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What is a proposition?



A proposition is that part of the meaning of a clause or sentence that is constant, despite changes in such things as the voice or illocutionary force of the clause.


A proposition may be related to other units of its kind through interpropositional relations, such as temporal relations and logical relations.


The meaning of the term proposition is extended by some analysts to include the meaning content of units within the clause.


The tall, stately building fell is said to express propositions corresponding to the following:

  • "The building is tall."
  • "The building is stately."
  • "The building fell."
Examples (English)
  • The common content of each of the the following utterances is a proposition:

    • Alec ate the banana.
    • The banana was eaten by Alec.
    • Did Alec eat the banana?
    • Alec, eat the banana.

    All these utterances may be analyzed as consisting of a predicate naming an event or state and one or more arguments naming referents that participate in that event or state.

    • The activity is eat.
    • The agent is Alec.
    • The patient is a banana.
    Adapted from:

    Fleming 1988 53–57

      Here is a kind of proposition:

    Crystal 1985 249


    Mish 1991 944


    Searle and Vanderveken 1985 1


    Hollenbach 1975 2


    Fleming 1988 27, 53–57


    Beekman and Callow 1974 287–288

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