The function of focus is to activate alternatives, and these activated alternatives are used to compute the corresponding inferences of an utterance. The experimental research reported here investigates the role of focus intonation in inference computation and its interplay with the overt focus particles only and also. In particular, I compare the mechanisms underlying the computation of exhaustivity implicatures, assertions, and additive presuppositions. A memory delay experiment revealed that contrastive intonation (L+H*) makes an exhaustive interpretation equally available as overt only. A second experiment showed that in immediate processing, the implicature in bare focus conditions is delayed relative to the inferences associated with only and also. The findings thus indicate that L+H* accents do not conventionally encode an exhaustive meaning, but encourage implicature computation by (i) making relevant alternatives salient and (ii) providing a strong cue that an inference should be derived.
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Gotzner, N. The role of focus intonation in implicature computation: a comparison with only and also. Nat Lang Semantics 27, 189–226 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-019-09154-7
- Focus intonation
- Focus particles