Abstract: How are scalar implicatures computed? `Neo-Gricean' approaches model scalar implicatures as a species of domain-general pragmatic reasoning. `Grammatical' approaches model them as formal operations triggered by covert syntactic elements in logical form. These approaches have achieved considerable descriptive coverage, but there is a peculiar pattern that remains challenging. The pattern centers on odd assertions like #most lions are mammals and #some Italians come from a beautiful country which seem to trigger implicatures in contexts where they conflict with information in the common ground (Magri 2009). In this talk, I argue that neo-Gricean accounts fail to predict the target oddness patterns, and while Grammatical accounts are more promising, extant versions still face difficulties. I will present a revised Grammatical theory according to which scalar implicatures are formal computations, relatively insulated from information in the common ground, and triggered by default within the compositional semantics. Unlike standard Grammatical accounts, on my account implicatures trigger a bifurcation between presupposed and at-issue content, which in turn interact with independently motivated constraints on accommodation to generate the observed patterns of oddness. This account has unique implications for questions such as the degree of modularity of language and its relation to formal and common-sense reasoning.
Speaker bio: Guillermo Del Pinal works in the areas of Philosophy of Language, Semantics, and Philosophy of Cognitive Science. His current area of focus is on the relationship between natural languages and our general reasoning capacities, including ‘natural’ logic. He also works on theories of concepts, the building blocks of thought, and other foundational and methodological issues in the cognitive sciences. Del Pinal completed his PhD at Columbia University and his BA at the University of Chicago, both in philosophy. He also worked as a postdoctoral researcher at ZAS, Berlin, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.