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On (in)definite articles: implicatures and (un)grammaticality prediction1

  • John A. Hawkins (a1)

Since Paul Grice published ‘Logic and conversation’ in 1975, there have been a number of attempts to develop his programmatic remarks on conversational and conventional implicatures further (see Gazdar, 1979; Atlas & Levinson, 1981; Horn, 1985; Sperber & Wilson, 1986; and especially Levinson, 1983, and the references cited therein). The result has been a growing understanding of the relationship between semantics and pragmatics, and more generally of human reasoning in everyday language use. Many aspects of natural language understanding that were previously thought to be part of the conventional meaning of a given expression can now be shown to be the result of conversational inference. And with cancellability as the diagnostic test, a number of traditional problems in the study of meaning are yielding to more satisfactory analyses. Even more ambitiously, implicatures are penetrating into core areas of the syntax, as pragmatic theories of increasing subtlety are proposed for ‘grammatical’ phenomena such as Chomsky's (1981, 1982) binding principles (see Reinhart, 1983, and Levinson, 1987a, b, 1991).

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