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Implicature

Edited by Brian Robinson (Michigan State University)
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Summary Paul Grice coined the term 'implicature' and its two sub-categories: conventional implicature and conversational implicature. Implicatures are what a speaker meant in addition to or instead of what was literally said. Grice originally intended implicature to serve as a gap between what a speaker said and what a speaker meant, since speakers regularly do mean more than (or something contrary to) what they literally said. While many except that implicatures fit in that gap, it is debated that they do not completely fill it. Since Grice, neo-Griceans have made various emendations to the notion of implicature. Others, have sought to account for roughly the same phenomena by different theoretical means, chiefly Relevance theorists, such as Sperber and Wilson. 
Key works The first, and most important key work is Grice's "Logic and Conversation" in Grice 1989, in which Grice lays out the initial account of implicature. Neale 1992 provides a lengthy, but thorough summary of that theory. Bach has two seminal articles on conversational implicature (Bach 1994) and conventional implicature (Bach 1999). Davis offers his arguments for the failure of the Gricean theory of implicature in Davis 1998.
Introductions Grice 1989  Grandy 1989  Neale 1992
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  1. Barbara Abbott, Andrew Kehler & Gregory Ward, A Note on Kehler & Ward (2006).
    expression that indicates hearer-familiarity conversationally implicates that the referent is in fact nonfamiliar to the hearer” (KW 177, emphasis in original, footnote added). The purpose of this note is two-fold: first, to look more closely at the proposed implicature; and second, to clarify its relation to a different implicature – a scalar implicature of nonuniqueness resulting from use of the indefinite rather than the definite article, which was proposed by Hawkins (1991). In the first section below we distinguish explicit from (...)
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  2. Catharine Abell (2005). Pictorial Implicature. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (1):55–66.
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  3. Jay David Atlas (2005). Logic, Meaning, and Conversation: Semantical Underdeterminacy, Implicature, and Their Interface. Oxford University Press.
    This fresh look at the philosophy of language focuses on the interface between a theory of literal meaning and pragmatics--a philosophical examination of the relationship between meaning and language use and its contexts. Here, Atlas develops the contrast between verbal ambiguity and verbal generality, works out a detailed theory of conversational inference using the work of Paul Grice on Implicature as a starting point, and gives an account of their interface as an example of the relationship between Chomsky's Internalist Semantics (...)
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  4. Kent Bach, Impliciture Vs. Explicature: What's the Difference?
    I am often asked to explain the difference between my notion of impliciture (Bach 1994) and the relevance theorists’ notion of explicature (Sperber and Wilson 1986; Carston 2002). Despite the differences between the theoretical frameworks within which they operate, the two notions seem very similar. Relevance theorists describe explicatures as “developments of logical forms,” whereas I think of implicitures as “expansions” or “completions” of semantic contents (depending on whether or not the sentence’s semantic content amounts to a proposition). That is (...)
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  5. Kent Bach, Ten More Misconceptions About Implicature.
    1. Sentences have implicatures. (11, 14, 19)** 2. Implicatures are inferences. (12. 14) 3. Implicatures can’t be entailments. 4. Gricean maxims apply only to implicatures. (16, 17) 5. For what is implicated to be figured out, what is said must be determined first. (12, 13) 6. All pragmatic implications are implicatures. 7. Implicatures are not part of the truth-conditional contents of utterances. (20) 8. If something is meant but unsaid, it must be implicated. (20) 9. Scalar “implicatures” are implicatures. (11) (...)
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  6. Kent Bach (2007). Literal Meaning. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):487-492.
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  7. Kent Bach (2006). Review of Christopher Potts, The Logic of Conventional Implicatures. Journal of Linguistics 42 (2).
    Paul Grice warned that ‘the nature of conventional implicature needs to be examined before any free use of it, for explanatory purposes, can be indulged in’ (1978/1989: 46). Christopher Potts heeds this warning, brilliantly and boldly. Starting with a definition drawn from Grice’s few brief remarks on the subject, he distinguishes conventional implicature from other phenomena with which it might be confused, identifies a variety of common but little-studied kinds of expressions that give rise to it, and develops a formal, (...)
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  8. Rod Bertolet (1983). Where Do Implicatures Come From? Canadian Journal of Philosophy 13 (2):181 - 191.
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  9. Anne Bezuidenhout (2015). The Implicit Dimension of Meaning: Ways of “Filling In” and “Filling Out” Content. Erkenntnis 80 (1):89-109.
    I distinguish between the classical Gricean approach to conversational implicatures , which I call the action-theoretic approach, and the approach to CIs taken in contemporary cognitive science. Once we free ourselves from the AT account, and see implicating as a form of what I call “conversational tailoring”, we can more easily see the many different ways that CIs arise in conversation. I will show that they arise not only on the basis of a speaker’s utterance of complete sentences but also (...)
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  10. Anne Bezuidenhout (2002). Generalized Conversational Implicatures and Default Pragmatic Inferences. In Joseph K. Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & David Shier (eds.), Meaning and Truth - Investigations in Philosophical Semantics. Seven Bridges Press. 257--283.
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  11. Claudia Bianchi (2013). Pragmatics of Speech Actions, Handbooks of Pragmatics (HoPs) Vol. 2.
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  12. Emma Borg (2009). Semantics and the Place of Psychological Evidence. In Sarah Sawyer (ed.), New Waves in Philosophy of Language. Palgrave Macmillan.
    Minimal semantics is sometimes characterised as a ‘neo-Gricean’ approach to meaning. This label seems reasonable since a key claim of minimal semantics is that the minimal contents possessed by sentences (akin to Grice’s technical notion of ‘what is said by a sentence’) need not be (and usually are not) what is communicated by a speaker who utters those sentences. However, given an affinity between the two approaches, we might expect that a well-known challenge for the Gricean – namely that their (...)
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  13. Jose E. Chaves, Grice's What is Said Revisited. A Plea for a New Variety of Minimalism.
    Grice has been considered a linguistic minimalist. However, as I will show, this interpretation is incompatible with Grice’s proposal of conventional implicatures and with some of his less popular views such as his explanation of loose uses (Grice 1978/1989: 45; X) or his later acknowledgement of cases in which something is said without being conventionally meant (Grice 1987/1989: 359). Bearing in mind these proposals and the distinction between formality and dictiveness, I will present a new approach to the notion of (...)
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  14. E. Chemla & B. Spector (2011). Experimental Evidence for Embedded Scalar Implicatures. Journal of Semantics 28 (3):359-400.
    Scalar implicatures are traditionally viewed as pragmatic inferences that result from a reasoning about speakers' communicative intentions (Grice 1989). This view has been challenged in recent years by theories that propose that scalar implicatures are a grammatical phenomenon. Such theories claim that scalar implicatures can be computed in embedded positions and enter into the recursive computation of meaning—something that is not expected under the traditional pragmatic view. Recently, Geurts and Pouscoulous (2009) presented an experimental study in which embedded scalar implicatures (...)
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  15. Arnold Chien (2008). Scalar Implicature and Contrastive Explanation. Synthese 161 (1):47 - 66.
    I argue for a subsumption of any version of Grice’s first quantity maxim posited to underlie scalar implicature, by developing the idea of implicature recovery as a kind of explanatory inference, as e.g. in science. I take the applicable model to be contrastive explanation, while following van Fraassen’s analysis of explanation as an answer to a why-question. A scalar implicature is embedded in such an answer, one that meets two probabilistic constraints: the probability of the answer, and ‘favoring’. I argue (...)
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  16. Carleton B. Christensen (1997). Meaning Things and Meaning Others. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57 (3):495-522.
    At least phenomenologically the way communicative acts reveal intentions is different from the way non-communicative acts do this: the former have an "addressed" character which the latter do not. The paper argues that this difference is a real one, reflecting the irreducibly "conventional" character of human communication. It attempts to show this through a critical analysis of the Gricean programme and its methodologically individualist attempt to explain the "conventional" as derivative from the "non-conventional". It is shown how in order to (...)
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  17. Eros Corazza (2012). Same-Saying, Pluri-Propositionalism, and Implicatures. Mind and Language 27 (5):546-569.
    In combining a pluri‐propositionalist framework concerning alleged conventional implicatures, and a pluri‐propositionalist framework distinguishing various levels of content associated with a single utterance, I defend a Grice‐inspired model of communication. In so doing, I rely on the distinction between what is said, i.e. what is semantically encoded, and what is pragmatically implicated. I show how the notion of same‐saying plays a central role in dealing with problems pertaining to communication insofar as it permits us to posit a stability of content (...)
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  18. Stephen Crain, The Acquisition of Disjunction: Evidence for a Grammatical View of Scalar Implicatures.
    This paper investigates young children's knowledge of scalar implicatures and downward entailment. In previous experimental work, we have shown that young children access the full range of truth-conditions associated with logical words in classical logic, including the disjunction operator, as well as the indefinite article. The present study extends this research in three ways, taking disjunction as a case study. Experiment 1 draws upon the observation that scalar implicatures (SIs) are cancelled (or reversed) in downward entailing (DE) linguistic environments, e.g., (...)
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  19. Chris Cummins, Uli Sauerland & Stephanie Solt (2012). Granularity and Scalar Implicature in Numerical Expressions. Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (2):135-169.
    It has been generally assumed that certain categories of numerical expressions, such as ‘more than n’, ‘at least n’, and ‘fewer than n’, systematically fail to give rise to scalar implicatures in unembedded declarative contexts. Various proposals have been developed to explain this perceived absence. In this paper, we consider the relevance of scale granularity to scalar implicature, and make two novel predictions: first, that scalar implicatures are in fact available from these numerical expressions at the appropriate granularity level, and (...)
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  20. Donald Davidson (1985). Reply to Paul Grice and Judith Baker. In Bruce Vermazen & Merrill B. Hintikka (eds.), Essays on Davidson: Actions and Events. Oxford University Press. 201--207.
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  21. Wayne Davis, Implicature. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  22. Wayne A. Davis (2013). Grice's Razor and Epistemic Invariantism. Journal of Philosophical Research 38:147-176.
    Grice’s Razor is a methodological principle that many philosophers and linguists have used to help justify pragmatic explanations of linguistic phenomena over semantic explanations. A number of authors in the debate over contextualism argue that an invariant semantics together with Grice’s (1975) conversational principles can account for the contextual variability of knowledge claims. I show here that the defense of Grice’s Razor found in these “Gricean invariantists,” and its use against epistemic contextualism, display all the problems pointed out earlier in (...)
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  23. Jessica de Villiers & Robert J. Stainton, Differential Pragmatic Abilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Case of Pragmatic Determinants of Literal Content.
    It has become something of a truism that people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have difficulties with pragmatics. Granting this, however, it is important to keep in mind that there are numerous kinds of pragmatic ability. One very important divide lies between those pragmatic competences which pertain to non-literal contents – as in, for instance, metaphor, irony and Gricean conversational implicatures – and those which pertain to the literal contents of speech acts. It is against this backdrop that our question (...)
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  24. Friedrich Christoph Doerge & Mark Siebel (2008). Gricean Communication and Transmission of Thoughts. Erkenntnis 69 (1):55 - 67.
    Gricean communication is communication between utterers and their audiences, where the utterer means something and the audience understands what is meant. The weak transmission idea is that, whenever such communication takes place, there is something which is transmitted from utterer to audience; the strong transmission idea adds that what is transmitted is nothing else than what is communicated. We try to salvage these ideas from a seemingly forceful attack by Wayne Davis. Davis attaches too much significance to the surface structure (...)
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  25. John Eriksson (2011). Straight Talk: Conceptions of Sincerity in Speech. Philosophical Studies 153 (2):213-234.
    What is it for a speech act to be sincere? The most common answer amongst philosophers is that a speech act is sincere if and only if the speaker is in the state of mind that the speech act functions to express. However, a number of philosophers have advanced counterexamples purporting to demonstrate that having the expressed state of mind is neither necessary nor sufficient for speaking sincerely. One may nevertheless doubt whether these considerations refute the orthodox conception. Instead, it (...)
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  26. Martina Faller (2012). Evidential Scalar Implicatures. Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (4):285-312.
    This paper develops an analysis of a scalar implicature that is induced by the use of reportative evidentials such as the Cuzco Quechua enclitic = si and the German modal sollen. Reportatives, in addition to specifying the speaker’s source of information for a statement as a report by someone else, also usually convey that the speaker does not have direct evidence for the proposition expressed. While this type of implicature can be calculated using the same kind of Gricean reasoning that (...)
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  27. Tim Fernando, Three Processes in Natural Language Interpretation.
    To address complications involving ambiguity, presupposition and implicature, three processes underlying natural language interpretation are isolated: translation, entailment and attunement. A meta-language integrating these processes is outlined, elaborating on a proof-theoretic approach to presupposition.
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  28. Danny Fox, Implicature Calculation, Only, and Lumping: Another Look at the Puzzle of Disjunction.
    Principles of communication allow the listener to infer (upon hearing (1) that unless the speaker believed that (1alt) were false, the speaker would have uttered (1alt).
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  29. Danny Fox, Implicature Calculation, Pragmatics or Syntax, or Both?
    The neo-Gricean account: the source of these scalar implicatures is a reasoning process (undertaken by the hearer), which culminates in an inference about the belief state of the speaker.
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  30. Danny Fox, Free Choice and the Theory of Scalar Implicatures* MIT,.
    This paper will be concerned with the conjunctive interpretation of a family of disjunctive constructions. The relevant conjunctive interpretation, sometimes referred to as a “free choice effect,” (FC) is attested when a disjunctive sentence is embedded under an existential modal operator. I will provide evidence that the relevant generalization extends (with some caveats) to all constructions in which a disjunctive sentence appears under the scope of an existential quantifier, as well as to seemingly unrelated constructions in which conjunction appears under (...)
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  31. Danny Fox & Roni Katzir (2011). On the Characterization of Alternatives. Natural Language Semantics 19 (1):87-107.
    We present an argument for revising the theory of alternatives for Scalar Implicatures and for Association with Focus. We argue that in both cases the alternatives are determined in the same way, as a contextual restriction of the focus value of the sentence, which, in turn, is defined in structure-sensitive terms. We provide evidence that contextual restriction is subject to a constraint that prevents it from discriminating between alternatives when they stand in a particular logical relationship with the assertion or (...)
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  32. Elizabeth Fricker (2012). Stating and Insinuating. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 86 (1):61-94.
    An utterer may convey a message to her intended audience by means of an explicit statement; or by a non-conventionally mediated one-off signal from which the audience is able to work out the intended message; or by conversational implicature. I investigate whether the last two are equivalent to explicit testifying, as communicative act and epistemic source. I find that there are important differences between explicit statement and insinuation; only with the first does the utterer assume full responsibility for the truth (...)
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  33. Jon R. Gajewski (2011). Licensing Strong NPIs. Natural Language Semantics 19 (2):109-148.
    This paper proposes that both weak and strong NPIs in English are sensitive to the downward entailingness of their licensers. It is also proposed, however, that these two types of NPIs pay attention to different aspects of the meaning of their environment. As observed by von Fintel and Chierchia, weak NPIs do not attend to the scalar implicatures of presuppositions of their licensers. Strong NPIs see both the truth-conditional and non-truth-conditional (scalar implications, presuppositions) meaning of their licensers. This theory accounts (...)
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  34. Jon Gajewski & Yael Sharvit (2012). In Defense of the Grammatical Approach to Local Implicatures. Natural Language Semantics 20 (1):31-57.
    The existence of “local implicatures” has been the topic of much recent debate. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to this debate by asking what we can learn from three puzzles, namely, the cancellation of such implicatures by or both, their behavior in the complement clauses of negative factive verbs such as sorry, and their behavior in root and embedded questions. Two basic approaches to local implicatures have been advanced: a fully pragmatic account in which local implicatures result (...)
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  35. Noah D. Goodman & Andreas Stuhlmüller (2013). Knowledge and Implicature: Modeling Language Understanding as Social Cognition. Topics in Cognitive Science 5 (1):173-184.
    Is language understanding a special case of social cognition? To help evaluate this view, we can formalize it as the rational speech-act theory: Listeners assume that speakers choose their utterances approximately optimally, and listeners interpret an utterance by using Bayesian inference to “invert” this model of the speaker. We apply this framework to model scalar implicature (“some” implies “not all,” and “N” implies “not more than N”). This model predicts an interaction between the speaker's knowledge state and the listener's interpretation. (...)
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  36. Richard E. Grandy (1989). On Grice on Language. Journal of Philosophy 86 (10):514-525.
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  37. Owen Greenhall (2008). Against Chierchia's Computational Account of Scalar Implicatures. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (1pt3):373-384.
    Recent theories of scalar implicature, such as that proposed by Gennaro Chierchia, have sought to bring them within the domain of compositional semantic theory. These approaches contrast with standard pragmatic explanations of the phenomena in that implicatures are calculated by default and are computed locally. One motivation for Chierchia's approach, the purported connection between the computation of scalar implicatures and 'any'-licensing polarity items, is shown to be weak. Difficulties are then presented for his approach which are not shared by the (...)
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  38. H. Paul Grice, [In: Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3, Speech Acts, Ed. By Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan.
    [p. 45] I wish to represent a certain subclass of nonconventional implicatures, which I shall call CONVERSATIONAL implicatures, as being essentially connected with certain general features of discourse; so my next step is to try to say what these features are. The following may provide a first approximation to a general principle. Our talk exchanges do not normally consist of a succession of disconnected remarks, and would not be rational if they did. They are characteristically, to some degree at least, (...)
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  39. Herbert Paul Grice (1967/1987). Logic and Conversation. In Paul Grice (ed.), Studies in the Way of Words. Harvard University Press. 41-58.
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  40. Atle Grønn & Kjell Johan Sæbø (2012). A, The, Another: A Game of Same and Different. [REVIEW] Journal of Logic, Language and Information 21 (1):75-95.
    Indefinites face competition at two levels: Presupposition and content. The antipresupposition hypothesis predicts that they signal the opposite of familiarity, or uniqueness, namely, novelty, or non-uniqueness. At the level of descriptive content, they are pressured from two sides: definites expressing identity and another phrases expressing difference, and Gricean reasoning predicts that indefinites signal both difference and identity and are infelicitous when definites and another phrases are felicitous. However, occasionally a space opens between the and another, for a to fill. This (...)
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  41. Allan Hazlett (2007). Grice's Razor. Metaphilosophy 38 (5):669-690.
    Grice’s Razor is a principle of parsimony which states a preference for linguistic explanations in terms of conversational implicature, to explanations in terms of semantic context-dependence. Here I propose a Gricean theory of knowledge attributions, and contend on the basis of Grice’s Razor that it is superior to contextualism about ‘knows’.
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  42. Larry Horn, Implicature.
    1. Implicature: some basic oppositions IMPLICATURE is a component of speaker meaning that constitutes an aspect of what is meant in a speaker’s utterance without being part of what is said. What a speaker intends to communicate is characteristically far richer than what she directly expresses; linguistic meaning radically underdetermines the message conveyed and understood. Speaker S tacitly exploits pragmatic principles to bridge this gap and counts on hearer H to invoke the same principles for the purposes of utterance interpretation. (...)
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  43. Michael Israel (1996). Scalar Implicature as Lexical Semantics. Linguistics and Philosophy 19:619-666.
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  44. Mark Jary (2013). Two Types of Implicature: Material and Behavioural. Mind and Language 28 (5):638-660.
    This article argues that what Grice termed ‘particularized conversational implicatures’ can be divided into two types. In some cases, it is possible to reconstruct the inference from the explicit content of the utterance to the implicature without employing a premise to the effect that that the speaker expressed that content (by means of an utterance). I call these ‘material implicatures’. Those whose reconstruction relies on a premise about the speaker's verbal behaviour, by contrast, I call ‘behavioural implicatures’. After showing that (...)
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  45. Rodrigo Jungmann (2011). The Implicature Theory: A Case Study. Principia 14 (3):405-419.
    Várias tentativas foram feitas pelos teóricos da referência direta para acomodar o dado intuitivo da opacidade referencial— a não ocorrência de substituição mútua salva veritate de nomes próprios co-referenciais nas orações subordinadas, precedidas por ‘que’, nas orações em que se atribuem atitudes proposicionais. A teoria defendida por Nathan Salmon, em seu livro de 1986 Frege’s Puzzle , é provavelmente a versão mais bem elaborada daquilo a que adiante nos referimos como ‘a Teoria Implicativa’. Salmon sustenta que a opacidade referencial é (...)
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  46. Napoleon Katsos (2008). The Semantics/Pragmatics Interface From an Experimental Perspective: The Case of Scalar Implicature. Synthese 165 (3):385 - 401.
    In this paper I discuss some of the criteria that are widely used in the linguistic and philosophical literature to classify an aspect of meaning as either semantic or pragmatic. With regards to the case of scalar implicature (e.g. some Fs are G implying that not all Fs are G), these criteria are not ultimately conclusive, either in the results of their application, or in the interpretation of the results with regards to the semantics/pragmatics distinction (or in both). I propose (...)
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  47. Danny Fox Roni Katzir, On the Characterization of Alternatives.
    The computation of both Scalar Implicatures (SI) and Association with Focus (AF) is characterized with reference to sets of alternatives. However, it has generally been assumed that the relevant alternatives are determined in different ways for the two processes. Specifically, it has been assumed that the alternatives for SI – scalar alternatives – are computed by a special procedure specifically designed for implicatures, whereas the alternatives for AF – focus alternatives – are determined by the general theory of association with (...)
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  48. Andreas Kemmerling (1986). Utterer's Meaning Revisited. In Richard E. Grandy & Richard Warner (eds.), Philosophical Grounds of Rationality: Intentions, Categories, Ends. Oxford University Press. 131--55.
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  49. Nathan Klinedinst, Exhaustivity in Questions with Non-Factives.
    This paper is concerned with the conditions under which a person can be said to have told someone or predicted (the answer to a question like) ‘who came’.
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  50. Kepa Korta, Implicitures: Cancelability and Non-Detachability.
    Grice’s so-called ‘theory of conversation’ (Grice 1967a) establishes a basic distinction between two aspects of utterance meaning: what is said and what is implicated. Some authors (Carston (1988), Recanati (1989), Sperber and Wilson (1986)) have criticized this distinction and, particularly, its application to the pragmatic analysis of several linguistic phenomena, giving rise to an interesting debate on the delimitation of the different aspects of utterance meaning. Bach (1994) enters the discussion with a proposal of revision of Grice’s original distinction, including (...)
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