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Departmental Colloquium: Revealing the role of intentions through experimental pragmatics - Ira Noveck (Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle, CNRS & Université de Paris-Cité)

Ira Noveck
Tuesday, September 27, 2022, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Gricean theory has (obviously) been inspirational for experimentalists who investigate pragmatic phenomena. For example, most experimental papers that describe scalar implicature (e.g. consider how the utterance “some TRUMP voters believe that the 2020 election was fraudulent” can be understood to pragmatically mean “some but not all…”) are quick to cite Grice’s theory of communication by pointing out how pragmatic enrichment involves detecting a maxim violation and drawing out an implied meaning. However, these same papers typically go on to decompose scalar implicature into a mechanical two-step process (e.g. find a more informative alternative to some and negate it) that – ultimately -- hardly seems Gricean at all. That is, many of us ignore the fact, or forget, that Grice, as an ordinary language theorist, proposed an original model of communication that relies on intention-reading. The upshot is that intention-reading has been largely overlooked in experimental pragmatic investigations. In this talk, I will present two studies that bring Gricean intention-reading back to the center of language comprehension. One of these concerns what Grice would consider to be a conversational implicature (i.e. scalar implicatures like the one above) and another that he would consider to be a conventional implicature (concerning the French response Si, in which one gives an affirmative response to a negative question; see Noveck et al., 2021).  These studies will highlight how intention-reading can be isolated as a factor in language comprehension.