This book revives the study of conventional implicatures in natural language semantics. H. Paul Grice first defined the concept. Since then his definition has seen much use and many redefinitions, but it has never enjoyed a stable place in linguistic theory. Christopher Potts returns to the original and uses it as a key into two presently under-studied areas of natural language: supplements and expressives. The account of both depends on a theory in which sentence meanings can be multidimensional. The theory (...) is logically and intuitively compositional, and it minimally extends a familiar kind of intensional logic, thereby providing an adaptable, highly useful tool for semantic analysis. The result is a linguistic theory that is accessible not only to linguists of all stripes, but also philosophers of language, logicians, and computer scientists who have linguistic applications in mind. (shrink)
Expressives like damn and bastard have, when uttered, an immediate and powerful impact on the context. They are performative, often destructively so. They are revealing of the perspective from which the utterance is made, and they can have a dramatic impact on how current and future utterances are perceived. This, despite the fact that speakers are invariably hard-pressed to articulate what they mean. I develop a general theory of these volatile, indispensable meanings. The theory is built around a class of (...) expressive indices. These determine the expressive setting of the context of interpretation. Expressives morphemes act on that context, actively changing its expressive setting. The theory is multidimensional in the sense that descriptives and expressives are fundamentally different but receive a unified logical treatment. (shrink)
Grice coined the term ‘conventional implicature’ in a short passage in ‘Logic and conversation’. The description is intuitive and deeply intriguing. The range of phenomena that have since been assigned this label is large and diverse. I survey the central factual motivation, arguing that it is loosely uni- fied by the idea that conventional implicatures contribute a separate dimen- sion of meaning. I provide tests for distinguishing conventional implicatures from other kinds of meaning, and I briefly explore ways in which (...) one can incorporate multiple dimensions of meaning into a single theory. (shrink)
Much earlier work claims that appositives and expressives are invariably speaker-oriented. These claims have recently been challenged, most extensively by Amaral et al. (Linguist and Philos 30(6): 707–749, 2007). We are convinced by this new evidence. The questions we address are (i) how widespread are non-speaker-oriented readings of appositives and expressives, and (ii) what are the underlying linguistic factors that make such readings available? We present two experiments and novel corpus work that bear directly on this issue. We find that (...) non-speaker-oriented readings, while rare in actual language use, are systematic. We also find that non-speaker-oriented readings occur even outside of attitude predications, which leads us to favor an account based in pragmatically-mediated perspective shifting over one that relies on semantic binding by attitude predicates. (shrink)
This article presents evidence that individual words and phrases can contribute multiple independent pieces of meaning simultaneously. Such multidimensionality is a unifying theme of the literature on conventional implicatures and expressives. I use phenomena from discourse, semantic composition, and morphosyntax to detect and explore various dimensions of meaning. I also argue that, while the meanings involved are semantically independent, they interact pragmatically to reduce underspecification and fuel pragmatic enrichment. In this article, the central case studies are appositives like Falk, the (...) CEO, and the taboo intensive damn, though discourse particles and connectives like but, even, and still play supporting roles. The primary evidence, both quantitative and qualitative, is drawn from large interview and product-review corpora, which harbor a wealth of information about the importance of these items to discourse. (shrink)
We present diverse evidence for the claim of Pullum and Rawlins (2007) that expressives behave differently from descriptives in constructions that enforce a particular kind of semantic identity between elements. Our data are drawn from a wide variety of languages and construction types, and they point uniformly to a basic linguistic distinction between descriptive content and expressive content (Kaplan 1999; Potts 2007).
We analyze expressive small clauses like you fool (and their counterparts in other languages) as contributors of expressive content. Independently known restrictions on expressive content in turn allow us to derive their limited distribution. The theory has ramifications for child language. It correctly predicts which root-level small clauses will survive into adult grammar and which will be blocked by the acquisition of higher functional projections. It also opens the way to an analysis of children’s one- and two-word utterances as denoting (...) expressive, rather than straightforwardly propositional, content. (shrink)
Call even, only, and own repair particles, and the effect they have of broadening the coreference possibilities in cases like (1b-d) the repair phenomenon. Importantly, although the repair particles are also focus particles, the repair phenomenon cannot be equated with focus: focusing either clients or his in (1a), in an attempt to reproduce the readings in (1b-d), is not sufficient to repair the crossover violation.
The most conceptually drastic change in natural language syntactic theory in recent years is the introduction of economy conditions (ECs). Although there is not a unified formal notion of economy, the intuition is that natural languages are governed by a general “less is more” principle. Those who take this seriously, and regard it not just as principle guiding the researcher but as something to be implemented directly in grammars, are often led to comparative economy conditions (comparative ECs), which select from (...) a set of structures the most economical among them according to some criterion. Such conditions are associated with the Minimalist Program (MP), but they are found also in Optimality Theory (OT) and Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG).1 The following is a sample of the prominent works mentioning ‘economy’. (shrink)
In the 1950s, Chomsky and his colleagues began attempts to reduce the complexity of natural language phonology and syntax to a few general principles. It wasn’t long before philosophers, notably John Searle and H. Paul Grice, started looking for ways to do the same for rational communication (Chapman 2005). In his 1967 William James Lectures, Grice presented a loose optimization system based on his maxims of conversation. The resulting papers (especially Grice 1975) strike a fruitful balance between intuitive exploration and (...) formal development. Though the work is not particularly formal, it marks the birth of modern formal pragmatics. Pragmatics is central to the theory of linguistic meaning because, to paraphrase Levinson (2000), the encoded content of the sentences we utter is only the barest sketch of what we actually communicate with those utterances. Utterance interpretation involves complex interactions among (i) semantic content, (ii) the context of utterance, and (iii) general pragmatic pressures (of which Grice’s maxims are one conception). The starting point for a formal pragmatics is the observation that speakers agree to a remarkable extent on the interpretations of the utterances they hear, suggesting that there are deep regularities across speakers, utterance contexts, and sentence types in how (i)–(iii) interact. An overarching challenge for pragmatic theory is that semantic content and the context of utterance influence each other. It is common, for instance, to find that the meaning of a sentence is crucially incomplete without contextual information. Indexicals and demonstratives are paradigm cases: ‘I am here now’ doesn’t have a fully specified denotation without information about who the speaker is, when he is speaking, and where he is speaking. Similarly, modal auxiliaries like must admit of a wide range of interpretations.. (shrink)
This commentary argues that linguistic cooperation is essential even in discourse situations in which the nonlinguistic preferences of the participants are misaligned. The central examples involve indirect answers to direct questions. The analysis builds on the work of Asher and Lascarides, without, though retreating from the axioms of cooperativity as hastily as they do in the workshop paper (Asher & Lascarides 2008). I also argue (section 4) that discourse coherence and inferences from the common ground can account for much pragmatic (...) enrichment. (shrink)
It seems unlikely that there will ever be consensus about the extent to which we can reliably distinguish semantic phenomena from pragmatic phenomena. But there is now broad agreement that a sentence's meaning can be given in full only when it is studied in its natural habitat: as part of an utterance by an agent who intends it to communicate a message. Here, we document some of the interactions that such study has uncovered. In every case, to achieve even a (...) basic description, it is necessary to pool semantic information, contextual information, speaker intentions, and general pragmatic pressures. (shrink)
Harmonic Grammar (HG) is a model of linguistic constraint interaction in which well-formedness is calculated as the sum of weighted constraint violations. We show how linear programming algorithms can be used to determine whether there is a weighting for a set of constraints that fits a set of linguistic data. The associated software package OT-Help provides a practical tool for studying large and complex linguistic systems in the HG framework and comparing the results with those of OT. We describe the (...) translation from Harmonic Grammars to systems solvable by linear programming, and we illustrate the usefulness of OT-Help with a set of studies of the predictions HG makes for phonological typology. (shrink)
We use large collections of online product reviews, in Chinese, English, German, and Japanese, to study the use conditions of expressives (swears, antihonorifics, intensives). The distributional evidence provides quantitative support for a pragmatic theory of these items that is based in speaker and hearer expectations.
The history of conventional implicatures is rocky, their current status uncertain. So it seems wise to return to their source and start afresh, with an open-minded reading of the original definition (Grice 1975) and an eye open for novel factual support. Suppose the textbook examples (therefore, even, but and its synonyms) disappeared. Where would conventional implicatures be then? This book’s primary descriptive claim is that they would still enjoy widespread factual support. I match this with a theoretical proposal: if we (...) move just a few years forward from the genesis of CIs, we find in Karttunen and Peters’ (1979) multidimensional semantics the basis for an ideal description logic. (shrink)
Paul Grice seems to have led a quintessentially academic life — a life spent jotting notes, giving lectures, reading, talking, and arguing with his past self and with others. In virtue of his age and station, he remained largely at the fringes of the great battles of his day — World War II and the clash of the positivists with the ordinary language group. There are no grand family tensions `a la Russell, nor any deep psychoses `a la Wittgenstein. Just (...) obstinacy, unfashionable dress, cricket, and periods of gluttony. It is not the usual stuff of high drama. But Siobhan Chapman’s biography Paul Grice: Philosopher and Linguist tells a compelling story. It’s a story of surprising influences and gradual intellectual evolution. And it is well timed from the linguist’s perspective. Now more than ever, the boundaries of conversational implicatures, Grice’s most important designation, are being redrawn. It is illuminating to return to their sources and track their development. (shrink)