Presuppositions in Language (9): Ordinal

The final type of presupposition to consider are those known as ‘Ordinal’. These imply a position in a list or a sequence, and the tip-off is when you see words like ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘third’, or ‘last’..

If somebody says, “I only closed the deal on the fourth meeting”, what’s presupposed in that statement? It doesn’t explicitly say that there were three meetings before that, but in order to make sense of the statement, you have to assume that there were three previous meetings.

A list or sequence can also be implied by the word ‘then’, as in this sequence of instructions: “Find the right customers, then find out their needs, then tell them how you can meet those needs”.

Here’s a way to use ordinal presuppositions: they’re great for coaches to embed learning, especially when combined with presuppositions of awareness. “It may not be until the third or fourth time it happens that you notice how much better you’ve become at asserting yourself” presupposes that even if you haven’t noticed it yet, the positive change could already be happening. This is also a good way for parents or managers to encourage someone who’s having doubts about a change, or about their abilities.

How will you use linguistic presuppositions? Think of a few ways you could use ordinal presuppositions (or if you’ve read the whole series now, linguistic presuppositions in general) in your life or work.

Hint: to come up with good ideas, first you have to start the process. It may take until the third or fourth idea you have that you discover something that will work, and it might only be later that you realise how good this idea for using presuppositions is.

Want to know all about NLP language patterns? This is the book you need: Practical NLP 2: Language (available in paperback or Kindle ebook format)

© 2023 – 2024, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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