View Full Document

The logic of conventional implicatures



View the full content.
View Full Document
View Full Document

9 views

Unformatted text preview:

to appear in Journal of Linguistics 42 2 Christopher Potts The logic of conventional implicatures Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics 7 Oxford Oxford University Press 2005 Pp xii 246 Reviewed by Kent Bach San Francisco State University Paul Grice warned that the nature of conventional implicature needs to be examined before any free use of it for explanatory purposes can be indulged in 1978 1989 46 Christopher Potts heeds this warning brilliantly and boldly Starting with a definition drawn from Grice s few brief remarks on the subject he distinguishes conventional implicature from other phenomena with which it might be confused identifies a variety of common but little studied kinds of expressions that give rise to it and develops a formal multidimensional semantic framework for systematically capturing its distinctive character The book is a virtuosic blend of astute descriptive observations and technically sophisticated formulations Fortunately for the technically unsophisticated reader the descriptive observations can be appreciated on their own Here is a quick summary of the book Following a brief introductory chapter so titled chapter 2 makes A preliminary case for conventional implicatures by offering a four part definition distinguishing conventional implicature CI from conversational implicature and presupposition identifying the main kinds of linguistic phenomena that fit this definition and motivating the book s distinctive multidimensional semantic framework Chapter 3 A logic for conventional implicatures develops a rigorous description logic for representing CI meanings along with at issue meanings The next two chapters illustrate and discuss the two main kinds of expressions with CI meanings Chapter 4 focuses on Supplements including nonrestrictive relative clauses as parentheticals Noun Phrase appositives and several sorts of adverbials and chapter 5 considers Expressive content including expressive attributive adjectives epithets and Japanese honorifics Chapter 6 The supplement relation a syntactic alternative compares Potts s approach to supplements with an alternative syntactic approach and argues that there is no need to complicate the syntax in order to distinguish supplement structures from coordination the difference can be captured with multidimensional semantics The seventh and last chapter A look outside Grice s definition briefly considers what sorts of linguistic phenomena do or in principle could arise when one or another of the four conditions in the definition of conventional implicature is not satisfied The most important case of this involves words like 1 although but therefore and yet words of the very sort that traditionally thanks to Grice 1975 1989 and originally to Frege 1892 1997 1918 1997 have been thought to trigger conventional implicatures although not by Potts Potts extracts a four part definition from several brief remarks made by Grice in the course of distinguishing conversational from conventional implicature Two of Potts s four conditions are straightforward and closely connected conventional implicatures arise from conventional meanings of words hence are not calculable from conversational maxims and they are not cancelable Moreover conventional implicatures are SPEAKER ORIENTED commitments and unlike presuppositions are logically and compositionally I N D E P E N D E N T of what is said in Grice s favored sense i e independent of the at issue entailments 11 These last two features of conventional implicatures speaker orientation and independence are the more interesting and controversial ones note that Potts s independence condition replaces Grice s stronger condition 1975 1989 25 that the falsity of a conventional implicature does not affect the truth of the entire utterance The case of supplements clearly illustrates these two features Supplements are so called because they do not affect the content or truth value of the material with which they combine Syntactically they belong to the same tree structure but they do not have semantic effects on the proposition expressed by the main clause They include non restrictive relative clauses as parentheticals and appositives as illustrated in 1 3 1 Condi who used to be provost at Stanford is implacable 2 Cheney is as Maureen Dowd has dubbed him the Grim Peeper 3 Libby the former aide to Cheney can t be compared to Liddy Each of these sentences expresses two propositions not one conjunctive proposition For example 1 expresses both the at issue proposition that Condi is implacable and the supplementary proposition that she used to be provost at Stanford Calling the first one at issue is a bit misleading since it is easy to imagine cases in which the content of the supplement such as a nonrestrictive relative clause is more controversial than that of the main clause So Potts could just have well called the proposition that Condi is implacable the main proposition meaning merely that it is the content of the main clause Supplements are used to make speaker oriented comments on a semantic core 11 and the notational devices that Potts introduces in chapter 3 formally characterize how applying a supplement to material in the main clause yields a supplementary proposition His apparatus 2 captures the fact that the truth values of the main and the supplementary propositions are independent of each other This is unlike the relationship between a classical semantic presupposition and the main proposition expressed by a sentence whose truth O R falsity depends on the truth of the presupposition Now in what way is the supplementary proposition a SPEAKERORIENTED commitment After all a speaker who assertively utters 1 for example commits himself to the truth of both propositions The feature of being speaker orientated emerges when the sentence is embedded in an indirect speech report as in 4 4 John said that Condi who used to be provost at Stanford is implacable The content of the supplement in 4 is understood as the speaker s own comment not as part of what he is saying John said Note however that this content can be attributed by including an explicit indication 5 John said that Condi who he said used to be provost at Stanford is implacable But this just highlights the fact that supplements are semantically independent In this respect supplements differ from expressions that have been traditionally regarded as sources of conventional implicature viz words like although but therefore and yet


Access the best Study Guides, Lecture Notes and Practice Exams

Loading Unlocking...
Login

Join to view The logic of conventional implicatures and access 3M+ class-specific study document.

or
We will never post anything without your permission.
Don't have an account?
Sign Up

Join to view The logic of conventional implicatures and access 3M+ class-specific study document.

or

By creating an account you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use

Already a member?