Proposition query

Ron Kuzar (Dept. English, U Haifa, Israel) kuzar at RESEARCH.HAIFA.AC.IL
Fri Jan 23 18:09:53 UTC 2009

Dear Tahir,
I don't know of any theoretical sources of my own practice, but I use the term
proposition to capture the semantic common denominator of what may be
considered variants of the same sentence.
These might be sentence pattern variants, such as:
A child walked into the room.
There walk into the room a child.
Into the room walked a child.
Or information structure variants, such as:
The monkey peeled the banana.
The banana the monkey peeled.
It was the banana that the monkey peeled.
Or voice variants, such as:
The monkey peeled the banana.
The banana was peeled by the monkey.
Finally, also discourse variants, e.g. the same proposition with different
levels of directness or hedging.
In this view, the proposition is an abstraction that cannot have any concrete
manifestation, but you may decide, as a convenient convention, and after
uttering the appropriate caveats, to use the most unmarked variant to represent
Ron Kuzar
On Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:23:40 +0200
Tahir Wood <twood at UWC.AC.ZA> wrote:

> Hi folks
> Another query. It concerns the status of the proposition within linguistic
theory. I am aware that the proposition is an indispensable notion within Teun
van Dijk's theoretical work, but I can't recall if there is a really clear
theoretical definition of the proposition to be found.
> Kintsch (1998:69), for example, says that “propositions appear to be the
semantic processing units of the mind” and that they have only an indirect
relationship to the syntax of sentences, this because natural language has
“many purposes other than the expression of meaning”, whereas propositions are
those representations that are “focused on meaning”.
> This is indeed my point of departure but it doesn't exactly take us very far
theoretically. I'm working on the theoretical aspect but I don't want to
reinvent the wheel. If anyone can point me to a good theoretical discussion of
the proposition that would be useful -- particularly if it can be located
easliy on the web! -- I would be most grateful. I assume that, given the
complexion of this list, the definitions offered would tend to reflect
psychologism rather than logicism (as in Frege, Russell etc).
> BTW, as a small advertisement, following my query last year as to the
definition of pragmatics, which pragmatics journals might accept theoretical
discourse articles, etc., I can report that the theoretical article I was
working on at the time did in fact get accepted by the Journal of Pragmatics
and it can be viewed on their website in pre-publication form at
> Regards
> Tahir

Currently on sabbatical at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich,
Department of English,
Till February 28, 2009.
Phones: Home: +49-89-7230-9032, Mobile: +49-175-885-6215
email ron.kuzar at or the usual.
                       Dr. Ron Kuzar
Address:       Department of English Language and Literature
                       University of Haifa
                       IL-31905 Haifa, Israel
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