Quantity, volubility, and some varieties of discourse

Linguistics and Philosophy 18 (1):83 - 112 (1995)
Grice's Quantity maxims have been widely misinterpreted as enjoining a speaker to make the strongest claim that she can, while respecting the other conversational maxims. Although many writers on the topic of conversational implicature interpret the Quantity maxims as enjoining such volubility, so construed the Quantity maxims are unreasonable norms for conversation. Appreciating this calls for attending more closely to the notion of what a conversation requires. When we do so, we see that eschewing an injunction to maximal informativeness need not deprive us of any ability to predict or explain genuine cases of implicature. Crucial to this explanation is an appreciation of how what a conversation, or a given stage of a conversation, requires, depends upon what kind of conversation is taking place. I close with an outline of this dependence relation that distinguishes among three importantly distinct types of conversation.
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