Consistency preservation in Quantity implicature: The case of at least

Bernhard Schwarz


Spector (2006) and Fox (2007a) observed that a standard Neo-Gricean account of Quantity implicature, as articulated in Sauerland 2004, predicts listeners to draw inconsistent sets of Quantity inferences under certain configurations of asserted meaning and its alternatives. To properly assess the consequences of this observation, specific phenomena that can be argued to instantiate the relevant type of configuration need to be examined. This paper presents a case study on the superlative modifier at least, expanding on Büring’s (2008) proposal that ignorance implications that at least gives rise to are Gricean Quantity implicatures. It is argued that sentences with unembedded at least instantiate the relevant configuration, hence that the standard Neo-Gricean account incorrectly predicts inconsistent inference sets for those cases. It is then argued that a proper consistency preserving modification of the standard account must make reference to Fox’s (2007a) notion of innocent exclusion. This novel argument for innocent exclusion, while embedded here in the Neo- Gricean setting, extends to any account of Quantity implications that, in the terminology of Sauerland (2004), posits strengthening of primary to secondary implications about the speaker’s belief state.

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quantity implicature, innocent exclusion, alternatives, superlative modifiers, at least

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ISSN: 1937-8912

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