Obligatory Irrelevance and the Computation of Ignorance Inferences

Journal of Semantics (forthcoming)

Abstract
In recent work, Fox has argued, on the basis of both empirical and conceptual considerations, that relevance is closed under speaker belief: if $\phi $ is relevant, then it’s also relevant whether the speaker believes $\phi $. We provide a formally explicit implementation of this idea and explore its theoretical consequences and empirical predictions. As Fox already observes, one consequence is that ignorance inferences can only be derived in grammar, via a covert belief operator of the sort proposed by Meyer. We show, further, that the maxim of quantity no longer enriches the meaning of an utterance, per se, but rather acts as a filter on what can be relevant in an utterance context. In particular, certain alternatives are shown to be incapable of being relevant in any context where the maxim of quantity is active — a property we dub obligatory irrelevance. We show that the resulting system predicts a quite restricted range of interpretations for sentences with the scalar item some, as compared to both neo-Gricean and grammatical theories of scalar implicature, and we argue that these predictions seem largely on the right track.
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DOI 10.1093/jos/ffz013
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References found in this work BETA

Logic and Conversation.H. Paul Grice - 1975 - In Maite Ezcurdia & Robert J. Stainton (eds.), The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy. Broadview Press. pp. 47.
Quantity Implicatures.Bart Geurts - 2010 - Cambridge University Press.
Scalar Implicatures in Complex Sentences.Uli Sauerland - 2004 - Linguistics and Philosophy 27 (3):367-391.
On the Characterization of Alternatives.Danny Fox & Roni Katzir - 2011 - Natural Language Semantics 19 (1):87-107.

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