Availability of Alternatives and the Processing of Scalar Implicatures: A Visual World Eye‐Tracking Study

Cognitive Science 40 (1):172-201 (2016)
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Two visual world experiments investigated the processing of the implicature associated with some using a “gumball paradigm.” On each trial, participants saw an image of a gumball machine with an upper chamber with orange and blue gumballs and an empty lower chamber. Gumballs dropped to the lower chamber, creating a contrast between a partitioned set of gumballs of one color and an unpartitioned set of the other. Participants then evaluated spoken statements, such as “You got some of the blue gumballs.” Experiment 1 investigated the time course of the pragmatic enrichment from some to not all when the only utterance alternatives available to refer to the different sets were some and all. In Experiment 2, the number terms two, three, four, and five were also included in the set of alternatives. Scalar implicatures were delayed relative to the interpretation of literal statements with all only when number terms were available. The results are interpreted as evidence for a constraint-based account of scalar implicature processing



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