We are happy to announce a talk by Jacopo Romoli (Univerity of Düsseldorf) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place online. If you want to participate via zoom, please register via email to s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de.

Title:Implicating in semi-cooperative contexts (joint work with Paul Marty, Yasutada Sudo, and Richard Breheny)

Date: February 17

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


In ordinary conversations, disjunctive sentences like June visited Frankfurt or Düsseldorf are commonly understood as conveying that she didn’t visit both cities (exclusivity), and that the speaker doesn’t know which of the two cities she visited (ignorance) (Grice 1975, Gazdar 1979, Horn 1972 a.o.). There is general consensus that these inferences are not conveyed as part of the literal meaning, but rather they arise as implicatures. On the standard pragmatic approach, implicatures are the output of implicit reasoning on the part of the hearer over why the speaker said what she said and why not something else (Grice 1975, Horn 1972, Gazdar 1979, Sauerland 2004, Geurts 2010, Chemla 2010, van Rooij & Schulz 2004 among others). This approach derives exclusivity and ignorance on the basis of the same assumptions and reasoning. This predicts that these two inferences should either be both associated with the sentence or neither of them should. This prediction has recently been argued to be challenged by so-called ‘semi-cooperative’ contexts; contexts where it is presupposed that the speaker is not going to provide all relevant information that they have (e.g. a game show, a treasure hunt etc) (Fox 2014). The claim has recently received some experimental support (Agyemang 2020). Taking Agyemang’s experimental findings as our starting point, this paper has three aims. Firstly, we aim to test an alternative explanation for these findings, which derives the exclusivity implication not via any mechanism for scalar implicature but via background knowledge. We present experiments that control for such background knowledge and find that exclusivity emerges to the same extent, thus confirming and strengthening the challenge. Secondly, we extend the investigation to presuppositional sentences like Bill is not aware that June visited Frankfurt or Düsseldorf, which have been argued to give rise to the same exclusivity and ignorance inferences (Spector & Sudo 2017, Marty & Romoli 2021b a.o.). In this case as well we find that presupposed exclusivity emerges robustly even in the absence of presupposed ignorance, thus extending the challenge for the pragmatic approach at the presuppositional level. Finally, we outline a more nuanced pragmatic derivation of inferences related to disjunction which can explain how ignorance and exclusivity arises in normal cooperative contexts, while only exclusivity arises in these semi-cooperative ones.