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October 30, 2006


Is the context THE WORLD AT LARGE, maybe? I mean maybe it's true that 'Grenog snaffled the crimshaw and the maneparch fruntled' would have an implication of sequence if we lived on Mars and knew what those things were.

BUT maybe I am confusing CONTEXT and MEANING.

I believe the usual explanation is that this is an example of what Grice called convential (as opposed to conversational) implicature; the idea is that there's nothing in the logical form of the sentence that entails the reading we get intuitively, so it must be an implicature that is context-dependent, but happens to apply in every context. Like most of pragmatics this sounds kind of mumbo-jumbo-y to me, but that's the explanation.

how do we account for our not giving "and" that kind of reading to sentences like "John ordered steak and Susan ordered salmon"?

Perhaps because these are two self-contained actions, whereas in the car example, one is inherently a cause and the other an effect, even without a broader context (i.e., one can turn a key without any requisite pre-conditions, but some force must come into play before an engine starts). Since the order of the actions is relevant to the result, so too is the order of the descriptions of the actions relevant to the truth value of the statement.

But, there's nothing in the sentence that says the key and engine are of the same car, so maybe not. Regardless, I still think there's probably something fundamentally different between those two sets of actions.

Having now read "Logic and Conversation", I hanker for/demand a fuller discussion than is contained therein of conventional implicature.

Basically, it's on the border between semantics and pragmatics (and somewhat controversial). The idea is that some linguistic operators have meanings that don't affect the truth values of the sentences containing them but rather serve to implicate something without explicitly saying it ("therefore" and "but" are the usual examples). Thus, they are not semantic (because they don't affect truth values) but neither are they pragmatic (because they are not context dependent).

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