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Borg, Emma, , . On three theories of implicature: default theory, relevance and minimalism
2009, The International Review of Pragmatics, 1 (1): 63-83.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Abstract: Grice’s distinction between what is said by a sentence and what is implicated by an utterance of it is both extremely familiar and almost universally accepted. However, in recent literature, the precise account he offered of implicature recovery has been questioned and alternative accounts have emerged. In this paper, I examine three such alternative accounts. My main aim is to show that the two most popular accounts in the current literature (the default inference view and the relevance theoretic approach) still face signifi cant problems. I will then conclude by suggesting that an alternative account, emerging from semantic minimalism, is best placed to accommodate Grice’s distinction.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on the philosophy of language, particularly with regard to pragmatics and implicature. The paper is particularly useful for teaching, as it provides a clear overview of three influential and important theories of implicature; so serves as a good survey text, as well as an original piece of argumentation.

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Saul, Jennifer M., , . What is said and psychological reality; Grice’s project and relevance theorists’ criticisms
2002, Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (3):347-372.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: One of the most important aspects of Grice’s theory of conversation is the drawing of a borderline between what is said and what is implicated. Grice’s views concerning this borderline have been strongly and influentially criticised by relevance theorists. In particular, it has become increasingly widely accepted that Grice’s notion of what is said is too limited, and that pragmatics has a far larger role to play in determining what is said than Grice would have allowed. (See for example Bezuidenhuit 1996; Blakemore 1987; Carston 1991; Recanati 1991, 1993, 2001; Sperber and Wilson 1986; Wilson and Sperber 1981.) In this paper, I argue that the rejection of Grice has moved too swiftly, as a key line of objection which has led to this rejection is flawed. The flaw, we will see, is that relevance theorists rely on a misunderstanding of Grice’s project in his theory of conversation. I am not arguing that Grice’s versions of saying and implicating are right in all details, but simply that certain widespread reasons for rejecting his theory are based on misconceptions.1Relevance theorists, I will suggest, systematically misunderstand Grice by taking him to be engaged in the same project that they are: making sense of the psychological processes by which we interpret utterances. Notions involved with this project will need to be ones that are relevant to the psychology of utterance interpretation. Thus, it is only reasonable that relevance theorists will require that what is said and what is implicated should be psychologically real to the audience. (We will see that this requirement plays a crucial role in their arguments against Grice.) Grice, I will argue, was not pursuing this project. Rather, I will suggest that he was trying to make sense of quite a different notion of what is said: one on which both speaker and audience may be wrong about what is said. On this sort of notion, psychological reality is not a requirement. So objections to Grice based on a requirement of psychological reality will fail. Once Grice’s project and that of relevance theorists are seen as distinct, it will be clear that they can happily coexist.2They are simply discussing different subject matters. One may start to wonder, however, about who is really discussing what is said, a topic that both camps claim. I will not attempt a conclusive answer to this question. But I will suggest that Grice’s view, despite certain shortcomings, has advantages which seem all too often to have gone unnoticed.

Comment: It would make sense to read Grice before engaging with modern reception of his work

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Taylor, Kenneth A., , . Sex, breakfast, and descriptus interruptus
2001, Synthese 128 (1-2):45 - 61.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: Consider utterances of the following two sentences: (1) Have you had breakfast? (2) Have you had sex? Utterances of (1) and (2) typically differ in temporal import. An utterance of (1) raises a ‘this morning’ question. An utterance of (2) raises an ‘ever’ question. The difference in felt temporal import clearly has something to do with the difference between our more or less shared breakfast eating practices and our more or less shared sexual practices. People tend to eat breakfast daily – though there are, of course, exceptions. People tend not to have sex daily – though here too there are exceptions. Moreover, people by and large mutually know these facts. The first goal of these remarks is to explain how our mutual knowledge of such shared practices influences the perceived temporal import of utterances like (1) and (2). The explanation is not terribly surprising, but this unsurprising explanation reveals something significant about the nature of the great divide between pragmatics and semantics. In particular, I’m going to argue that Grice got it pretty close to right. The explanation of this phenomenon, and certain others like it, turns out to be roughly, but still deeply Gricean. I say ‘roughly’ Gricean because the account I offer does not entail that the difference in temporal import between (1) and (2) is a difference in conversational implicature strictly so-called. But for reasons that will become clear in due course, the explanation I offer even if not strictly Gricean is nonetheless deeply Gricean. Armed with our roughly but deeply Gricean understanding of this easy case, I turn to the somewhat more challenging and controversial case of incomplete definite descriptions. Imagine an utterance of: (3) The cat is on the couch again. In uttering such a sentence, a speaker commits what we might call descriptus interruptus. The context independent meaning of the uttered sentence is insufficient to fix a fully determinate descriptive significance for the contained descriptions. Though we may justly infer that a speaker who utters such a sentence intends thereby to communicate some proposition or other to the effect that some unique cat or other is once again on some unique couch or other, nothing more determinate may be inferred on the basis of sentence meaning alone about the relevant cat and the relevant couch. But the speaker’s act of descriptus interruptus does not prevent speaker and hearer from enjoying a mutually consummated communicative exchange. The roughly though deeply Gricean approach I outline explains how such consummation is possible in a relatively straightforward way.

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