Implicating in semi-cooperative contexts
Paul Marty, Jacopo Romoli, Yasutada Sudo, Richard Breheny
July 2022

Disjunctive sentences like June visited Frankfurt or Düsseldorf are com- monly understood as conveying that June didn’t visit both cities (exclusivity), and that the speaker doesn’t know which of the two cities June visited (ignorance). There is a general consensus that these inferences arise as scalar implicatures. The standard pragmatic approach derives exclusivity and ignorance on the basis of the same assumptions and reasoning about the speaker’s communicative inten- tions. This predicts that these two inferences should pattern together: either both of them are derived by the hearer, or neither of them is. This prediction, however, has recently been challenged: in so-called ‘semi-cooperative’ contexts – contexts where it is presupposed that the speaker won’t provide all relevant information available to them (e.g., game situations) – it has been claimed that exclusivity may arise independently from ignorance (Fox 2014, Agyemang 2020). After reviewing existing evidence in favor of this claim, we report on two experiments testing alternative explanations while also looking at novel, presuppositional sentences (e.g., Bill is not aware that June visited Frankfurt or Düsseldorf), which have been argued to give rise to similar exclusivity and ignorance inferences (Spector & Sudo 2017, Marty & Romoli 2021b). Our findings offer further experimental evidence in support of the claim of interest and establish that the challenge in question extends to the presupposition level as well. While the challenge raised by semi-cooperative contexts is real, we argue that it may be overcome by refining the standard pragmatic view and, specifically, by generalising the standard assump- tions underlying the pragmatic derivation of exclusivity and ignorance. The resulting account is shown to explain why ignorance and exclusivity pattern together in normal cooperative contexts, but not in semi-cooperative ones.
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Reference: lingbuzz/006698
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keywords: implicatures, semantics
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