The intuitive basis of implicature: Relevance theoretic implicitness versus Gricean implying

Michael Haugh


The notion of implicature was first introduced by Grice (1967, 1989), who defined it essentially as what is communicated less what is said. This definition contributed in part to the proliferation of a large number of different species of implicature by neo-Griceans. Relevance theorists have responded to this by proposing a shift back to the distinction between explicit and implicit meaning (corresponding to explicature and implicature respectively). However, they appear to have pared down the concept of implicature too much, ignoring phenomena which may be better treated as implicatures in their over-generalisation of the concept of explicature. These problems have their roots in the fact that explicit and implicit meaning intuitively overlap, and thus do not provide a suitable basis for distinguishing implicature from other types of pragmatic phenomena. An alternative conceptualisation of implicature based on the concept of implying with which Grice originally associated his notion of implicature is thus proposed. From this definition it emerges that implicature constitutes something else inferred by the addressee that is not literally said by the speaker. Instead, it is meant in addition to what the literally speaker says, and consequently, it is defeasible like all other types of pragmatic phenomena.

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