Investigating the distribution of some (but not all) implicatures using corpora and web-based methods

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Judith Degen


A prevalent, but to date untested, assumption about lexicalized scalar implicatures such as those from some to not all, is that they fall into the class of GCIs and as such, constitute a homogeneous class of highly regularized and context-independent implicatures. This paper reports a test of this assumption in which linguistically untrained participants’ implicature strength judgments were collected for naturally occurring utterances containing the word some in a large-scale corpus-based web study. The results indicate that implicature strength is highly variable and systematically dependent on features of the linguistic context such as the partitive, determiner strength, and discourse accessibility. These results call into question the GCI status of scalar implicatures from some to not all and demonstrate the usefulness of corpora and web-based methods for challenging received wisdom, enriching the empirical landscape, and informing theory in pragmatics.

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