LIRa Session: Matthijs Westera

On Thursday, September 5, we will have a LIRa session with Matthijs Westera.

Everyone is cordially invited!

Speaker: Matthijs Westera (University of Amsterdam)
Title: Attention, exhaustivity and non-cooperativity
Date and Time: Thursday, September 5, 2013, 15:30-17:30
Venue: Science Park 107, Room F1.15


Two well-known linguistic puzzles can be solved if we assume that pragmatic reasoning, and in particular the Maxim of Relation, is sensitive to the possibilities that an utterance ‘draws attention to’. This is cached out formally by using a semantics that models both informative and attentive content, and defining relevance as informative/attentive entailment relative to a contingency. 

The first puzzle this solves is how a semantically non-exhaustive answer to a question can convey that it is in fact an exhaustive answer:

(1) Q: Who (among John, Mary and Bill) will come to the party?
A: John will come. –> Mary and Bill won’t.

The second puzzle is how this exhaustivity implicature can disappear if the answer is pronounced with a sentence-final rising pitch (‘…’):

(2) Q: Who (among John, Mary and Bill) will come to the party?
A: John will come… -/-> Mary and Bill won’t.

I explain this by assuming that the final rise signals non-cooperativity, and show how this accounts for the many different uses of the final rise.