Semantics and pragmatics

Semántica y pragmática # Sentence. Proposition. Inference: deductive and inductive. Communication. Conversation. Relevance cognitive. Context

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PRAGMATICS

I. BASIC NOTIONS IN SEMANTICS AND PRAGMATICS

Semantics and pragmatics are both concerned with the study of meaning; we have to distinguish between speaker meaning and sentence meaning.

Speaker meaning: is what a speaker means (intends to convey) when he uses a piece of language.

Sentence meaning: (or word meaning) is what a sentence (or word) means.

There is often a divergence between the meaning of the linguistic expression a speaker uses and the meaning he intends to communicate by using it. What hearers are interested in is what the speaker means, and that leads him to ignore the fact that the speaker's words mean something else.

* Slip-of-the-tongue-cases: when a speaker accidentally and unconciously uses a different word from the one he wanted to use.

* Malapropism: a speaker uses a certain word thinking it has a certain meaning when the word in fact means something else.

Hearers are usually able to discount the `wrong' meaning for ambiguous utterances and recover the meaning the speaker intend without making any concious choice.

The hearer's knowledge of what the speaker's words mean only provides a clue as to what the speaker means, and he must build the speaker's meaning from this clue together with his knowledge of the context. In some cases this clue is very skeletal, as not complete sentences.

Ex: Not in here.

But, even when the speaker utters a complete sentence, there can be a variety of ways in which the meaning of his words falls short of what the hearer takes him to mean.

Ex: There are too many marks in this book

Utterance: any stretch of talk or writing, by one single person, before and after which there is a silence on the part of that person. An utterance is the use by a particular speaker , on a particular occasion, of a piece of language, such as a sequence of sentences, a phrase, or even a single word. Utterances are physical events and they are ephemeral.

Sentence: It is, conceived abstractly, a string of words put together by the grammatical rules of a language. It is an abstract linguistic entity. A given sentence always consists of the same words, and in the same order. Any change in the words, or in their order, makes a different sentence.

Not all utterances are actually tokens (realizations) of sentences, but sometimes only of parts of sentences (phrases or single words).

Proposition: it's part of the meaning of the utterance of a declarative sentence that describes some state of affairs. Propositions may also be defined as mental representations which have meaning, that is, as semantic representations.

Propositions cannot be said to belong to any particular language. Sentences in different languages can correspond to the same proposition, if the two sentences are perfect translations of each other.

Propositions are public in the sense that the same proposition is accessible to different persons: different individuals can grasp the same proposition.

References

Blakemore, D. (1992), Understanding Utterances, Oxford: Blackwell.

Hurford, J.R. & B. Heasley (1983), Semantics: A Coursebook, Cambridge: CUP.

Recommended reading and practice

Units 1 - 3 in Hurfoord & Heasley

Inference: an inference is any conclusion that one is reasonably entitled to draw from a sentence or utterance.

Deductive inference: deductive inferences cannot be defeated or cancelled by the addition of extra information. Deductive inferences can therefore be called `demonstrative'.

Ex: All human beings are rational (PREMISE)

Peter is a human being (PREMISE)

Peter is rational (CONCLUSION)

Inductive inference: they involve an informational jump. The conclusion includes information not warranted by the premises. For that reason they can be cancelled by the addition of extra premises. Inductive inferences can therefore be called `non demonstrative'.

Entailment: they are deductive inferences.

A proposition X entails a proposition Y if the truth of Y follows necessarily from the truth of X. In other words, you can't find a situation in which X is true and Y is false: in every conceivable state of affairs in which X is true Y is also true.

Inference in utterance interpretation: there is a gap between sentence meaning and utterance meaning, and what hearers are interested in recovering is utterance meaning, what the speaker intended to communicate. Recovering the intended interpretation of an utterance involves not only knowing the language in which it is expressed but also doing some inferencing.

Though utterance interpretation as a whole is a non-demonstrative business because interpretation partly depends on context, the sort of inference the hearers perform are deductive.

References

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D.(1986), Relevance, Oxford: Blackwell.

Communication:

Pragmatics is the study of verbal communication, and in particular of utterance interpretation.

Information transmission or communication can be unintentional or accidental (Ex: the clouds can tell us that it's going to rain) or intentional, in fact there are two varieties of intentional communication : covert or hidden and overt or open.

Covert communication: in covert communication, I intend to convey certain information to you, but I don't want you to recognise my intentions.

Overt communication: in overt communication, I not only intend to communicate with you, but I want my intentions to be recognised.

Unintentional or accidental Information transmission = Communication ð

Intentional ð Covert or hidden

Overt or open

How is communication achieved? :

The code model of communication: according to the code model, communication is achieved by encoding and decoding messages.

Paul Grice and David Lewis have proposed a quite different model called the inferential model: according to the inferential model, communication is achieved by producing and interpreting evidence.

The code model and the inferential model are not incompatible; in fact, verbal communication involves both coding and inferential processes.

The code model of communication:

message signal received signal received message

source ððð→ encoder ððð→ channel ðððððð→ decoder ðððððð→ destination

­

noise

Communication is achieved by encoding a message, which cannot travel, into a signal, which can, and by decoding this signal at the receiving end. Noise along the channel can destroy or distort the signal. Otherwise, as long as the devices are in order and the codes are identical at both ends, successful communication is guaranteed.

Human verbal communication:

thought acoustic received received

signal acoustic signal thought

central thought ððð→linguistic ððð→air ðððððð→ linguistic ððð→ central thought

processes encoder ­ decoder processes

SPEAKER noise HEARER

Here the source and the destination are central thought processes, the encoder and the decoder are linguistic abilities, the message is a thought, and the channel is air which carries an acoustic signal.

There are two assumptions underlying this proposal: the first is that human languages such as English are codes; the second is that these codes associate thoughts to sounds.

Comprehension involves more than the decoding of a linguistic signal. Decoding is not enough, inference is needed to recover:

- The proposition explicitly expressed

- The proposition implicitly expressed (implicatures)

- The speaker's attitude to the proposition explicitly expressed

- The speaker's attitude to implicatures

Decoding and inference in verbal comprehension:

The semantic representation of a sentence can be uttered in different contexts to express different propositions.

Ex: I'd like two of those

Different utterances of the same sentence may differ in their interpretation, and they usually do.

We can find referential indeterminacy, semantic ambiguity, and semantic incompleteness.

Ex: I'll come tomorrow (Referentially indeterminate)

Bill is tall º With respect to whom (Semantic incompleteness)

An utterance which explicitly expresses one thought may implicitly convey others.

Ex: Do you know what time is it?

The speaker while explicitly asking whether the hearer knows the time, might be implicitly suggesting that it is time to go.

It's also important to know the speaker's attitude. There are three questions the hearer has to ask himself in interpreting an utterance:

- What was said?

- What was implied?

- What was the speaker's attitude to what was said and implied?

References

The notes on communication from D. Wilson (1992), Lectures on Pragmatics

Recommended reading

Sperber & Wilson (1986), pp. 1-15 and 21-28

The inferential model of communication: there are several inferential processes:

- Reference assignment (Reference indeterminacy)

- Disambiguation (Semantic ambiguity)

- Semantics completion (Semantic incompleteness)

- Scope fixing ( N'T)

Ex: `Flying planes can be dangerous'

→DISAMBIGUATION

º The activity of flying planes can be dangerous

º The planes that fly can be dangerous

` He's too young '

→ REFERENCE ASSIGNMENT

º Who is too young?

` She's leaving _'

→ SEMANTIC COMPLETION

º She's leaving, from where?

` He didn't butter the toast in the bathroom with a knife'

→ SCOPE FIXING

º The toast / the bathroom / with a knife.

Grice argues that participants in a conversation will be expected to observe the Cooperative Principle.

Cooperative Principle: Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

The cooperative principle is developed into nine maxims classified in four categories:

Maxims of Quantity

1. Make your contribution as informative as is required.

2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Maxims of Quality

1. Do not say what you believe to be false.

2. Do not say that which you lack evidence for.

Maxim of Relation

Be relevant

Maxims of manner

1. Avoid obscurity of expression.

2. Avoid ambiguity.

3. Be brief.

4. Be orderly.

The utterance of a sentence, which provides only an incomplete and ambiguous representation of a thought, can nevertheless express a complete and unambiguous thought. Of the various thoughts which the sentence uttered could be taken to represent, the speaker can eliminate any that are incompatible with the assumption that the speaker is observing the cooperative principle and maxims. If only one thought is left, then the hearer can infer that it is this tought that the speaker is trying to communicate.

Ex: Jones has bought the Times.

Jones has bought a copy of the Times.

Jones has bought the press enterprise that publishes the Times.

The maxims and the inferences give rise to make it possible to convey an unambiguous thought by uttering an ambiguous sentence. Grice's approach to verbal communication also makes it possible to explain how utterances can convey not just explicit but also implicit thoughts.

Ex: Peter: Do you want some coffee?

Mary: Coffee would keep me awake. (Explicit content of the utterance)

º Mary does not want to stay awake. (Implicit thought/Inference/Additional assumption)

º Mary does not want any coffee. ( Implication implicitly conveyed/Conclusion)

Just as the Gricean maxims help the hearer choose, from among the senses of an ambiguous sentence, the one which was intended by the speaker, so they help him choose, from among the implications of the explicit content of an utterance, the ones which are implicitly conveyed.

Not all implications are implicatures; only those implications intended by the speaker to be recovered by the hearer.

Ex: Suppose you are traveling from London to Luton tomorrow. You know that it takes 20 minutes to get there by train, and you need to be in Luton by 10.30, but you do not know when there is a train for Luton. So you go to the information office today and ask the person there:

- What time the trains for Luton leave?

- The first train leaves at 8..00 and then there is one train every hour until 21.00

Implication: I must catch one of these three trains: the train that leaves at eight, or the one that leaves at nine, or the one that leaves at ten.

From what the person has said and your knowledge that it takes twenty minutes to get to Luton and that you must be there by 10.30, you can derive the implication that the last train you can catch is the one leaving at 10.00. This is an implication that it is useful for you to derive, but that cannot be taken as having been implicated by the person at the information office at all. It is not an implicature.

Additional assumptions and conclusions supplied to preserve the application of the cooperative principle and maxims are called implicatures.

Grice, H.P. (1975), Logic and Conversation, in P. Cole and J. Morgan (eds.) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press.

LOGIC AND CONVERSATION

Grice explains how we can convey more than words say.

What is communicated (i.e. speakers meaning)

- What is said (explicit propositions)

ð

- What is implicated ( implicit propositions or implicatures)

Implicature:

Suppose that A and B are talking about a mutual friend, C, who is now working in a bank. A asks B how C is getting on his job, and B replies:

- Oh quite well, I think; he likes his colleages, and he hasn't been to prison yet.

At this point, A might well inquire what B was implying, what he was suggesting, or even what he meant by saying that C had not yet been to prison. The answer may be any one of such things as that C is the sort of person likely to yield to the temptation provided by his occupation, that C's colleages are really very unpleasant and treacherous people, and so forth. It might be quite unnecessary for A to make such an inquiry of B, the context will help to provide what B means. Whatever B implied is distinct from what B said.

What B said: C has not been to prison yet.

What B implied: Ex- C is the sort of person likely to yield to the temptation provided by his

occupation.

What is said: closely related to the conventional meaning of the words. It consists of :

- Conventional meaning

- Reference assignment

- Disambiguation

Ex: He is in the grip of a vice.

Given a knowledge of the English language, but not knowledge of the circumstances of the utterance, one would know something about what the speaker had said, on the assumption that he was speaking standard English, and speaking literally.

One would know that he had said, about some particular male person or animal X (Reference indeterminacy), that at the time of the utterance whatever that was (Semantic incompleteness), either (Semantic ambiguity): a) X was unable to rid himself of a certain kind of bad character trait, or b) some part of X's person was caught in a certain kind of tool or instrument.

But for full identification of what the speaker had said, one would need to know the identity of X (Reference assignment) ; the time of utterance (Semantic completion); and the meaning, on the particular occasion of utterance, of the phrase ` in the grip of a vice' (Disambiguation).

What is implicated can be conventional or nonconventional.

Conventional Ex: He is an Englishman; he is, therefore, brave.

Conventional Implicature: His being brave is a consequence of his being an Englishman.

They are decoded, they depend on the meaning of a particular word on the utterance. In these cases the conventional meaning of the words used will determine what is implicated, besides helping to determine what is said.

He is poor, but he is honest.

What is said: He is poor and he is honest.

Conventional Implicature: There is a contrast between his being poor and his being honest.

Even Max tried on the pants.

What is said: Max tried on the pants.

Conventional Implicature: Not only Max tried on the pants. Max trying on the pants is unexpected.

We haven't had lunch yet.

What is said: We haven't had lunch.

Conventional Implicature: We have the intention of having lunch.

A subclass of nonconventional implicatures are the conversational implicatures: They depend on the utterance used on a particular situation. Participants in a conversation should contemplate the Cooperative Principle: make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

In this general principle there are nine maxims divided into four categories: Quantity, Quality, Relation and Manner.

Quantity: 1. Make your contribution as informative as is required.

2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Quality: 1. Do not say what you believe to be false.

Conversational 2. Do not say that which you lack evidence for.

maxims Relation: Be relevant.

Manner: 1. Avoid obscurity of expression.

2. Avoid ambiguity.

3. Be brief.

4. Be orderly.

The conversational maxims, and the conversational implicatures connected with them, are specially connected with the particular purposes that talk is adapted to serve and is primarily employed to serve.

A participant in a talk exchange may fail to fulfill a maxim in various ways:

1. He may quietly violate a maxim; in a hidden way (Ex: lying) someone can violate a maxim (Quiet violation)

2. He may opt out; he may say, indicate, or allow it to become plain that he is unwilling to cooperate in the way the maxim requires. Not saying something, not cooperating. (Opting out).

Ex: I cannot say more; my lips are sealed.

3. He may be faced by a clash; when there's no remedy, for instance when you have to choose between different maxims and one of them is violated.. (Violating a maxim)

4. He may flout a maxim; he may clearly fail to fulfill it. On the assumption that the speaker is able to fulfill the maxim and to do so without violating another maxim, is not opting out, and is not trying to mislead (lie). He fails to obey the maxim but he does it on purpose because he has acertain intention. (Flouting or exploiting a maxim)

To work out that a particular conversational implicature is present, the hearer will rely on the following data:

- The conventional meaning of the words used, together with the identity of any references that may be involved.

- The cooperative principle and its maxims.

- The context of the utterance.

- Other items of background knowledge.

- The fact that all relevant items falling under the previous headings are available to both participants and both participants know or assume this to be the case.

1. Examples in which no maxim is violated, or at least in which it is not clear that any maxim is violated.

Ex: (1) A is standing by an obviously immobilized car and is approached by B; the following

exchange takes place:

A: I'm out of petrol.

B: There is a garage round the corner.

B would be infringing the maxim `Be relevant' unless he thinks that the garage is open, and has

petrol to sell; so he implicates that the garage is, or at least may be open.

(2) A: Smith doesn't seem to have a girlfriend these days.

B: He has been paying a lot of visits to New York lately.

B implicates tha Smith has, or may have, a girlfriend in New York.

In both examples, the speaker implicates that which he must be assumed to believe.

2. An example in which a maxim is violated, but its violation is to be explained by the supposition of a clash with another maxim.

Ex: A is planning with B an itinerary for a holiday in France. Both know that B wants to see his

friend C, if to do so would not involve too great a prolongation of his journey:

A: Where does C live?

B: Somewhere in the South of France.

There is no reason to suppose that B is opting out; his answer is less informative than is

required to meet A's needs. This infringement of the first maxim of quantity can be explained only

by the supposition that B is aware that to be more informative would be to say something that

infringed the maxim of Quality 2 `Don't say what you lack adecuate evidence for', so B implicates

that he does not know in which town C lives.

3. Examples that involve exploitiation, a procedure by which a maxim is flouted on purpose.

Extreme examples of a flouting of the first maxim of Quantity `Make your contribution as informative as is required' are provided by utterances of patent tautologies like:

Women are women.

ðThese sentences are always true.

War is war.

4. Examples in which the first maxim of Quality `Do not say what you believe to be false' is flouted: the speaker says something believing to be false, intentionally, with the intention of conveying something implicitly.

a. Irony: X, with whom A has been on close terms until now, has betrayed a secret of A's to a

business rival. A and his audience both know this. A says:

- X is a fine friend.

The conversational implication is that X is not a fine friend. The speaker intends the

opposite of `What is said'

Implicature: You are not a fine friend.

b. Metaphor:

You are the cream in my coffee.

This example involves a categorical falsity, the speaker is attributing to his audience

some feature or features in respect of which the audience resembles to the mentioned

substance.

Implicature: The hearer is like/resembles the cream in the speaker's coffee in certain respects.

c. Meiosis or understatement.

Of a man known to have broken up all the furniture, one says:

- He was a little intoxicated.

Implicature: He was completely drunk.

d. Hyperbole:

Every nice girl loves a sailor.

Implicature: Some nice girls love sailors.

In this example the second maxim of Quality `Do not say that which you lack

evidence for' is flouted.

You are a genious.

Implicature: You're very clever.

5. Examples in which the maxims of manner are flouted.

(1) Obscurity. Suppose that A and B are having a conversation in the presence of a third party, for

example, a child, then A might be deliberately obscure, in the hope that B would understand and the

third party not. Furthermore, if A expects B to see that A is being deliberately obscure, it seems

reasonable to suppose that the contents of his communication should not be imparted to the third

party.

(2) Ambiguity. We are concerned only with ambiguity that is deliberate, and that the speaker intends or expects to be recognized by his hearer. The problem the hearer has to solve is why a speaker should go out of his way to choose an ambiguous utterance.

(3) Failure to be brief.

Ex: a/ Miss X sang `Home sweet home'

b/ Miss X produced a series of sounds that corresponded closely with the score of `Home sweet

home'.

All these examples are cases of particularized conversational implicatures, that is to say, cases in which an implicature is carried by saying that p on a particular occasion in virtue of special features of the context. But there are cases of generalized conversational implicatures, sometimes one can say that the use of a certain form of words in an utterance would normally carry such-and-such an implicature.

Generalized conversational implicatures: Anyone who uses a sentence of the form X is meeting a woman this evening would normally implicated that the person to be met was someone other than X's wife, mother, sister, or perhaps even close platonic friend. There are three senses of the form of expression an X:

(1) One in which it means roughly `something that satisfies the conditions defining the word X'

(2) Another in which it means approximately `an X, in the first sense, that is only remotely related in a certain way to some person indicated by the context'.

Ex: X is meeting a woman this evening.

(3) Another in which it means `an X, in the first sense, that is closely related in a certain way to some person indicated by the context'.

Ex: I broke a finger yesterday.

When someone, by using the form of expression an X, implicates that the X does not belong to or is not otherwise closely connected with some identifiable person there is a failure to fulfill the first maxim of Quantity `Make your contribution as informative as is required', the speaker has failed to be specific.

Conversational implicatures (particular & general) must possess certain features:

1. Since, to assume the presence of a conversational implicature, we have to assume that at least the Cooperative Principle is being observed, and since it is possible to opt out of the observation of this principle, it follows that a generalized conversational implicature can be canceled in a particular case. It may be explicitly canceled, by the addition of a clause that states or implies that the speaker has opted out, or it may be contextually canceled, if the form of utterance that usually carries it is used in a context that makes it clear that the the speaker is opting out.

2. Insofar as the calculation that a particular conversational implicature is present requires, besides contextual and background information, only a knowledge of what has been said and insofar as the manner of expression plays no role in the calculation, it will not be possible to find another way of saying the same thing, except where some special feature of the substituted version is itself relevant to the determination of an implicature.

3. Initially, conversational implicatures are not part of the meaning of the expression to the employment of which they attach.

4. The truth of a conversational implicature is not required by the truth of what is said; what is said may be true, what is implicated may be false.

5. To calculate a conversational implicature is to calculate what has to be supposed in order to preserve the supposition that the Cooperative Principle is being observed.

What is communicated

ð

What is said What is implicated

ð

Conventionally Non-conventionally

ð

Conversationally Non-conversationally

(maxims of conversation)

ð

Generally Particularly

II. GRICE'S THEORY OF CONVERSATION

In the paper Logic and Conversation, Grice distinguishes two components of what is communicated (speaker's meaning): what is said and what is implicated.

`What is said' requires decoding processes which provide the conventional meaning of the words uttered, and inferential processes such as reference assignment and disambiguation.

Ex: A and B are talking about a mutual friend, C, who is now working in a bank. A asks B how C is

getting on his job, and B replies:

- Oh quite well, I think; he likes his colleages, and he hasn't been to prison yet.

At this point, A might well inquire what B was implying, what he was suggesting, or even what he meant by saying that C had not yet been to prison. The answer may be any one of such things as that C is the sort of person likely to yield to the temptation provided by his occupation, that C's colleages are really very unpleasant and treacherous people, and so forth. It might be quite unnecessary for A to make such an inquiry of B, the context will help to provide what B means. Whatever B implied is distinct from what B said.

What B said: C has not been to prison yet.

What B implied: Ex- C is the sort of person likely to yield to the temptation provided by his occupation.

Ex: He is in the grip of a vice.

Given a knowledge of the English language, but not knowledge of the circumstances of the utterance, one would know something about what the speaker had said, on the assumption that he is speaking standard English, and speaking literally. One would know that he had said, about some particular male person or animal X (Reference indeterminacy), that at the time of the utterance whatever that was (Semantic incompleteness), either (Semantic ambiguity): a) X was unable to rid himself of a certain kind of bad character trait, or b) some part of X's person was caught in a certain kind of tool or instrument. But for a full identification of what the speaker had said, one would need to know the identity of X (Reference assignment); the time of utterance (Semantic completion); and the meaning, on the particular occasion of utterance, of the phrase `in the grip of a vice' (Disambiguation).

Conventional implicatures are not inferred in context, but decoded; they depend on the meaning of a specific word that is used in the utterance. In some cases the conventional meaning of the words will determine what is implicated, besides helping determine what is said.

Ex: He is an Englishman; he is, therefore, brave.

Conventional implicature: His being brave is a consequence of his being an Englishman.

Grice identifies some more words that give rise to conventionl implicatures as moreover, so, but, too, also, either, yet, even.

Ex: He is poor but he is honest.

Conventional implicature: there is a contrast between his being poor and his being honest.

Ex: Even Max tried on the pants.

Conventional implicature: Not only Max tried on the pants. Max trying on the pants is unexpected.

Ex: We haven't had luch yet.

Conventional implicature: We have the intention of having lunch.

Conventional implicatures differ from entailments in that they do not affect the truth conditional content of the utterance. To distinguish how an aspect of the interpretation belongs to what is said or to what is implicated there are two very general tests:

1. The denial test

Ex: Even Max tried on the pants.

`That's false' → One should try to assess what this reply affects.

What is said: Max tried on the pants.

Conventional implicature: Somebody else tried on the pants.

Conventional implicature: Max trying on the pants was unexpected.

It affects the truth of what is said but not necessarily the conventional implicatures, so these belong

to the level of what is implicated.

2. Embedding the utterance under some verb of knowing like `know', `realise', `notice', `find out'.

Ex: I've just found out that even Max tried on the pants.

This asserts that he has just found out that ` Max tried on the pants' but not that ` Somebody else tried on the pants' or `Max trying on the pants was unexpected'. So the first belong to the level of what is said and the other two to the level of what is implicated.

In his paper, Grice represents a certain subclass of nonconventional implicatures which he calls conversational implicatures and in which participants will be expected to observe the Cooperative Principle and its nine maxims.

Cooperative Principle: Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at

which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

Quantity: 1. Make your contribution as informative as is required.

2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is

required.

Quality: 1. Do not say what you believe to be false.

2. Do not say that which you lack evidence for.

Conversational Relation: Be relevant.

maxims Manner: 1. Avoid obscurity of expression.

2. Avoid ambiguity.

3. Be brief.

4. Be orderly.

The Connection between the CP and Conversational Implicature:

A participant in a talk exchange may fail to fulfill a maxim in various ways:

- He may quietly violate a maxim. (This is what happens when the speaker lies).

- He may opt out; he doesn't cooperate.

- He may be faced by a clash; he may be unable to fulfill a maxim without violating other maxim.

- He may flout or exploit a maxim; he may clearly fail to fulfill it on purpose because he has certain intention.

Conversational implicature: Speaker is saying that p conversationally implicates q iff

1. Speaker is presumed to be observing the conversational maxims, or at least the CP.

2. In order to maintain this assumption it must be supposed that Speaker thinks that q.

3. Speaker thinks that both Speaker and Hearer mutually know that Hearer can work out that q is in fact required.

(Definition from Levinson 1983, adapted from Grice 1967)

The presence of a conversational implicature must be capable of being worked out. For the hearer to be able to to calculate the conversational implicature, he will rely on the following data:

1. The conventional meaning of the words used, together with the identity of any references that may be involved.

2. The Cooperative Principle and its maxims.

3. The context of the utterance.

4. Other items of background knowledge.

5. The fact that all relevant items falling under the previous headings are available to both participants and both participants know or assume this to be the case.

Examples of flouting the maxim of Quality 1. `Do not say what you believe to be false'

- Metaphor.

Tropes - Irony.

figurative uses - Understatement (Meiosis).

- Hyperbole.

The speaker says something believing to be false with the intention of conveying something implicitly.

Metaphor: You are the cream in my coffee.

Irony: You're a fine friend.

Understatement: He was a little intoxicated.

Hyperbole: You're a genious.

The Mutual-knowledge Hypothesis:

Ex: On Wednesday morning Ann and Bob read the early edition of the newspaper, and they discuss the fact that it says that A Day at the Races is showing that night at the Roxy. When the late edition arrives, Bob reads the movie section, notes that the film has been corrected to Monkey Business, and circles it with his red pen. Later, Ann picks up the late edition, notes the correction, and recognises Bob's circle around it. She also realises that Bob has no way of knowing that she has seen the late edition. Later that day Ann sees Bob and asks, `Have you ever seen the movie showing at the Roxy tonight?'

The question is, which film should Bob take Ann be referring to? Although Ann and Bob both know that the film showing at the Roxy is Monkey Business, Bob might reason that Ann might still think it is A Day at the Races, and be referring to that.

Clark and Marshall conclude that the only way to guarantee successful communication is for Ann not only to know what the film showing at the Roxy actually is, but to know that Bob knows what it is, and that Bob knows that she knows what it is.

Speaker knows p; hearer knows p; speaker knows that hearer knows p; hearer knows that speaker knows that hearer knows p. The mutual-knowledge hypothesis implies that communication never breaks down, there are assumptions that the hearer and the speaker share. The speaker and the hearer, for communication to be successful, have to be able to determine which assumptions they are referring to.

Particularised Conversational Implicature (PCI)

Conversational implicatures ð

Generalised Conversational Implicature (GCI)

PCIs are those which are carried by saying that p on a particular occasion in virtue of special features of the context.

GCIs are those which are normally carried by the use of a certain form of words in an utterance.

Ex: X is meeting a woman this evening.

The woman is not related to the speaker, there's no close relation between them.

GCI: The woman is not X's wife, mother, sister or close platonic friend.

I went into a house yesterday.

The house didn't belong to me.

GCI: The house was not the speaker's own.

In these examples, `a house' and `a woman' are not closely related to the speaker.

Ex: I broke a finger yesterday.

It's my own finger. The finger is closely related to the speaker.

GCI: The finger is the speaker's own.

Semantic ambiguity analysis: The expression an X may be interpreted in different ways on different occasions :

a (indefinite article) + y

1. Something that satisfies the conditions defining the word y.

2. A y (in the sense 1.) which is remotely related to some person indicated by the context.

3. A y (in the sense 1.) which is closely related to some person indicated by the context.

The total signification of an utterance may be regarded as divisible in two different ways:

1.What is said Vs What is implicated.

2.What is part of the meaning of the utterance and what is not.

This yields three possible elements:

1. What is said.

2. What is conventionally implicated.

3. What is nonconventionally implicated.

What is nonconventionally implicated may be conversationally implicated and this may be implicated generally or particularly.

What is communicated

ð

What is said What is implicated

ð

Conventionally Nonconventionally

ð

Conversationally Nonconversationally

ð

Generally Particularly

The entailments belong at the level of what is said; they determine the truth conditions of the utterance.

The conventional implicatures belong at the level of what is implicated; they depend on a certain linguistic item; they are always present; they do not depend on the CP and maxims.

The generalised conversational implicatures or GCIs, belong at the level of what is implicated; they depend on a certain linguistic item; they are normally present; they depend on the CP and maxims.

The particularised conversational implicatures or PCIs belong at the level of what is implicated; they do not depend on a specific linguistic item; they need a particular context to arise; they depend on the CP and maxims.

There may be cases in which an utterance will not give rise to any implicatures, and there may also be cases in which an utterance may give rise to several implicatures.

Ex: A and B are talking about a mutual friend, C, who has just got a job in a bank; A asks B how C is doing in his

new job, and B replies:

- Quite well; he likes some of his colleagues and he hasn't been to prison yet.

Conventional Implicature: C is expected to go to prison in the future (this implicature arises because of the presence of yet ).

Generalised Conversational implicature: C is not doing very well (this implicature arises because of the use of the weaker item quite on the entailment scale < very, quite >).

Generalised Conversational Implicature: C does not like all of his colleagues (this implicature arises because of the use of the weaker item some on the entailment scale < all, some >).

Particularised Conversational Implicature: C's colleagues are treacherous people (the implicature arises from the speaker's saying what he says in the particular context in which he says it).

Grice's basic idea is that in interpreting an utterance, hearers assume the cooperative principle and its maxims have been obeyed, and look for an interpretation that accords with this assumption. Sometimes, in order to find such an interpretation, they will have to assume that the speaker believes, and was trying to communicate, something more than was strictly speaking said. This extra bits of information are the implicatures of the utterance.

To be informative, you have to communicate something your audience doesn't already know or take for granted.

Ex: Neil is not drunk today.

Neil might have been expected to be drunk, this implicature is generated via the first maxim of

quantity ` Make your contribution as informative as is required'.

GCIs and the Simplification of Semantic Analysis:

Ex: X is meeting a woman tonight.

If the speaker were in the position of saying `X is meeting his mother tonight' he should have say it, otherwise he would have failed the maxim of Quantity 1. `Make your contribution as informative as is required'.

X is meeting a woman tonight.

GCI: X is not meeting his mother.

X went into a house yesterday

GCI: The house didn't belong to X

GCIs don't depend on the semantic content of `a woman' or `a house', but on the assumption that the speaker is cooperating.

And and its logical truth table: p & q

T T T

T F F

F F T

F F F

1. Both of the conjunctions are true.

& : 2. Both of the conjunctions are true and happen in a certain order.

3. Both of the conjunctions are true and the first one causes the second one.

Ex: London is in England and Paris is in France.

→ Both are true.

Ex: She handed him the key and he opened the door.

→ Both are true but temporal sequence is also involved. Manner 4. `Be orderly'.

GCI: She handed him the key before he opened the door.

Ex: She insulted him and he left the room.

→ Relation.

GCI: Her insulting him caused him to leave the room.

There is a temporal order, some kind of causal relation between the two conjunctions. In most circumstances, those would be the GCIs.

Standardly, ambiguities do not translate into other languages, most of the time, and translates into a single lexical item across languages, and in all of those languages the same connotations of extra bits of meaning arise. Those bits of meaning do not depend on the lexical item and at all.

Or and its logical truth table: p v q

T T T

T T F

F T T

F F F

v: 1. Inclusive meaning: both of the conjunctions are true.

2. Exclusive meaning: One of the conjunctions excludes the other one.

Ex: Bill is sick or he is at work.

→ If Bill is sick, he isn't at work. Either Bill is sick or he is at work.

Exclusive meaning

GCI: Bill is not both ill and at work.

Ex: To qualify for a pension you have to have worked fourty years or be over 65.

→ You can be over 65 and have worked fourty years. It may include both utterances.

Inclusive meaning

The secuentiality reading for and-utterances and the exclusive reading for or-utterances are claimed to be generalised conversational implicatures (GCIs). The fact that these sort of implicatures are standardly associated with those lexical items has given rise to the temptation to offer a semantic ambiguity analysis of and and or. It's no longer necessary to consider those two lexical items as semantically ambiguous, GCIs can be shown to be derivable pragmatically.

Entailment scales:

< all, most, many, some, few > There is some kind of scale of quantifiers which is ordered in terms of informativeness or semantic strength. The scale simply embodies our knowledge that an utterance in which all is used is more informative than the corresponding utterance with some, for example. The GCI depends on the maxim of Quantity 1., which says that a cooperative speaker should make his contribution as informative as is required: all is more informative than most, many, some and few. The GCI arises because the hearer assumes that the speaker is obeying the maxim of Quantity 1.

Ex: Some of the children have arrived.

→ 1. At least some and maybe all.

2. At least some but not all.

All entails some, but not on the contrary; there's an entailment relation. All should be used if it could,

according to the maxim of Quantity 1. `Make your contribution as informative as is required'.

Where some is used, the implication is `not all'. If the speaker wanted to communicate `all of something' he would say the strongest element, in this case all.

Ex: All of the children have arrived.

Ex: Some of the children have arrived

GCI: Not all of the children have arrived.

So if the speaker chooses to use some instead of the more informative many, most or all, the hearer is

licensed to assume `not many', `not most' and `not all'.

Ex: Have all the children arrived?

I don't know. Some of them certainly have.

In this case, the implicature is not carried; it has been cancelled by the speaker saying that he doesn't have the requisite knowledge about all the children, which leaves open the possibility that they have all arrived.

The speaker may be making the less informative statement because he knows that the more informative statement is in fact false, or because he does not have adequate evidence that the more informative statement is true. This is connected with the maxim of Quality 1. `Don't say what you believe to be false', and the maxim of Quality 2. `Don't say that which you lack evidence for'.

< and,or > There is an entailment relation form and to or. & entails V but not viceversa. This relation is possible when or has an exclusive meaning.

Ex: Bill is sick or he is at work.

Whenever it is true that Bill is sick and he is at work, it will also be true that Bill is sick or he is at

work.

The GCI depends on the maxim of Quantity 1.` Make your contribution as informative as is required'. The speaker has used the less informative statement `Bill is sick or he is at work' instead of the more informative statement `Bill is sick and he is at work'. It can be inferred that he is not in a position to make the more informative statement.

Implicatures arising from lexical items which stand in an entailment relation are called scalar implicatures. (According to Levinson).

< n, ... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 > The meaning or semantic content attributed to numerals under entailment relation is `at least X'. Any numeral entails each of the numerals to its right. The GCI depends on the maxim of Quantity 1. `Make your contribution as inforrmative as is required'.

Ex: John has three cows.

GCI: John has no more than three cows.

This implicates that John does not have four cows; that he does not have five cows; and so on;

he has no more than three cows.

What is said → `At least'

What is implicated → `No more than'

What is communicated → `Exactly'.

< always, sometimes >

<very, quite>

Why the speaker uses the weaker item:

- Lack of knowledge of the strongest item.

- Knowledge that the strongest item is false.

The idea is that the overall interpretation of this kind of utterances results from putting together Grice's two levels of communicated meaning, the level of what is said and the level of what is implicated.

Ex: She handed him the key and he opened the door.

What is said: She handed him the key; he opened the door.

Obeying the maxim of What is implicated: She handed him the key before he opened the door.

manner 4 `Be orderly' What is communicated: She handed him the key and after that he opened the door.

Ex: Bill is sick or he is at work.

What is said: Bill is sick or he is at work or both.

What is implicated: It is not the case that Bill is both sick and at work.

Obeying the maxim What is communicated: Either Bill is sick or he is at work, but not both.

of Quantity 1. Ex: Some of the children have arrived.

` Make your What is said: At least some of the children have arrived.

contribution as What is implicated: Not all of the children have arrived.

informative as What is communicated: Some, but not all, of the children have arrived.

is required'. Ex: John has three cows.

What is said: John has at least three cows.

What is implicated: John has no more than three cows.

What is communicated: John has exactly three cows.

In these cases, the implicature is a generalised conversational one. Utterances with and which do not carry the GCI will not have a sequential interpretation, utterances with or which fail to give rise to the GCI will be accorded an inclusive interpretation instead of the exclusive one, utterances with some which do not carry the GCI will have an `at least some and maybe all' interpretation, and utterances with a numeral which do not give rise to the GCI will similarly be accorded on `at least and maybe more' interpretation.

References

Deirdre Wilson's Lectures on Pragmatics Theory (1992)

Robyn Carston's Lectures on Pragmatics (1991)

The features of Conversational Implicatures:

1. Cancellability: A conversational implicature can be cancelled or defeated in a particular case without giving rise to contradiction at the level of what is said. It may be explicitly cancelled, by the addition of a clause that states or implies that the speaker does not intend to communicate it; or contextually cancelled, if the form of utterance that usually carries it is used in a context that makes it clear that the speaker does not intend to communicate it. Entailments cannot be cancelled.

Ex: John has three cows.

Implicature: John has no more than three cows.

John has three cows, if not more → explicitly cancelled.

At the level of what is said, the addition of a cancelling clause does not give rise to any contradiction.

Ex: John is meeting a woman tonight. The woman is his mother.

→ There is not contradiction.

Entailments, on the other hand, cannot be cancelled without contradiction.

Ex: John is meeting a woman tonight and he is not meeting a person.

→ There is a contradiction.

Whatever inferential system is involved in the derivation of implicatures, it is not a deductive system, since implicatures may be cancelled.

2. Nondetachability: It will not be possible to find another way of saying the same thing. The implicature is attached to the semantic content of what is said, not to linguistic form, and therefore implicatures cannot be detached from an utterance by simply changing the words of the utterance for synonyms (Implicatures from the maxim of manner are an exception).

Ex from Levinson: What on earth has happened to the roast beef?

The dog's looking very happy.

Implicature: Perhaps the dog has eaten the roast beef.

What on earth has happened to the roast beef?

Duke's looking ecstatic.

Implicature: Perhaps the dog has eaten the roast beef.

→ The semantic content is the same so the implicature will not change.

3. Nonconventionality: Implicatures are not part of the conventional meaning of linguistic expressions. An utterance may be true while its implicature false.

4. Calculability: The presence of a conversational implicature must be capable of being worked out.

5. Reinforceability: You can reinforce an implicature without redundancy.

Ex: John is meeting a woman tonight and the woman is not is mother.

Reinforcing an entailment, on the other hand, gives rise to redundancy.

Ex: John is meeting a woman tonight and he is meeting a person.

6. Indeterminacy: Implicatures can be said to be indeterminated in two different ways:

- An expression with a single meaning can give rise to different implicatures on different occasions.

Ex: Margaret Thatcher was made of iron.

Implicature: Margaret Thatcher was strong.

Implicature: Margaret Thatcher was inflexible.

- On any one occasion the set of associated implicatures may not be exactly determinable.

Ex: John's a machine.

Implicatures: John is cold.

John is efficient.

John never stops working.

John puffs and blows.

...

References

R. Carston, Lectures on Pragmatics (1991) Unpublished.

H.P. Grice (1975) and (1978).

S. Levinson (1983).

Sperber and Wilson (1986/1995).

Hurdford & Heasley (1983), Semantics: A Coursebook, Cambridge: CUP.

CONVERSATIONAL IMPLICATURE

Entailment: If when a proposition A is true, a proposition B must therefore also be true, then proposition A entails proposition B.

Ex: John is a bachelor / John is a man → Entailment relation.

An inference is any conclusion that one is reasonable entitled to draw from a sentence or utterance. All entailments are inferences, but not all inferences are entailments.

Implicatures are a matter of utterance meaning.

The Cooperative Principle can be stated simply as `be as helpful to your hearer as you can'.

Components of conversational cooperativeness:

1. Relevance - Keep to the topic of the conversation.

2. Informativeness - Tell the hearer just what he needs to know, no more and no less.

3. Clarity - Speak in a way that the hearer will understand.

Ex: Do any of John's daughters speak a foreign language?

Mary speaks French.

→ It would be sensible to reason: If Mary was not John's daugther, the reply would not be

relevant. We assume that the reply is relevant and therefore Mary is John's daughter.

This is a case of implicature role played in the hearer's calculations by the assumption that the speaker is trying to be helpful.

In a case of implicature the hearer makes the assumption that the speaker is not violating the conversational maxims.

An implicature of one part of an utterance is said to be cancelled when another part of the utterance or a following utterance explicitly contradicts it (explicitly cancelled). Entailments cannot be cancelled without contradiction, but a conversational implicature can be cancelled without resulting in a contradiction.

Exercises based on Levinson 1983

1. According to Levinson, in the examples below implicatures arise directly from the assumption that the speaker is observing the maxims. For each case, write down the conversational implicature which would arise from the assumption that the speaker is observing the (sub)maxim indicated.

Quality 1. `Do not say what you believe to be false'

John has two PhDs.

PCI: John has at least two PhDs and maybe more.

Quality 2. `Do not say that which you lack evidence for'

John has two PhDs.

PCI:

Quality (You must adapt it to questions)

Does your farm contains 400 acres?

PCI: Your farm contains at least 400 acres and maybe more.

Quantity 1. `Make your contribution as informaive as is required'.

Nigel has fourteen children.

GCI: Nigel has no more than fourteen children.

The flag is white.

GCI: The flag is no colour other than white.

A: How did Harry fare in court?

B: Oh, he got a fine.

GCI: A didn't go to prison

Relation `Be relevant'

A: Can you tell me the time?

B: Well, the milkman has come.

PCI: It is early. → It depends on what the speaker intends to do at a certain hour.

PCI: It is late.

Manner 3. `Be brief'.

Walk up to the door, turn the door handle clockwise as far as it will go, and then pull gently towards you.

GCI: There is some difference between open the door and what the speaker asks the hearer to do.

Manner 4. `Be orderly'.

Alfred went to the store and bought some whisky.

GCI: Alfred went to the store before buying some whisky.

2. What Gricean explanation can be given for the oddity of the following sentence:

?? The lone ranger rod into the sunset and jumpedd onto his horse.

Both of the conjunctions are true, they happen in a certain order and the first causes the second one; in this utterance the temporal sequence of the utterances linked by and is not the correct one and this makes that the second utterance won't be caused by the first one but on the contrary.

3. According to Levinson, from B's utterance in the exchange below, two conversational implicatures arise, one based on the assumption that the speaker is flouting the maxim of Quality and another one based on the assumption that the speaker is observing the maxim of Relation.

A: What if the USSR blockades the Gulf and all the oil?

B: Oh come now, Britain rules the seas!

(1) Britain doesn't rule the seas.

(2) Britain is not powerful enough to stop the USSR blockading the gulf and all the oil.

4. According to Levinson, implicatures arise from the utterances below because a maxim is flouted. In each case, write down the implicature and the maxim which is flouted.

A: Teheran's inTurkey isn't it, teacher?

B: And London's in Armenia I suppose.

Implicature:

Maxim:

Was Mussolini going to be moderated?

Implicature:

Maxim (adapted to questions):

Either John will come or he won't.

Implicature:

Maxim:

Johnny: Hey Sally let's play marbles.

Mother: How is your homework getting along Johnny?

Implicature:

Maxim:

5. According to Levinson (1983), the use of a weak item on each of the entailment scales below (from Horn 1972) gives rise to a scalar implicature. From each scale, write down an utterance containing a weak item on the sacle and one generalised conversational implicature arising from the utterance.

< all, most, many, some, few >

Utterance: Some men ate apples in the meeting.

GCI: Not all of the men ate apples in the meeting.

< and, or >

Utterance:

GCI:

< n, ..., 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 >

Utterance: Mary has got three brothers.

GCI: Mary has not got more than three brothes.

< excellent, good >

Utterance: Peter's a good student.

GCI: Peter is not an excellent student.

< hot, warm >

Utterance: This milk is warm.

GCI: This milk is not hot.

III. SPERBER AND WILSON'S RELEVANCE THEORY

The cognitive principle:

a. Variety of possible interpretations.

b. Accessibility.

c. Criterion for evaluating interpretations.

d. At most one single interpretation satisfies the criterion.

Relevance is a general cognitive notion applied to human cognition, not only to verbal communication. There are two factors relative to a context:

1. Effects or beneficts: a. Strengthening of a contextual assumption.

b. Contradicting and eliminating a contextual assumption.

c. Yielding a contextual implication (→ by processing the

new information in a certain context. Conclusions)

2. Efforts: a. Form: - The linguistic complexity.

- The logical complexity.

b. Accessibility of the context: - Recency.

- Frequency.

- The size of the context.

Sperber & Wilson (1986/1995), Relevance. Communication and Cognition, Oxford: Blackwell.

RELEVANCE: THE COGNITIVE PRINCIPLE

Grice's inferential approach to pragmatics sees utterance interpretation as a matter of constructing and evaluating speaker's meaning. According to Grice, the hearer should assume that the speaker was obeying a Cooperative Principle and maxims of truthfulness, informativeness, relevance and clarity.

Sperber and Wilson → Relevance theory is based on a few very simple assumptions:

Relevance-theoretic assumptions about communication:

a. Every utterance has a variety of possible interpretations, all compatible with the information that is linguistically encoded.

b. Not all these interpretations are equally accessible to the hearer on a given occasion.

c. Hearers are equipped with a single, very general criterion for evaluating interpretations as they occur to them.

d. This criterion is powerful enough to exclude all but at most a single interpretation, so that the hearer is entitled to assume that the first interpretation that satisfies it is the only one.

The interpretation of an utterance is the one the speaker wants the hearer to recover.

We should bear in mind that misunderstandings occur, the aim of pragmatic theory is to explain how hearers interpret utterances, both successfully and unsuccessfully. The fact that we sometimes misunderstand each other suggests that the criterion we use in evaluating interpretations does not always pick out the right interpretation, the one the speaker intended.

Gricean inferential principles don't guarantee that the resulting interpretation will be the correct one. By contrast, according to the code model, if a shared code is correctly applied to an undistorted signal, the resulting interpretation is guaranteed to be correct. The interpretation process is affected by contextual assumptions, and there is no way of guaranteeing that the hearer will be able to access and use the intended set of contextual assumptions.

Relevance: Dan Sperber and Wilson's assumption is that human cognition is relevance-oriented, we pay attention to information that seems relevant to us. Information can be relevant without being communicated at all.

Ex: I walk towards my house and notice some smoke coming from a window → This information is

relevant to me.

Relevance is applied not just to information communicated by utterances but to all information, acquired from any source. Information can be relevant in one context and not in another; it's relevant in a context when it interacts with the context in one of three ways to which relevance theory calls cognitive effects:

a. Strengthening a contextual assumption.

b. Contradicting and eliminating a contextual assumption.

c. Combining with a contextual assumption to yield a contextual implication ( deducible from new information and context together, but from neither new information nor context on its own.)

Ex: you are running for your bus in the morning, with the following thoughts in your mind:

- I'll catch the bus (probably)

- If I catch the bus, I'll get to the lecture.

- If I don't catch the bus, I'll miss the lecture.

As you arrive at the bus stop, you see the bus turn the corner towards you, which makes you think:

- I WILL catch the bus. (New information)

→ This new information has two cognitive effects, it strengths the first assumption, and combines with the second one to yield the contextual implication:

- I'll get to the lecture.

Intuitively, the new information will be relevant to you in this context. Sperber and Wilson claim that it is relevant because it has these cognitive effects. The greater the cognitive effects, the greater the relevance.

Contradicting and eliminating a contextual assumption Ex:

As you turn the corner, you see the bus pulling away, which makes you think:

- I won't catch the bus. (New information)

→ The new information contradicts your first contextual assumption. When new and old assumptions contradict each other, the weaker of the two assumptions is abandoned. Here the new information would provide strong evidence against the old assumption, which would therefore be abandoned. The new information from this example would also combine with the third assumption to yield the following contextual implication:

- I'll miss the lecture.

Alongside these three ways in which new information can be relevant in a context, there are three ways in which new information can fail to be relevant.

Ex: As you are running for your bus with the previous thoughts, you notice a leaf falling from a tree:

- A leaf has fallen from a tree.

→ This information, though new, is irrelevant in this context. It does not strength an existing assumption, it does not contradict and eliminate an existing assumption, and it does not combine with an existing assumption to yield a contextual implication.

Ex: At the end of a lecture someone comes up to me and says:

- Your name is Irune Hidalgo.

→ When there's something I already knew, my existing assumption could not be strengthened. This proposition would be irrelevant to me.

- Your name is not Irune Hidalgo.

→ The new information contradicts an existing assumption of mine. When there are assumptions in conflict, the weaker one is abandoned. The new information will not be strong enough to overturn my existing assumption, and it will be the new information which is rejected. The result will be no change to my existing assumptions, and hence no relevance for the proposition expressed.

New information is relevant in any context in which it has cognitive effects; the greater its cognitive effects, the more relevant it will be.

Effort:

Ex: You're runnig for your bus with the pervious thoughts. As you reach the bus stop and look back along the road and see the bus coming, there are a number of thoughts you could have:

- I'll catch the bus.

- It's not the case that I won't catch the bus.

- It's not the case that I won't catch the bus, and a leaf has fallen off a tree.

→ The first is less complex than the second one,which is less complex than the third one. Though all have the same cognitive effects, it takes less effort to recover them from the first than from the second one and the third one.

If comparisons of relevance were based solely on cognitive effects, they would be equally relevant. So it's also important the processing effort:

- The form in which information is presented.

Ex: Imagine this text presented, first in a clearly printed form; second as a faint photocopy; third as an

illegible handwritten scrawl; fourth translated into a language you read only with difficulty.

→ Each of these versions will demand differents amounts of effort from you.

- The accessibility of the context. Some contextual assumptions are easier to retrieve than others, and this will again affect the relevance of the information you process, and your willingness to attend to it.

Ex: There will be rain in Tokyo tomorrow.

→ This information does not have the immediate relevance for me here in Spain that it would have if I were in Tokyo. It's not that information is not relevant to me, just that it is less relevant, because of the time and effort I would have to put into retrieving a set of contextual assumptions with which it would interact to yield cognitive effects.

Factors known to affect the effort needed to process an utterance include: recency of use; frequency of use; linguistic complexity; logical complexity; accessibility of the context; and size of the context.

Assessments of relevance depend on two factors: cognitive effects, and the processing effort needed to recover those cognitive effects. The greater the cognitive effects, the greater the relevance.. The smaller the processing effort, the greater the relevance.

To say that cognition is relevance-oriented is to say that the human cognitive system is designed to pick out relevant information, and the more relevant the better. We tend automatically to pay attention to information that seems more relevant to us, and to process it in the most relevance-yielding way; this is the Cognitive Principle of Relevance:

`Human cognition tends to be geared to the maximisation of relevance.'

This is the principle that governs all types of information-transmission, both accidental and intentional. When someone speaks, we will pay attention to any information that seems relevant to us, whether derived from the content of their utterance, their facial expressions and gestures, their behaviour, their pauses, hesitations... and process this information in a context that maximises its relevance.

RELEVANCE: THE COMMUNICATIVE PRINCIPLE

Relevance defined in terms of cognitive effect and processing effort:

(a) The greater the cognitive effects, the greater the relevance.

(b) The smaller the processing effort, th greater the relevance.

There are three main types of cognitive effects:

- Strengthening an existing assumption.

- Contradicting and eliminating an existing assumption.

- Combining with an existing assumption to yield contextual implication.

Cognitive Principle of Relevance:

Human cognition tends to be geared to the maximisation of relevance.

The assumption that human cognition is relevance-oriented might yield some insight into the way that utterances are understood.

Grice's theory of communication is based on cooperative activities, in which participants work towards a common goal. To communicate with someone is to offer them information; offers create expectation. If someone offer you an utterance (or other act of intentionl communication), you are entitled to expect it to be relevant enough to be worth processing. If it does not at least seem relevant enough, you may refuse to process it at all.

Every utterance creates an expectation of relevance. There may be several linguistically possible interpretations, each of which will be relevant in a different way: some may not be relevant at all, some may be quite relevant, some may be highly relevant.

Expectations vary in predictable ways from situation to situation. Dan Sperber and Wilson define the notion of Optimal Relevance to spell out what the hearer is entitled to expect in terms of effort and effect:

Optimal Relevance:

An utterance on a given interpretation is optimally relevant if and only if:

(a) It is at least relevant enough to be worth the hearer's processing effort;

(b) It is the most relevant one compatible with the speaker abilities and preferences.

An utterance should have at least enough cognitive effects, at a low enough processing cost, to be worth processing. What count as `relevance enough' will vary from individual to individual and occasion to occasion. Expectations of relevance theory vary in predictable ways from situation to situation.

Phatic communication:

Ex: One stranger to another at a bus stop in order to stablish friendly feelings or open up a possible

conversation:

- It's a lovely day.

These examples are often considered as counterexamples of relevance theory because, on the assumption that the hearer is already aware that it's a lovely day, the proposition expressed will have no cognitive effects, and hence be irrelevant. In phatic communication, by expressing a proposition that is low in relevance, the speaker diverts the hearer's attention to another, social or interpersonal level in the search for optimal relevance.

It is clear that hearers would like utterances addressed to them to be as relevant as possible, i.e. to give the greatest possible cognitive effects for the smallest possible effort.; but the speaker may be unwilling or unable to produce the utterance that would achieve the greatest possible cognitive effects. He may not have the required information, or he may have this information but be unwilling to give it, because it would not be in his interests to do so. Clause (b) of the definition of optimal relevance says that the hearer can reasonably expect the utterance to achieve as many cognitive effects as possible given the speaker's abilities and preferences.

The speaker may be unwilling or unable to formulate his utterance in the most economical way, the one that would spare his hearer any unnecessary processing effort.

Recall the utterances involve overt communication, where the speaker wants his hearer to recover the intended interpretation, and is actively helping him to identify it. This is captured in clause (b), which says that a speaker aiming at optimal relevance should do his best to formulate his utterance in such a way that the intended interpretation is the one that costs least effort to recover. It follows that there is a manifestly satisfactory interpretation which the speaker manifestly could have foreseen, this is the only one he should have intended.

The communicative principle of relevance spells out the basic assumption that every utterance addressed to someone creates an expectation of optimal relevance.

Communicative Principle of Relevance:

Every utterance creates a presumption of its own optimal relevance.

Comparisons with Grice

1. The source of pragmatic principles.

How to justify Grice's Cooperative Principle and maxims. The answer given by relevance theory is that there is no need for a Cooperative Principle or maxims at all. By the very act of addressing someone, speakers create expectations of relevance, they can't help doing so; there's no reason why they should even know the Communicative Principle of Relevance at all.

Grice suggests that speakers should always give the required information, whether or not they have it, and whether or not it is in their interests to do so. Wilson has tried to show that this is unreasonable: the most the hearers are entitled to expect is that speakers will make their utterances as relevant as possible given their own abilities and preferences.

2. Restricting the search space.

How hearers can identify the intended interpretation. The vagueness of the maxims, and the possibility of violating them while still obeying the Cooperative Principle, means there might be several interpretations which would satisfy the CP and maxims.

Relevance theory has no maxims, and hence no maxim violation. It provides an explicit definition of optimal relevance which is powerful enough to exclude all but at most a single interpretation for any utterance. It suggests the following interpretation procedure:

Relevance-theoretic comprehension procedure

Follow a path of least effort in computing cognitive effects:

(a) Consider interpretations in order of accessibility.

(b) Stop when your expectation of relevance is satisfied

3. The scope of theory.

How the hearer might decide on what was explicitly communicated. The relevance-theoretic comprehension procedure applies to every aspect of the interpretation process: to the identification of what was said, what was implicated, the intended attitudes and the intended context.

The relevance-theoretic comprehension procedure applies as well to fragmentary utterances, which encode only part of the intended message, and to non-verbal communication.

4. The form of the comprehension process.

The relevance-theoretic comprehension procedure is the sort of thing that could be automatically and unconciously applied.

5. Developmental implications.

Wilson noted that pragmatic development seems to follow regular stages, each involving characteristic mistakes, which aren't explained on Grice's account.

The hearer's expectation of optimal relevance is never disappointed. But of course our expectations may be disappointed:

-We can't always trust speakers to be competent to make their utterance optimally

relevant: they don't know what is in their hearer's minds.

-Speakers are not always benevolents. They may speak intending to distract or

deceive you: that is, they may intend their utterance to seem relevant without

actually being relevant. Lies are an obvious example.

Wilson, D. (1992), Lectures on Pragmatics, University College London ms.

RELEVANCE AND UNDERSTANDING

Often, intentional communication involves a degree of manipulation or concealment. These intentions can only succeed if they remain hidden. These are cases of covert communication.

In overt communication, there are no hidden intentions, the speaker wants to convey a certain message, is actively helping the hearer to recognise it, and would acknowledge it if asked.

Understanding overt communication.

There is a gap between knowing what a sentence of English means and understanding all that a speaker intends to communicate by uttering it on a given occasion. Communication and understanding involve more than mere linguistic encoding and decoding.

The hearer of an utterance has to answer to three main questions:

-What did the speaker intend to say?

-What did the speaker intend to imply?

-What was the speaker intended attitude to what was said and implied?

What did the speaker intend to say?

Our knowledge of the language will tell us the range of linguistically possible interpretations of a vague, ambiguous or ambivalent utterance, but will not tell us which interpretation was actually intended on any given occasion.

*A garden path utterance: an utterance on which hearers quite systematically get the wrong interpretation first, and have to correct it.

Following the work of Paul Grice saying is contrasted with implying, or implicating. Every utterance is seen as communicating a variety of propositions, some explicitly ,others implicitly. In order to discover what was said by an utterance, the hearer must decode the sense of the sentence uttered, and then disambiguate any ambiguous expression, assign reference to any referential expressions, restore any ellipsed material, and narrow down the interpretation of any over-vague expressions, all in the intended way.

What did the speaker intend to imply?

Different assumptions lead to different implications, the hearer's task is to identify the intended ones.

Grice introduces the term implicature to refer to the intended implications of an utterance. Whether the implicatures are strong or weak, they cannot be discovered by linguistic decoding alone.

What was the speaker's intended attitude to what was said and implied?

Ex: Peter: Is John a good cook?

Mary: He's English.

→ Given the reputation of English cooking, the most natural interpretation of Mary's utterance

is that she intended Peter to supply the assumption that the English are bad cooks, and to

conclude that John is a bad cook.

But while she clearly intended to commit herself to the claim that John is English, it is less clear that she is seriously intended to commit herself to the claim tha John is English, it is less clear that she seriously intended to commit herself to the truth of the assumption that the English are bad cooks, and the conclusion that therefore John is a bad cook. Perhaps she was merely being playful, encouraging her audience to entertain the stereotyoe without actually endorsing it? There is room for moisunderstanding here.

The nature and role of context

Context is not simply the preceding linguistic text, or the environment in which the utterance takes place, but the set of assumptions brought to bear in arriving at the intended interpretation. These may be drawn from the preceding text, or from observation of the speaker and what is going on in the immediate environment, but they may also be drawn from cultural or scientific knowledge.

If contextual assumptions affect the way an utterance is understood, then in order to recognise the intended interpretation, the hearer must select and use the intended set of contextual assumptions.

For any utterance there is a huge range of possible contexts and possible implications, not all of which could conceivably be considered in the very short time it takes to understand an utterance.

Understanding an utterance involves considerably more than simply knowing the language. The class of possible interpretations is determined, on the one hand , by the meaning of the sentence uttered, and on the other by the set of available contextual assumptions. The hearer's task is to choose, from among this vast array of possible interpretations, the actual, intended one.

Grice suggested that the intended interpretation is not decoded but inferred, by a non-demostrative inference process. According to Grice, speakers are expected to obey a Cooperative Principle and maxims of truthfulness, informativeness, relevance and clarity; any hypothesis not satisfying these expectations can be automatically eliminated.

Relevance theory.

Relevance theory is based on:

-Every utterance has a variety of possible interpretations.

-Not all these interpretations occur to the hearer simultaneously, some of them take more effort to think up.

-Hearers are equipped with a single, very general criterion for evaluating interpretations as they occur to them.

-This criterion is powerful enough to exclude all but at most a single interpretation.

Relevance is based on the assumption that human cognition is relevance-oriented. Every utterance starts out as a request for the hearer's attention. As a result, it creates an expectation of relevance. Different interpretations will be relevant in different ways: some will not be relevant at all; some will be fairly relevant; some will be very relevant. The hearer should choose the interpretation which best satisfies his expectation of relevance.

Ex: It will rain in Paris tomorrow.

→ Suppose that you are going to Paris tomorrow, and already suspect that it was going to rain. Then the example will achieve relevance by strengthening, or confirming, your existing assumption. Suppose instead that you are going to Paris tomorrow and were expecting it to be fine. Then, if you trust the weather forecast, the example will achieve relevance by contradicting and eliminating your existing assumption. Finally, suppose that you are going to Paris tomorrow and have already decided to pack your raincoat if the forecast is for rain. Then the example will achieve relevance by combining with this existing assumption to yield the contextual implication that you will pack your raincoat.

Contextual effects, however, do not come free: they cost some mental effort to derive, and the greater the effort needed to derive them, the lower the relevance will be.

The processing effort required to understand an utterance depends on two main factors:

-The effort of memory and imagination needed to construct a suitable context.

-The psychological complexity of the utterance itself.

Relevance, then, depends on contextual effects and processing effort. The greater the contextual effects, the greater the relevance; but the greater the processing effort needed to obtain these effects, the lower the relevance.

What is unique to over communication is that approaching an utterance addressed to us, we are entitled to have not just hopes but steady expectations of relevance.

Precisely because utterance interpretation is not a simple matter of decoding, but a fallible process of hypothesis formation and evaluation, there is no guarantee that the interpretation that satisfies the hearer's expectation of relevance will be the correct, i.e. the intended one. The aim of a theory of communication is to identify the principles underlying the hearer's choices. Relevance theory claims that the interpretation that satisfies his expectations of relevance is the only one that the hearer has any rational basis for choosing.

The criterion of consistency with the principle of relevance

The principle of relevance is the principle that every utterance creates an expectation of relevance.

Dan Sperber and Wilson's notion of Optimal Relevance:

An utterance, on a given interpretation, is optimally relevant if and only if:

(a) It achieves enough contextual effects to be worth the hearer's attention.

(b) It puts the hearer to no gratuitous processing effort in achieving those effects.

We are talking about overt communication, where the speaker is anxious to avoid misunderstanding, and is actively helping the hearer to recognise the intended interpretation. From clause (b), it follows that a speaker aiming at optimal relevance should try to formulate his utterance in such a way that the first acceptable interpretation to occur to the hearer is the one he intended to convey.

An utterance does not actually have to be optimally relevant.

Criterion of consistency with the principle of relevance:

An utterance, on a given interpretation, is consistent with the principle of relevance if and only if the speaker might rationally have expected it to be optimally relevant to the hearer on that interpretation.

All the hearer is entitled to impute as part of the intended interpretation is the minimal context and contextual effects that would be enough to make the utterance worth his intentions.

Some consequences of relevance theory.

1. The first acceptable interpretation is the only acceptable interpretation.

If an utterance has a highly salient (i.e. immediately accesible) interpretation which the speaker could have intended, then by clause (b) of the definition of optimal relevance this is the one he should have intended: he cannot rationally have intended to communicate anything else.

If your utterance has a manifestly satisfactory and immediately accessible interpretation, that is the only interpretation you can rationally intend to communicate.

Clause (b) of the definition of optimal relevance says that the speaker should put the hearer to no gratuitous processing effort in achieving the intended effects.

Ex: Peter: Would you like some coffee?

Mary: Coffee would keep me awake.

→ In interpreting Mary's utterance, Peter would normally be expected to supply the following contextual assumption and derive the contextual implication:

Contextual assumption: Mary doesn't want to be kept awake.

Contextual implication: Mary doesn't want any coffee.

→ This is not the only possible interpretation:

Contextual assumption: Mary wants to stay awake.

Contextual implication: Mary wants some coffee.

The criterion of consistency with the principle of relevance thus explains that the minimal satisfactory interpretation is the one the hearer should choose.

2. Extra effort implies extra effect.

By saying that coffee would keep her awake, Mary not only refuses the coffe but gives an explanation for her refusal, an explanation which would not have been communicated by the simpler answer `No'.

Relevance theory and Gricean pragmatics.

Grice argues that the implicatures of an utterance are not decoded but inferred, by a non-demonstrative inference process in which contextual assuptions and general principles of communication play an important role. The speaker obeyed a Cooperative Principle and maxims of truthfulness, informativenes, relevance and clarity.

For Grice, the fundamental principle of communication is the Cooperative Principle, according to which the speaker should try to make his contribution `such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange'.

Grice seems to have assumed that the purpose of an utterance is somehow given in advance of the comprehension process. In fact, it could not be identified by the use of the Cooperative Principle itself; to identify the purpose of an utterance by the use of the Cooperative Principle, one would already have to know it.

Relevance theory suggests that there's no Cooperative Principle. The purpose of an utterance does not contribute to comprehension, it is identifiable as a contextual assumption like any other, via the criterion of consistency with the principle of relevance.

Among the maxims, Grice sees truthfulness as the most important; relevance theory argues that there is no maxim of truthfulness, and indeed no maxims at all. Relevance is fundamental to communication not because speakers obey a maxim of relevance, but because relevance is fundamental to cognition.

Grice listed a number of ways in which speaker could violate the maxims. Relevance theory rejects this.

The principle of relevance is not a maxim, it's not a rule that speakers can obey or disobey, it is an exceptionless generalisation about what happens when someone is addressed.

Whereas Grice was mainly concerned with the implicit side of communication, relevance theory has been equally concerned with the explicit side.

Relevance Theory Exercises:

1. Are (1-6) below relevant to you? Why?

  • You are now reading the first exercise in this handout.

  • ! It fails to give rise to any of the cognitive effects ( strengthening, contradicting and eliminating an

    assumption, and yield a contextual implication), so it's no relevant.

  • Now you are not reading the first exercise in this handout.

  • ! It's irrelevant because it doesn'y give rise to any of the cognitive effects:

    - It fails to give rise of the strengthening of an old contextual assumption because it is right the

    opposite.

    - Not contradicting and eliminating your contextual assumption.

    - There's no derivation of any contextual implication because you are not going to accept this utterance.

  • Now it is colder than usual in northern Europe.

  • ! It doesn't give rise to any of the three types of cognitive effects, so it is irrelevant.

  • 5 May 1881 was a sunny day in Kabul.

  • ! It doesn't give rise to any of the three types of cognitive effects, so it's no relevant.

  • You are now doing an exercise.

  • ! It fails to give rise to any of the cognitive effects so it's no relevant.

  • You are fast asleep.

  • ! It is irrelevant because it doesn't give rise to any of the cognitive effects.

    2. An assumption is relevant if it gives rise to effects when processed in that context. Give one example for each of the different sorts of contextual effects that an assumption may have in a context.

    While I'm doing an exam on pragmatics I think:

    1.a. I'll pass this exam.

    2.b. If I pass this exam, I'll finish my career.

    3.c. If I don't pass this exam, I'll do it again next year.

    As my exam is going O.K, I add the new information `I will pass the exam' and two cognitive effects are added to the context:

    This new information strengths the assumption in 1.a. and it combines with the assumption in 1.b. to yield the contextual implication `I'll finish my career'.

    `I will pass the exam' is relevant because it has these cognitive effects, the more cognitive effects, the more relevant information.

    But if my exam is not going too well and I add the new information `I won't pass the exam', it contradicts 1.a. and eliminates it, the weaker of the two assumptions is abandoned. This new information would also combine with 1.c. to yield the contextual implication `I'll do it again next year'.

    As I am doing the exam I notice that outside it's sunny.

    2. Today is a sunny day.

    ! It does not strength an existing assumption, it does not contradict and eliminate an existing

    assumption, and it does not combine with an existing assumption to yield a contextual implication.

    3. You are doing a Pragmatics exam.

    !This is something I already know so my existing assumption cannot be strengthened.

    4.You are not doing a Pragmatics exam.

    !This new information contradicts an existing assumption of mine, this information is not strong

    enough to overturn my existing assumption and it will be rejected.

    3. A Show that the same piece of information may be relevant in one context and not in another.

    I am walking down the street and someone stops me and says:

    - Your name is Irune Hidalgo.

    ! This is irrelevant to me because it's something I already know. This new information doesn't strength any contextual assumption; it doesn't contradict nor eliminate a contextual assumption of mine; and it fails to yield a contextual implication.

    I am in a program of witness protection and I need a new identity:

    - Your name is Irune Hidalgo.

    ! In this example this information is relevant to me as in this new context, this utterance strengths a contextual assumption of mine.

    B Provide a context and two utterances, both of which are relevant in the context, but one more relevant than the other.

    4. The implications below follows from assumption (1-3). An analytic implication is an implication derived from just one premise. A synthetic implication is derived from two premises. Label each of the implications below as analytic or synthetic.

    ASSUMPTIONS

  • The ticket is in the wallet.

  • The wallet is in the suitcase.

  • The suitcase is in the car.

  • IMPLICATIONS

  • The ticket is in the suitcase. ! Synthetic implication.

  • The ticket is somewhere. !Analytic implication.

  • Something is in the wallet !Analytic implication.

  • The wallet is somewhere. !Analytic implication.

  • The ticket is in the car. !Synthetic implication.

  • Something is in the suitcase. !Analytic implication.

  • Something is in the car. ! Analytic implication.

  • The wallet is in the car. ! Synthetic implication.

  • The siutcase is somewhere. ! Analytic implication.

  • 5. What conclusions follow from the following sets of premises?

  • This is an orchid.

  • Orchids are rare flowers.

  • - This is a rare flower.

  • Larry is a philosopher.

  • Philosophers are entertaining.

  • - Larry is entertaining.

  • When the outside temperature is below five degrees centigrade the pond is frozen.

  • The outside temperature is below five degrees centigrade.

  • - The pond is frozen.

    6. Suppose the first premise in the arguments above was uttered by the speaker in a conversational exchange with the hearer and the second premise was retrieve by the hearer from his enciclopaedic memory as part of the interpretation process. What relevance-theoretic terms might be used to describe the second premise and the conclusion in the arguments?

    Contextual assumption and contextual implication.

    Implicated premise ---- 2nd premise ---- Contextual assumption.

    Implicated conclusion ---- conclusion ---- Contextual implication.

    8. Consider the following mini-dialogue:

    A: Is there any shopping to do?

    B: We'll be away for most of the weekend.

    What contextual implication may the hearer derive from B if he holds the assumption in (1).? And if he holds the assumption in (2)?

    (1). If we`re going away for the weekend then we won't need any food.

    Contextual implication: We won't need any food.

    (2). a. If we are away for the weekend, then we won't be able to go shopping.

    Contextual implication: We won't be able to go shopping.

    b. If we don't go shopping then we won't have any food on our return.

    Contextual implication: We won't have any food on our return.

    9. Consider the following question:

    What did you have for breakfast?

  • Two pieces of toast and a cup of coffee.

  • Breakfast is the first meal of the day. I had two slices of bread toasted under a flame until crisp and spread with butter and a sweet confection known as jam. I also had a cup of hot beverage made from roasted and ground beans of a plant grown in South America and Africa infused in hot water.

  • Are both (a) and (b) equally relevant as answers to the question?

    No, they are not equally relevant in the Relevance Theory sense; because for the same cognitive effect the second utterance requires more effort. (a) is more relevant than (b) because it requires less effort to be processed for the same effects.

    Are they both optimally relevant as answers to the question?

    No.

    10. For each of the exchanges below, provide a contextual assumption in which to process Mary's answer, and the resulting contextual implication.

    Peter: Do you want some coffee?

    Mary: Coffee would keep me awake.

    Contextual assumption: Mary wants to be kept awake.

    Contextual implication: Mary wants some coffee.

    Peter: What do you intend to do today?

    Mary: I have a terrible headache.

    Contextual assumption:

    Contextual implication:

    13. Consider a context consisting of assumptions (1 a-c):

  • a. People who are getting married should consult a doctor about possible hereditary

  • risks to their children.

    b. Two people both of whom has thalassemia should be warned against having children.

    c. Susan has thalassemia.

    Consider the effects that assumptions (2) and (3), both by hypothesis equally strong, would have in this context.

    (1) Susan, who has thalassemia, is getting married to Bill.

    (2) Bill, who has thalassemia, is getting married to Susan.

    (1) carries a contextual implication which is also carried by (3).Which is it?

    Contextual implication: Susan and Bill should consult a doctor.

    Other things being equal, an assumption with greater contextual effects is more relevant. Which of the two assumptions is more relevant? Why?

    Because the additional information that Bill has thalassemia enables us to derive one extra contextual imploication, that Bill and Susan should be worried against having children.

    The interpretation of the utterance involves the recovery of the context.

    Ex: Would you like some coffee?

    Coffee would keep me awake.

    The speaker does not want to be kept awake ! Part of the context, therefore a premise.

    Implicature: The speaker doesn't want any coffee (Grice). ! This is arrived at as a conclusion.

    Implicated premise = Contextual assumption

    Implicated conclusion = Contextual implication.

    Both are implicatures because they are attributed to the speaker (Sperber - Wilson relevance)

    Sperber and Wilson 1986/95, ch. 3, section 3 `Is the context given or chosen?'

    RELEVANCE THEORY - THE SELECTION OF THE CONTEXT

    Context is not given but chosen or selected as part of the interpretation of the utterance. What the context looks like depends on the certain utterance; you cannot give a general description of what the context should look like. It is not UNIQUELY DETERMINED.

    How big the context is will make the utterance less relevant, you do not expand the context unless you don't derive cognitive effects; the bigger the context the less relevant the utterance.

    Ex: Peter: I'm tired.

    Mary: The dessert is ready. I'll make the main course.

    Peter is tired ! Explicitly expressed

    Peter wishes Mary would make the meal ! Implicitly expressed.

    Ex: - Where does John live?

    - John lives next to Capri restaurant.

    X

    Peter does not know where John lives, Peter wishes to know ...

    Any information you have about Peter.

    The context is selected by the hearer.

    From: Dan Sperber

    To: Relevance discussion group.

    Date: 4 January 1998

    On: The strength of implicatures.

    STRENGTH OF IMPLICATURES

    Facing indirect answers to questions, people seem to ignore the weak implicatures and sometimes they understand the strong implicature without understanding weak implicatures. How does the Relevance Theory explain such phenomena?

    Ex: A: Is he a good cook?

    B: He is French.

    Contextual assumption: French people are normally good cooks.

    ! This must be shared by A and B although in a weak sense.

    Contextual implication: He's probably a good cook.

    ! It arises because A considers B's answer relevant.

    B's answer not only conveys the strong implicature, the indirect answer also conveys a set of weak implicatures, for instance, that the French are romantic, ... Communication may be successful without understanding those weak implicatures.

    It is manifest that the speaker intended the hearer to derive these implications so as to arrive at a relevant interpretation. These implications are not mere implications, they are also implicatures.

    IMPLICATIONS

  • He is European.

  • He speaks French.

  • He is probably a good cook.

  • Implications (1) and (2) don't contribute to the relevance of the utterance and are therefore not implicatures of the utterance. (3) on the other hand, makes the utterance relevant to the hearer, and is therefore an implicature.

    Ex: Peter: Do you want to play tennis?

    Mary: I have a terrible headache.

    ! Indirect answer, it requires more effort.

    IMPLICATURE : (1) Mary doesn't want to play tennis.

    Mary's utterance contextually implies that she doesn't want to play tennis. Thus (1) is a strong implicature.

    Notice though that if this is all that Mary wanted to convey, she could have answer directly, causing less processing effort. So the interpretation of the example as merely implicating (1) is not yet optimally relevant.The utterance becomes optimally relevant if it is seen as implicating:

    (2) Mary doesn't want to play tennis because of her headache.

    However, Peter might not care about Mary's reasons, and Mary might not care about whether Peter cares about her reasons or not, so deriving the implicature (2) is somewhat less important to understanding Mary's utterance and giving it a relevant interpretation.

    But Mary might have answered Peter's question indirectly because her answer has other impications that she assumes will be relevant to Peter.

    The general difference between strong and weak implicature has to do with the degree of responsibility taken by the speaker on the one hand, and the hearer on the other for the exact implication the hearer derives. The stronger the responsibility of the speaker, the stronger the implicature, and viceversa.

    Ex: A: Would you like some coffee?

    B: Coffee would keep me awake.

    ! It's not the more relevant utterance. This is not optimally relevant, it requires more effort from

    the hearer than a direct answer: `No, I don't want any coffee'.

    Contextual assumtion: B doesn't want to be kept awake.

    Contextual implication: B doesn't want any coffee.

    OPTIMALLY RELEVANT: Mary doesn't want any coffee because it keeps her awake.

    Ex: A: Would you like to drive a Mercedes?.

    B: I wouldn't drive any expensive car.

    Contextual assumption: A Mercedes is an expensive car.

    Contextual implication: B wouldn't drive a Mercedes.

    OPTIMALLY RELEVANT: B wouldn't drive a Mercedes because it is an expensive car.

    Carston,R. (1988), Implicature, explicature and truth-theoretic semantics, in R.M. Kempson, Mental Representations, Cambridge: CUP

    IMPLICATURE, EXPLICATURE, AND TRUTH-THEORETIC SEMANTICS

    The proposition explicitky expressed by the utterance of a linguistic expression is what is said in Grice's terms. We have to distinguish between the proposition expressed (explicature), and the proposition implicated (implicature).

    What counts as an explicature isn't arbitrarily confined to linguistic sense plus reference assingment and disambiguation. They follow from the principle of relevance. A distinction must be made between linguistic semantics and truth-theoretic semantics.

    Implicatures

    Ex: A: Smith doesn't seem to have a girlfriend these days.

    B: He's been paying a lot of visits to New York lately.

    ! B implicates that Smith has, or may have, a girlfriend in New York, an assumption he must be taken to believe in order to preserve the assumption that he is observing the maxim of relation `Be relevant'.

    We surely don't think that the assumption that Smith has a girlfriend in New York is explicitly conveyed by B' utterance. That message is conveyed implicilty, and it is clear dependent on the particular context. If the context were different the implicit message would not be conveyed. This property of cancellability is one of the characteristics of implicatures.

    Sperber & Wilson have developed an account of the non-demonstrative inference processes involved in the derivation of implicatures.

    Ex: A: Have you read Susan's book?

    B : I don't read autobiographies.

    Implicated premise: Susan's book is an autobiography.

    Implicated conclusion: B hasn't read Susan's book.

    There are two kinds of implicature involved in the derivations: implicated premises and implicated conclusions. Once the implicated premise has been recovered, the conclusion follows by a straightforward deductive inference rule, taking the implicated premise and the explicature of the utterances as input.

    The explicature is distinct from the implicatures of the utterance; the truth conditions of `Susan's book is an autobiography' are independent of the truth conditionss of `B doesn't read autobiographies'. As well as cancellability and calculability, there is the independent functioning of these forms in the references involved in deriving the full import of an utterance. Any such requirement on implicatures places an identical requirement on the explicatures of the utterance. They too are assumptions; they must function as autonomous premises in inferential interactions with other assumptions and must be stored in memory as separate assumptions. The results of disambiguation and reference assignment are also cancellable and calculable.

    While particularised implicatures are `carried by saying that p on a particular occasion in virtue of special features of the context', generalised implicatures are those ` normally carried by saying that p' no matter what the context is.

    Ex: She gave him her key and he opened the door.

    GCI: She gave him her key and then he opened the door.

    Ex: Mrs Smith has three children.

    GCI: Mrs Smith has no more than three children.

    Ex: Some of the students passed the exam.

    GCI: Not all of the students passed the exam.

    We find different temporal notions: successivity, simultaneity ... These meanings are the result of the way our minds organise information into connected scenarios or scripts, making a variety of connections amongst events and states of affairs in the world. So we relate events temporally, causally and spatially.

    A cooperative speaker should not present a hearer with a sequence of events which any normal human being would assume to be causally connected if she does not intend this assumption to be made.

    Deriving the explicature depends on reference assignmet and disambiguation. These are processes which are just as dependent on context and pragmatic principles as is the derivation of implicatures. Most pragmatists say that there is a small gap between sentence sense and explicature, but that is entirely filled by disambiguation and reference assignment. The maxims make some contribution to determining the explicature but it is an open question how great their contribution is.

    In dtermining what the speaker has explicated, the hearer must assign a reference to each of the referring expressions.

    Assuming that the implicature is a conceptual representation with a propositional form, the explicature is entailed by the implicature. If the implicated assumption is restored in memory the explicated assumption need not be, since all the information given by the latter is also given by the former.

    Ambiguities and referring expressions can be seen as instructions given by the grammar to carry out some process of choosing or specifying in order to derive a propositional form.

    Explicatures

    Most pragmatists have adopted the view that any pragmatically determined aspect of utterance interpretation, apart from disambiguation and reference assignment, is necessarily an implicature. The explanation lies with the assumption that the explicature must be truth-evaluable. On this basis even the temporal ordering information is not strictly part of the explicature.

    Pragmatics principles may have much more to do in stablishing what has been explicated than just assigning reference and disambiguation. Lexical utterances such as `On the table', `Telephone', are standardly instantly understood as conveying complete propositions.

    Ex: a. The park is some distance from where I live.

    b. It will take us some time to get there.

    ! Consider a. ; the logical form of this existentially quantifier over distances and requires just reference fixing (of I and the park) to be fully propositional, that is, capable of bearing a truth value. It's doubtless generally true that there is a distance between the speaker's home and the park referred to, but it's very unlikely that that's what a speaker wants to convey on a given occasion of utterance or that that's what a hearer would take her to be explicating. It wouldn't tell a hearer anything he didn't already know. If this was all the speaker was saying, she wouldn't be observing the pragmatic principles. The particular proposition expressed by a. will depend on the particular context, which must be such that it is worth remarking on the distance.

    What the hearer is going to remember from this utterance is some estimate of the distance involved, not the fact that there is a distance.

    Sperber & Wilson ! The logical form of the linguistic expression uttered is the semantic representation assigned to it by the grammar and recovered in utterance interpretation by an automatic process of decoding.

    Carston ! As we have seen this logical form is frequently not fully propositional, and a hearer then has the task of completing it to recover the fully propositional form that the speaker intended to convey. While any communicated assumption is either an explicature or an implicature, it is clear that an explicature may be more or less explicit since it is a combination of linguistically encoded and contextually inferred features.

    The principle of relevance

    Ostensive stimuli make evident to a receiver the intention of the communicator to make it evident that she intends to inform the receiver of something.

    A phenomenon is said to be relevant to an individual if it has certain cognitive effects for that individual. There are three kinds of that cognitive effects. Relevance is a matter of degree: the more cognitive effects a phenomenon has the more relevant it is.

    Utterances come with a guarantee of optimal relevance. The principle of optimal relevance states: every act of ostensive communication communicates a guarantee of its own optimal relevance. In comprehending an utterance a hearer must find an interpretation which is consistent with the principle of relevance. The first interpretation which the hearer finds to be consistent with the principle of relevance is taken to be the correct one.

    Let us consider how this principle might constrain the process of developing logical forms into explicatures:

    • Linguistic decoding takes variable amounts of processing effort.

    • Interpreting an utterance requires the setting up of a context of assumptions.

    • The processing effort required for this varies from individual to individual and from utterance to utterance.

    In all aspects of utterance interpretation considerations of optimal relevance play a vital constraining and enriching role.

    Generalised conversational implicatures

    A simple sentence containing an item on the scale entails another simple sentence which differs from the first only in containing an item lower on the scale. The reverse is not the case. So a entails b, and b does not entail a. However, a is cancellable as in d.

  • Mrs Smith has three children.

  • Mrs Smith has two children.

  • Mrs Smith does not have four children.

  • Mrs Smith has three children.

  • Carston rejects `at least X' in many contexts utterances implicating `at mostX' in order to preserve the assumption that Grice's Quantity maxim is being observed.

    Two kinds of semantics

    We must distinguish two kinds of semantics, linguistic and truth conditional, the former figuring only in a theory of utterance meaning, the latter taking as its domain propositional forms.

    There is a clear semantics/pragmatics distinction, where semantics is understood as translations of linguistic forms into logical forms. Natural language semantics, then, is autonomous and provides the input to pragmatics which plays a major role in determining the explicature of an utterance as well as determining implicatures.

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