The why and how of experimental pragmatics: The case of 'scalar inferences'

Although a few pioneers in psycholinguistics had, for more than twenty years, approached various pragmatic issues experimentally, it is only in the past few years that investigators have begun employing the experimental method in testing pragmatic hypotheses (see Noveck & Sperber 2004). We see this emergence of a proper experimental pragmatics as an important advance with a great potential for further development. In this chapter we want to illustrate what can be done with experimental approaches to pragmatic issues by presenting one case, that of so-called ‘scalar inferences’, where the experimental method has helped sharpen a theoretical debate and has provided uniquely relevant evidence. We will focus on work done by the first author and his collaborators or work closely related to theirs, but other authors have also made important contributions to the topic (e.g. Papafragou and Musolino, 2003; Guasti, Chierchia, Crain, Foppolo, Gualmini, & Meroni, 2005; De Neys & Schaeken, in press).
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