The Grammatical View of Scalar Implicatures and the Relationship between Semantics and Pragmatics

Abstract
Recently there has been a lively revival of interest in implicatures, particularly scalar implicatures. Building on the resulting literature, our main goal in the present paper is to establish an empirical generalization, namely that SIs can occur systematically and freely in arbitrarily embedded positions. We are not so much concerned with the question whether drawing implicatures is a costly option (in terms of semantic processing, or of some other markedness measure). Nor are we specifically concerned with how implicatures come about (even though, to get going, we will have to make some specific assumptions on this matter). The focus of our discussion is testing the claim of the pervasive embeddability of SIs in just about any context, a claim that remains so far controversial. While our main goal is the establishment of an empirical generalization, if we succeed, a predominant view on the division of labor between semantics and pragmatics will have to be revised. A secondary goal of this paper is to hint at evidence that a revision is needed on independent grounds. But let us first present, in a rather impressionistic way, the reasons why a revision would be required if our main generalization on embedded SIs turns out to be correct. In the tradition stemming from Grice (1989), implicatures are considered a wholly pragmatic phenomenon and SIs are often used as paramount examples. Within such a tradition, 㳊 semantics is taken to deal with the compositional construction of sentence meaning (a term which we are using for now in a loose, non technical way), while pragmatics deals with how sentence meaning is actually put to use (i.e. enriched and possibly modified through reasoning about speakers’ intentions, contextually relevant information, etc.). Simply put, on this view pragmatics takes place at the level of complete utterances and pragmatic enrichments are a root phenomenon (something that happens globally to sentences) rather than a compositional one..
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Bernhard Nickel (2010). Generically Free Choice. Linguistics and Philosophy 33 (6):479-512.

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