opinion, but note it is not attributable to anyone]
c. That sounds incredible.
[an assertion, but something sounds 'incredible' to someone: credibility is a matter of persuasion]
d. How is it possible to imagine that he is innocent?
[this question carries an implicit assumption of guilt - with the person imagining being neatly removed]
e. It is considered that Smith may be a liar.
[this is an assertion: who is 'considering' and by what measure are hidden assumptions]

Appendix II

What follows is a note by the author relating to conscious and subconscious communication in word and how words and meaning relate to 'things' in the broadest sense. This is closely related to the present Presuppositions page, indeed it was written in parallel with it, and is published here in its more or less original, speculative, rough form in order to provide interested readers with some food for thought on the topic of general language use, meaning and understanding. The note as written refers to communications in words between two or more parties: since a signifcant proportion of what we call 'thinking' takes place in words (i.e. in 'Internal Dialogue' also known as Audio-Internal-Digital or Aid mode in NLP terminology), what is presented will also have implications for how words connect with meaning in 'thought'.

Words and Meaning:
The best we can come to a 'real' meaning for anything in words is by a precise/concise 'scientific' description wherein all superlatives/relatives are dropped and the words and word forms used are, as far as possible, simple, unambiguous, and what everyone involved would agree to be 'fact'. (a lot of this is coming from work on the presupp paper wherein the implied assumptions in a communication - true or counterfeit - are transmitted as 'subconscious' or apriori fact.) The further one moves away from this stale 'fact', the further the 'word pattern' becomes detached from what we might agree to be its 'real' meaning - AND THE MORE ASSUMPTIONS/ PRESUPPOSITIONS THERE MUST NECESSARILY BE IN THE WORD SYSTEM. Hence, the more presuppositions there are in a communication/the more complex they are, the greater the proportion of/the greater the depth of the message transmitted at a subconscious level.

Divergence in Meaning:
More presuppositions means more assumptions made about the commonality of meaning between transmitter/receiver. These assumptions in 'fair' cases - which comprise by far and above the majority of communications - are subconscious.
Because it is impossible to transmit in words 'all' that is known about the content of a particular message/utterance, (ultimately, 'all' becomes the language system of the parties and how it relates to itself and the subject matter under consideration), every transmission made - and received - is necessarily incomplete and may be divided into conscious (semi-'deliberately' chosen/spoken) elements and subconscious (unspoken/implied) elements, the former residing in the surface wording, the latter in the nested presuppositions within the wording.
The more presuppositions (=assumptions) the sender makes, the more assumptions the receiver has to admit in order to decode the message - all subconsciously (in the normal, fair case). Because of differences in understanding of word/concept, and differences in the linguistic/image reference systems in general between the two parties, what is sent will not be what is received - and the discrepancy will be compounded in proportion to the number of assumptions (=presuppositions) made by the sender. Referring back to what is written above about words and meaning: "all superlatives/relatives are dropped and the words and word forms used are, as far as possible, simple, unambiguous, and what everyone involved would agree to be 'fact'." Combining the last two sentences and re-stating: THE CLEAREST COMMUNICATIONS ARE THOSE CONTAINING THE FEWEST PRESUPPOSITIONS. That is one property: others could be stated.

How we Communicate in Word
(This is partially a reiteration of the previous paragraph - included since it does throw light on A to B communications and explains things in a slightly different way).
The speaker 'chooses' the presuppositions (although this is usually a subconscious process), and the listener is presented with the task of 'understanding' them: this again is generally a subconscious process. In other words, the principal means of spoken communication is from subconscious to subconscious by means of implication carried in the language pattern. Accordingly, owing to differences in the coding systems that exist between various participants in a communication (e.g. meanings understood from various words/word groups, etc. - all of which are accessed automatically/subconciously), there will be differences in understanding between the sender and the receiver.

Counterfeit presuppositions cheat and short circuit the natural communication process to the benefit of the sender. In addition to the normal conscious to conscious, subconscious to subconscious messaging that takes place in an ordinary communication, a new element of conscious to subconscious direction takes place: this is a manipulative process introduced by the sender in order to deliberately influence the receiver subliminally.

Slang, cliché, generalisation, sentence fragments and aphorism all rely heavily upon implied meanings, which the speaker - and the listener (unless he challenges) - subconsciously accept: a) as presupposed fact and b) as being common in their systems of understanding. Since a) above depends upon b) - and b), owing to the different experiences, images, memories and hence different language conditioning of the participants, can never ultimately be true - the assumptions made in a) and b) are false in all but the broadest, lowest common denominator sense. Thus all but the very simplest communications in 'slang', or similar loosely defined systems, are likely to be fraught with misunderstanding at the subconscious level.


1 Argumentation Schemes for Presumptive Reasoning -Walton (Lawrence Erlbaum)
2 The Structure of Magic Vol 1 - Bandler & Grinder (Science and Behaviour Books)


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