Scalar Implicature

Scalar implicature: Scalar Implicature (SI) is a type of enrichment of literal meaning that is based on the meanings

of alternative expressions. A leading example, from the seminal work of Paul Grice (1975, 1989) involves “or”.

There is compelling evidence that its literal meaning is not “exclusive”, i.e. that ‘John ate cake or ice cream’, for

example, is literally true if John ate both things. Yet in many linguistic and conversational contexts the sentence is

perceived to convey exclusivity — that John ate only one of them. Following Grice, the latter fact is widely

hypothesized to be due to the existence of a competitor or alternative expression, ‘and’: since ‘John ate (both) cake

and ice cream’ is more informative, in typical conversational circumstances it would be chosen over the ‘or’

sentence in order to convey that John did eat both things.

Since Grice’s work, SI attracted significant attention in pragmatics, semantics, and logic (Gazdar 1979, Horn 1989,

Hirschberg 1991), and more recently, linguistics and psychology (Chierchia 2004, 2013, Chierchia, Fox & Spector

2012, Fox 2007, Geurts 2010, Klinedinst 2007, Noveck & Sperber, 2004, Magri 2009, Van Rooy & Schulz 2004,

Van Rooij & Schulz 2006, Romoli 2015, Spector 2006, among many others). Moreover, recent studies have

uncovered that SI is behind a wide variety of semantic phenomena, not just the interpretations of connectives like

“or” and quantifiers like “some”, but also plural marking (Ivlieva 2013, Magri 2012, Mayr 2015, Spector 2007, Zweig

2009), questions (Cremers 2016, Cremers & Chemla 2014, Klinedinst & Rothschild 2011, Nicolae 2013, Uegaki

2015), free choice inferences (Fox 2007, Klinedinst 2007, Santorio & Romoli 2017), polarity sensitivity (Chierchia

2004, 2006, 2013, Nicolae 2013), presupposition (Romoli 2012, Mayr & Romoli 2016, 2017), neg-raising (Romoli

2013), temporal inferences (Musan 1995, Magri 2009, 2011, Thomas 2012, Sudo & Romoli 2017, Kane, …, Sudo,

Folli & Romoli 2017), etc. A rapidly growing number of recent studies also address the question of how the capacity

to understand this wide ranging set of linguistic phenomena develops through childhood (Noveck, 2001, Chierchia

et al. 2001, Gualmini et al. 2001, Barner & Bachrach 2010, Barner et al. 2011, Singh et al. 2016, Tieu, Romoli, et

al. 2016, Tieu, …, Romoli, et al. 2017).

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