conversational implicature


Implicature is a technical term in the linguistic branch of pragmatics coined by Paul Grice. It refers to what is suggested in an utterance, even though not expressed nor strictly implied (that is, entailed) by the utterance (Blackburn, 1996, p. 189). For example, the sentence "Mary had a baby and got married" strongly suggests that Mary had the baby before the wedding, but the sentence would still be strictly true if Mary had her baby after she got married. Further, if we add the qualification "— not necessarily in that order" to the original sentence, then the implicature is cancelled even though the meaning of the original sentence is not altered.

This can be contrasted with cases of entailment. For example, the statement "The president was assassinated" not only suggests that "The president is dead" is true, but requires that it be true. The first sentence could not be true if the second were not true; if the president were not dead, then whatever it is that happened to him would not have counted as a (successful) assassination. Similarly, unlike implicatures, entailments cannot be cancelled; there is no qualification that one could add to "The president was assassinated" which would cause it to cease entailing "The president is dead" while also preserving the meaning of the first sentence.

Implicature and implication

The specialized term implicature was coined by Paul Grice as a technical term in pragmatics for certain kinds of inferences that are drawn from statements without the additional meanings in logic and informal language use of implication.

See also


  • Simon Blackburn (1996). "implicature," The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford, pp. 188-89.
  • P. Cole (1975) "The synchronic and diachronic status of conversational implicature." In Syntax and Semantics, 3: Speech Acts (New York: Academic Press) ed. P. Cole & J. L. Morgan, pp. 257–288. ISBN 012785424X.
  • A. Davison (1975) "Indirect speech acts and what to do with them." ibid, pp. 143–184.
  • G. M. Green (1975) "How to get people to do things with words." ibid, pp. 107–141. New York: Academic Press
  • H. P. Grice (1975) "Logic and conversation." ibid. Reprinted in Studies in the Way of Words, ed. H. P. Grice, pp. 22–40. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (1989) ISBN 0674852702.
  • John Searle (1975) "Indirect speech acts." ibid. Reprinted in Pragmatics: A Reader, ed. S. Davis, pp. 265–277. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (1991) ISBN 0195058984.

Further reading

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