Typicality made familiar: A commentary on Geurts and van Tiel (2013)

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Chris Cummins


In their recent paper, Geurts and van Tiel (2013) review a range of evidence on the availability of embedded scalar enrichments (upper-bound construals, or UBCs). They argue that these readings are not readily available, except when triggered by contrast effects, and conclude that the experimental data do not support a conventionalist view of implicature. They also consider how some of these data can be analysed as exhibiting typicality effects. In this commentary, I focus on the claim that typicality effects apply to quantifiers, and consider some of its implications for our view of semantics and pragmatics. In particular, I look at whether these effects are general to embedded and non-embedded contexts, whether and how typicality relates to truth-conditional narrowing, and the implications of this view for the nature of pragmatic enrichment. I conclude that typicality effects are indeed in evidence in the data elicited so far, and that this opens up several promising new avenues for the study of quantification in natural language, as well as challenging our interpretation of existing data.


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