Scalar implicatures in language acquisition: Some evidence from Modern Greek

Abstract

According to the standard analysis, quantifiers such as , connectives such as , modals such as and a host of other expressions form informational scales (Horn, 1972). In the canonical case, informational scales are defined on the basis of entailment (e.g. p and q asymmetrically entails p or q). Given the Gricean assumption that speakers try to say as much as they truthfully can that is relevant to the conversational exchange, the fact that an informationally weaker term was used in (1)-(3) often gives the listener reason to think that the speaker was not in a position to offer a stronger statement (presumably because such a statement would be false). Thus, even though weak scalar expressions such as some and or have a lower-bounded semantics (for instance some means ‘some and possibly all’), their semantic content is typically upper-bounded by a conversational implicature (e.g. ‘some but not all’). More recently, the precise mechanisms responsible for the computation of scalar implicatures (SIs) have become the topic of much debate. There is considerable disagreement as to whether SIs are derived on the basis of broadly Gricean quantity considerations, as the traditional account would have it, or post- Gricean relevance-oriented computations, whether they are the result of local or global calculations, and whether they are context-specific or generalized, default inferences (for varying perspectives, see Hirschberg, 1985; Sperber and Wilson, 1986/1995; Grice, 1989; Carston, 1990, 1998; Horn, 1992; Levinson, 2000; Chierchia, 2001). In several cases, SIs have been used to motivate and illustrate very different views of the architecture of the semantics-pragmatics interface. Despite their prominent place in the theoretical linguistic literature, scalar inferences have attracted relatively little attention in psycholinguistics..

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