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Title: Scalar Implicatures or Focus: An Experimental Approach
Written By: Arjen Zondervan

This dissertation is about one of the most robust and widespread types of
pragmatic meaning in natural language: scalar implicatures (SIs). A scalar
implicature is the inference that when a speaker uses a linguistic item
that is on a scale with another item, the hearer concludes the sentence
with the stronger scale member does not hold. For instance the inferences
from 'It was okay' to 'It was not excellent' and from 'Some students
passed' to 'Not all students passed' are scalar implicatures. It is widely
acknowledged that these inferences are context-dependent, yet little is
known about the properties of the context that determine their presence or
absence. This thesis aims to contribute to the filling of this gap by
considering the relation between SIs and the contextual property of
information focus. Additionally, it addresses the psychological reality of
the view that the exclusive reading of or, on which A or B means A or B but
not both, comes about by an SI. The thesis addresses these questions
through a set of 11 experiments, both off-line (questionnaires) and on-line
(processing). Next to the relation between SIs and focus, these experiments
consider relevance of the stronger scalar alternative, the processing cost
of SI-calculation, the assumption of speaker expertise and the relation
between SIs and exhaustivity. The results support the prediction that
information focus affects SI-calculation. However, the array of data taken
together raise doubts about the view that the exclusive reading of or is
the result of a scalar implicature. The author discusses and tests
theoretical insights from truth-conditional semantics, logic, pragmatics
and reasoning as well as insights and results from (experimental)
psycholinguistics, so this dissertation should be of interest to scholars
in any of these domains.

Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke (LOT)
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
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Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9789460930317
Prices: U.K. £ 31.87