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Lecture 14

LIN 207 Lecture 14: Conversational Implicatures & Implicatures

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University at Buffalo
LIN 207
Abigael Candelas

Conversational Implicatures & Implicatures • There is often a considerable discrepancy – between the conventional meaning of an utterance – and what the speaker actually intends to convey Levels of Meaning • Problem: How does speaker S get addressee A to recognize the intended meaning? • Focus of work by H. Paul Grice (1957, 1975, 1989): – There must be a systematic relation between what S actually says and what she intends to convey such that A can reconstruct (or infer) S’s intention – S relies on A’s ability to reason backwards • from S’s communicative actions to S’s communicative intentions – The task would be impossible without guidance by additional assumptions The Cooperative Principle • Grice studied the mismatch between literal and intended meaning and concluded that A must be making a general assumption about S’s speech • A assumes S is operating under what Grice called the Cooperative Principle: – “Make your 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.” • It’s cooperative because it presupposes cooperation between S and A in getting the meaning across – S won’t use an utterance to convey a meaning that A can’t decipher • S assumes that A assumes that S obeys this principle Gricean Maxims • The Cooperative Principle is generally broken down into smaller component principles, known as conversational maxims (Grice 1989) • These maxims represent a set of proposals for solving coordination problems in conversation, based on assumptions about what are salient and stereotypical solutions – As with the Cooperative Principle, A assumes S is following the maxims and S assumes A is making that assumption • And A assumes S is making that assumption, etc. The Maxim of Quality • There are four Gricean Maxims: – The Maxim of Quality, Relevance, Quantity, and Manner • The Maxim of Quality is about honesty – Try to make your contribution one that is true; specifically: • Do not say that which you believe to be false; and • Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. • A: What time is it? • S: It’s 3:05. – S should not say this if they believe it is not 3:05 or if they don’t have good evidence that it’s 3:05 The Maxim of Relevance • The Maxim of Relevance: – Be relevant • A: What time is it? • S: #I love spaghetti! – Speaker S is violating the Maxim of Relevance! • But (presumably) obeying the Maxim of Quality • Assuming that speakers are intending to be relevant goes a long way to explaining the mismatch between literal and intended meaning – A: What time is it? – S: I’m eating spaghetti. • A assumes S’s contribution is meant to be relevant, which leads to other thoughts and assumptions. • A: Are you going to that party tonight? • S: I have a test tomorrow. – Relevant due to a body of shared context and cultural knowledge between A and S • Tests can necessitate studying, getting a good night’s sleep, etc., and partying could interfere with that • In a culture with different expectations of partying or tests, this might not be a relevant utterance. • This maxim doesn’t just apply to answering questions – Everything we say is presumably intended to be relevant to the discourse in which we say it • I’m chilly, etc. The Maxim of Quantity • The Maxim of Quantity states: – Make your contribution as informative as is required for a successful exchange; – Do not make your contribution more informative than is required • A: When is the party? • S: #2017. – Not informative enough! • A: What time is it? • S: #3:06 and 5 seconds and 17 nanoseconds – Too informative! • The Maxim of Quantity explains why speakers do not always follow the Maxim of Quality – A: What time is it? – S: It’s 3:05. • But S knows it’s actually 3:06! • Speakers may reason that an approximate statement is “as informative as required” –
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