The Cancellation Of Implicatures English Language Essay

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In pragmatics, implicature is a technical term , coined by H. P. Grice, which refers to what the speaker explicitly suggest  in an utterance, without expressing or entailing it in the utterance.

Conversational implicature deals with techniques adopted by speakers to find out the indirect illocutions of utterances. Unlike conventional imlpicature, conversational one is the result of a deliberate flouting of a conversational maxim by the speaker to convey an additional meaning not expressed literally.


A: 'let's go for a picnic'

B: 'I don't have an umbrella.'

The effect that (A) may intend is inviting (B), but (B)'s reply is based on flouting the maxim of relevance. The conversational implicature may be: it's raining so it's not a good time for a picnic.

Cancellation of implicatures

"Cancellability" is one of the main characteristics of a conversational implicature. An implicature, is the conclusion of a reasoning, which can be cancelled if the speaker adds further conclusions, cancelling the previous ones, without causing any logical errors.


(A): 'his room is dark, but it's better not to switch on the light."

The implicature from the first half of the utterance is that that the speaker he wants the lights on is explicitly cancelled by the assertion in the second half of the utterance.

Co-operative principle

Both speakers and listeners need to speak cooperatively and mutually help one another to be understood in a particular way. The cooperative principle traces the effectiveness of communication between speakers and listeners in conversation as it happens in common social situations.

The cooperative principle can be divided into four maxims, called the Gricean maxims: quality, quantity, relevance, and manner.

Maxim of relevance

Also known as maxim of relation. The speaker should be relevant and stick to the topic of the conversation.


A: Do you like football?

B: Well, I travel to Italy every summer. (not relevant unless Italy is the only country where football played in the world!!!!)

Maxim of informativeness

The speaker tells the hearer just what s/ he needs to know, no more and no less.


A: 'Which sport do you practice?'

B: 'I don't play football.'

Maxim of clarity

Also known as maxim of manner

The speaker should be perspicuous and speaks in a way that the hearer will understand through:

(i) avoiding obscurity of expression.

(ii) avoiding ambiguity.

(iii)being brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).

(iv) being orderly.

Example :

A: Do you like my new dress.

B: Are you invited for a costume party?

2. What do the notions entailment and implicature have in common? How do they di¬€er?




Senetence meaning

Things that follow from what a sentence

literally "says" or asserts

Semantic meaning

Truth conditioned

cannot be cancelled

Utterance meaning

exists by reason of general social conventions

Pragmatic meaning

Non-truth conditioned :

Conversational implicatures are not part of the conventional meaning of the expressions that serve to generate them. The calculation of the presence of a conversational implicature presupposes already having knowledge of the conventional force of an utterance, so it cannot be part of it.

conversational implicatures are characterized by :

defeasibility : refers to context sensitivity.

calculability : The presence of a

conversational implicature, according to

Grice (1967, rpt. 1989:31), must be capable of being worked out.


Conventional implicatures and entailments cannot be canceled.

Entailments are part of the conventional meaning of the expression, and so are conventional implicatures.

Non-detachability: Implicatures are attached to the semantic content rather than to the linguistic form of what is said. We cannot, therefore, detach implicatures from an utterance simply by changing the words of the utterance for synonyms. Entailments are also "non-detachable", since by definition they depend only on the truth-conditional content of the sentence.

What does it mean to say that implicatures are non-truth-conditional inferences?

The truth of a conversational implicature is not required by the truth of what is said.

What is said may be true and what is implicated may be false (and vice versa). Insofar as the calculation of the presence of a particular conversational implicature requires only contextual and background information plus a knowledge of the literal meaning of the sentence. In other words, conversational maxims mainly work from the content of what is said, independent of any specific word or construction.

3. An implicature can result through the ¬‚outing of one of the maxims by the speaker (B), in which the hearer (A) can infer something not explicitly said if the speaker (B) disregards one of the maxims (whether intentionally or not), though the hearer (A) assumes that the speaker is not doing so. Give an implicature of B's utterance in each of the following situations, and then identify the maxim(s) (i.e. relevance, informativeness, or clarity) that has/have been ¬‚outed (and thus which led the hearer to this implicature).

Note that none of the implicatures from B's utterances are actually entailed by the sentences uttered by B.

a A:'Professor, will you write a letter of recommendation for me?'

B: 'Certainly. I will say that you were always neatly dressed, punctual, and are

(A) is not qualified enough to be referred to because he lacks the required academic qualifications.

unfailingly polite.'

Flouted maxim:


(B) 's not in good shape and s/he avoids talking about that. Or, though (B) was hit on his head he still recognize some factual information.

b A: 'How are you today?'

B: 'Oh, Lansing is the capital of Michigan.'

Flouted maxim:


c A: 'I'm not feeling very well today.'

B: 'There's a hospital across the street.'

The flouted maxim:


(B) advises (A) to go and see a doctor.

d A:'What did you think of that new movie?'

B: 'Well, the costumes were authentic.'

(B) didn't like the movie.

The flouted maxim:


e A:'How did you get that car into the dining room?'

B: 'It was easy. I made a left turn when I came out of the kitchen.'

(B) pretends not to understand that s/he 's not allowed to bring her/his car toy to the dining room.

The flouted maxim:


f A:'What colour did you paint your living room?'

B: 'I painted the walls o¬€-white to match the black sofa. The trimming will be gray

except by the door, which will be salmon to match the Picasso print I bought two

(B) shows to (A) that she is knowledgeable about the art of decoration and that she has a refined style. years ago.'

The flouted maxim:

Clarity (be brief)

g. A: 'How's the weather?'

B: 'It's 86.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The air is humid, muggy, and the pavement is so hot I

can feel it through my shoes.'

(B) is not providing an informative answer but s/he is actually complaining about the weather.

The flouted maxim:


h. A: 'What's your recipe for a birthday cake?'

B: 'It should have icing. Use unbleached ¬‚our and sugar in the cake and bake it for

an hour. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and beat in three fresh eggs.'

(B) expects (A) to prepare the birthday cake.

The flouted maxims:

Relevance/clarity (being orderly)

i A:'How do you like my new suit?'

B: 'Well, your shoes look nice.'

(B) doesn't like (A)'s new suit.

The flouted maxim


j A:'Have you done your homework and taken out the garbage?'

B: 'I've taken out the garbage.'

The flouted maxim:


(B) didn't have time to the homework because s/he took the garbage out.

k A: 'I may win the lottery for $83 million.'

B: 'There may be people on Mars, too.'

The flouted maxim:


It is impossible for ( A ) to win the lottery.

4- For each of the following ¬ll in an appropriate utterance for B which implicates (but does not entail) the indicated implicature. There may be several appropriate possibilities

a A:'Let's see if this store has what we are looking for.'

B: 'Check if you carry two credit cards first'.

Implicature: The store sells expensive merchandise

b A:'Why don't we have lunch in this restaurant?'

B : 'I have no to go to the gym.'

Implicature: The food there is too fattening

c A:'Are the Browns at home?'

B: 'Check the driveway.'

Implicature:The Browns are usually home when their car is in the driveway

d A:'Should we turn right or left?'

B: 'What does the GPS say?'

Implicature: B isn't sure which way to turn

e A:'How is your physics course going?'

B : 'It's not going in the right direction.'

Implicature:B is having trouble in the course

5. Think about the meaning relationship between the following pair of sentences.

a Most birds are on the lawn

b Many birds are on the lawn

Does (a) entail or merely implicate (b)? Expalin

Scalar imlpicature: (a) can be considered as a scalar implication. The words {all, most, many, some} form an implicational scale : (a) implicates 'not all/ some birds are on the lawn' or as mentioned in (b) 'many birds'.

Entailment: Any sentence including one item of the set {all, most, many, some} entails all of the propositions expressed by similar sentences containing less informative items. Therefore, (a) entails (b).

6. Consider the following exchange.

A: I may win the lottery for $83 million

B: There may be people on Mars, too

A: What are you, some kind of astronomer?

B originally triggered an implicature in her response to A's original statement.

What e¬€ect does A's retort then have on the implicature originally triggered by B?

It is impossible for ( A ) to win the lottery.

A: I may win the lottery for $83 million

B: There may be people on Mars, too

A: What are you, some kind of astronomer?

(A) being ironic about What makes (B) so sure that there are no people on March. Only an astronomer can prove that. By saying so , (A) implies that s/he has chances to win the lottery.