Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 87–124 | Cite as

On unidirectionality in precisification

  • Peter Klecha


This paper provides a formal pragmatic analysis of (im)precision which accounts for its essential properties, but also for Lewis’s (J Philos Logic 8(1):339–359, 1979) observation of asymmetry in how standards of precision may shift due to normal discourse moves: Only up, not down. I propose that shifts of the kind observed and discussed by Lewis are in fact cases of underlying disagreement about the standard of precision, which is only revealed when one interlocutor uses an expression which signals their adherence to a higher standard than the one adhered to by the other interlocutor(s). This paper shows that a modest formal pragmatic analysis along the lines of many prior optimality-theoretic and game-theoretic accounts can easily capture the natural asymmetry in standard-signaling that gives rise to Lewis’s observation, so long as such an account is dynamic and enriched with a notion of relevance.


Imprecision Implicature Pragmatics Formal pragmatics Game theory Optimality theory 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA

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