The rationality of conversational implicature

Implicatures can be determined by sentence meaning or by conversational context, and can be conventional in different senses or unconventional. Figures of speech such as metaphor and irony provide familiar examples, as do loose use and damning with faint praise. Implicature serves a variety of goals: communication, maintaining good social relations, misleading without lying, style, and verbal efficiency.

Conversational implicatures have become one of the principal subjects of pragmatics. An important conceptual and methodological issue in semantics is how to distinguish senses and entailments from generalized conversational implicatures. A related issue is the degree to which sentence meaning determines what is said.

Historical linguistics traces the evolution of conversational implicatures into idioms. Grice developed an influential theory to explain and predict conversational implicatures, and describe how they arise and are understood. The Cooperative Principle and associated maxims play a central role.

Problems for such principle-based theories include overgeneration, lack of determinacy, clashes, and the fact that speakers often have other goals. An alternative approach emphasizes that implicatures can be explained and predicted in all the ways intentions and conventions can be.

Grice — was the first to systematically study cases in which what a speaker means differs from what the sentence used by the speaker means. Consider 1. Grice introduced the technical terms implicate and implicature for the case in which what the speaker said is distinct from what the speaker thereby meant or implied. In 2Carla is a dispatcher in Denver, where it is sunny and dry.

Don is a truck driver trying to get over the continental divide during a blizzard. Don is using irony. He said that the weather is lovely, but he thereby meant that the weather is terrible. So he implicated that the weather is terrible.

Implicating is an illocutionary speech act, something done in or by uttering words Austin 98— Since it involves meaning one thing by saying something else, it is an indirect speech actalbeit not one that Searle —6 analyzed. Barb could have said the same thing by uttering different words. So we will take Ed to have implicated that Jupiter is a gas giant by saying that the largest planet is. Stating or asserting that p entails both saying and meaning that p.

Don did not mean what he said for a different reason. So he too said but did not assert that the weather is lovely. It is not possible to fully understand speakers without knowing what they have implicated as well as what they have said.

Unless Carla knows what Don meant by saying that the weather is lovely, she might mistakenly infer that he will arrive on time.

Paul Grice

The difference between saying and implicating also affects how we evaluate speakers. If Barb knew she did not have to work, then she was lying in dialogue 1.

They cannot avoid perjury by implicating a falsehood rather than saying it. What someone implicates is not given to us directly. We have to infer it from evidence.


To implicate something is to express a belief in a particular way. To infer something is to acquire or possess a belief in a particular way. Hearers have to infer what speakers implicate. This is not what makes implicating an indirect speech act. Implicature is indirect because to implicate something is to mean it by saying something else.

Even though it requires an inference, our recognition of what is meant is commonly automatic and effortless, whether it is said or implicated.GriceH.

the rationality of conversational implicature

Paul Griceor Paul Gricewas a British philosopher of languagewhose work on meaning has influenced the philosophical study of semantics. He is known for his theory of implicature. In that year, he moved to the United States to take up a professorship at the University of California, Berkeleywhere he taught until his death in He reprinted many of his essays and papers in his valedictory book, Studies in the Way of Words One of Grice's two most influential contributions to the study of language and communication is his theory of meaningwhich he began to develop in his article "Meaning", written in but published only in at the prodding of his colleague, P.

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These two lectures were initially published as "Utterer's Meaning and Intentions" in and "Utterer's Meaning, Sentence Meaning, and Word Meaning" inand were later collected with the other lectures as the first section of Studies in the Way of Words in In the article "Meaning", Grice describes "natural meaning" using the example of "Those spots mean meant measles.

And describes "non-natural meaning" using the example of "John means that he'll be late" or "'Schnee' means 'snow'". Grice does not define these two senses of the verb 'to mean', and does not offer an explicit theory that separates the ideas they're used to express. Instead, he relies on five differences in ordinary language usage to show that we use the word in at least two different ways. For the rest of "Meaning", and in his discussions of meaning in "Logic and Conversation", Grice deals exclusively with non-natural meaning.

His overall approach to the study of non-natural meaning later came to be called "intention-based semantics" because it attempts to explain non-natural meaning based on the idea of a speakers' intentions. Utterer's meaning : What a speaker means by an utterance. Grice wouldn't introduce this label until "Logic and Conversation. Timeless meaning : The kind of meaning that can be possessed by a type of utterance, such as a word or a sentence.

This is often called "conventional meaning", although Grice didn't call it that. The two steps in intention-based semantics are 1 to define utterer's meaning in terms of speakers' overt audience-directed intentions, and then 2 to define timeless meaning in terms of utterer's meaning.

The net effect is to define all linguistic notions of meaning in purely mental terms, and to thus shed psychological light on the semantic realm. In this definition, 'A' is a variable ranging over speakers and 'x' is a variable ranging over utterances.

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Grice generalises this definition of speaker meaning later in 'Meaning' so that it applies to commands and questions, which, he argues, differ from assertions in that the speaker intends to induce an intention rather than a belief. Grice next turns to the second step in his program: explaining the notion of timeless meaning in terms of the notion of utterer's meaning. He does so very tentatively with the following definition:.

The basic idea here is that the meaning of a word or sentence results from a regularity in what speakers use the word or sentence to mean. Grice would give a much more detailed theory of timeless meaning in his sixth Logic and Conversation lecture. Grice's most influential contribution to philosophy and linguistics is his theory of implicature, which started in his article, 'The Causal Theory of Perception', and was most fully developed in his "Logic and Conversation", at Harvard's 'William James Lectures'.

According to Grice, what a speaker means by an utterance can be divided into what the speaker "says" and what the speaker thereby "implicates". Grice makes it clear that the notion of saying he has in mind, though related to a colloquial sense of the word, is somewhat technical, referring to it as "a favored notion of 'saying' that must be further elucidated". One point of controversy surrounding Grice's favoured notion of saying is the connection between it and his concept of utterer's meaning.

Grice makes it clear that he takes saying to be a kind of meaning, in the sense that doing the former entails doing the latter: "I want to say that 1 "U utterer said that p" entails 2 "U did something x by which U meant that p" Another point of controversy surrounding Grice's notion of saying is the relationship between what a speaker says with an expression and the expression's timeless meaning.

Although he attempts to spell out the connection in detail several times, [24] the most precise statement that he endorses is the following one:. In the sense in which I am using the word say, I intend what someone has said to be closely related to the conventional meaning of the words the sentence he has uttered.

Unfortunately, Grice never spelled out what he meant by the phrase "closely related" in this passage, and philosophers of language continue to debate over its best interpretation. In 'The Causal Theory of Perception', Grice contrasts saying which he there also calls "stating" with "implying", but in Logic and Conversation he introduces the technical term "implicature" and its cognates "to implicate" and "implicatum" i.

Grice sums up these notions by suggesting that to implicate is to perform a "non-central" speech act, whereas to say is to perform a "central" speech act. This latter way of drawing the distinction is an important part of John Searle 's influential theory of speech acts.

Although Grice is best known for his theory of conversational implicature, he also introduced the notion of conventional implicature.Grice received firsts in classical honours moderation and literae humaniores from Corpus Christi College, Oxford. After a year teaching in a public school, he returned to Oxford where, with a nearly five year interruption for service in the Royal Navy, he taught in various positions until when he moved to the University of California-Berkeley.

He taught there past his official retirement until his death in He was philosophically active until his death—holding discussions at his home, giving lectures and editing a collection of his work that was posthumously published as Studies in the Way of Words. He is best known for his innovative work in philosophy of language, but also made important contributions to metaphysics, ethics and to the study of Aristotle and Kant. His work has also been influential outside of philosophy in linguistics and artificial intelligence.

Although relatively little work was published during his life, he had a very wide influence via lectures and unpublished manuscripts. The best known of these were the William James Lectures which he gave at Harvard in early and which circulated widely in unauthorized manuscript form until they were published as part of Studies in the Way of Words.

He also played cricket, chess and piano, each at a very high level of accomplishment. But in many contexts, the speaker would be taken to imply that the person had committed at least one crime and was likely to be convicted in the future. This distinction between meaning and use has found many applications in philosophy, linguistics and artificial intelligence. The basic idea was to distinguish two notions of meaning: what a sentence means in general apart from any use of it, and what a specific speaker means by using the sentence on a particular occasion.

Grice sees the latter notion as entirely a matter of what the speaker intends. The following sections will outline the Grice-Strawson arguments for an analytic-synthetic distinction Section 2notions of conversational implicature 3and then delve into his theories about meaning 4reasoning 5psychology 6ontology 7and value 8.

These can both be illustrated with their pair of example sentences:. They claim that it is not difficult to understand what someone would mean by uttering 1and it is fairly clear what it would take to persuade someone that 1 is not false, as seems initially evident. But in the case of 2they argue, in effect, that with further investigation one would either conclude that the speaker was using familiar words to express new concepts, or else would conclude that nothing at all was being said.

But the reader should note that the crucial claims are that someone who asserts 2 is either asserting it with a meaning other than the standard conventional one, or with no meaning at all.

Conversational implicatures are, roughly, things that a hearer can work out from the way something was said rather than what was said. People process conversational implicatures all of the time and are mostly unaware of it.L' assassinat de John F.

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La perception de configuration illusoire est un processus cognitif automatique sous-jacent aux croyances du complot [ ]. En effet, selon Douglas et al.

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the rationality of conversational implicature

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