Research Article

Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 135-169

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Granularity and scalar implicature in numerical expressions

  • Chris CumminsAffiliated withSFB 673, Alignment in Communication, Universität Bielefeld Email author 
  • , Uli SauerlandAffiliated withZentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)
  • , Stephanie SoltAffiliated withZentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ZAS)Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC), Universiteit van Amsterdam


It has been generally assumed that certain categories of numerical expressions, such as ‘more than n’, ‘at least n’, and ‘fewer than n’, systematically fail to give rise to scalar implicatures in unembedded declarative contexts. Various proposals have been developed to explain this perceived absence. In this paper, we consider the relevance of scale granularity to scalar implicature, and make two novel predictions: first, that scalar implicatures are in fact available from these numerical expressions at the appropriate granularity level, and second, that these implicatures are attenuated if the numeral has been previously mentioned or is otherwise salient in the context. We present novel experimental data in support of both of these predictions, and discuss the implications of this for recent accounts of numerical quantifier usage.


Granularity Implicature Quantifiers Constraints Pragmatics Numerals Salience Relevance