Embedded implicatures observed: a comment on Geurts and Pouscoulous (2009)

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Charles Clifton
Chad Dube


Conventionalist theories of scalar implicature differ from other accounts in that they predict strengthening of embedded scalar terms. Geurts and Pouscoulous (2009) argue that experimental support for this prediction is largely based on sentence comprehension tasks that inflate the frequency with which terms like 'some' are strengthened. Using a picture verification task, they observed no strengthening of embedded scalars. We present data from a multiple-choice picture verification task that is more sensitive to interpretation preferences, and find that readers do show a preference for strengthened interpretations even in embedded phrases. These data cast doubt on Geurts and Pouscoulous's empirical arguments against the existence of embedded implicatures.


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Charles Clifton, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Professor Emeritus and Research Professor, Department of Psychology

Chad Dube, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Graduate student, Department of Psychology