, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 57–71 | Cite as

Scalar Implicatures Versus Presuppositions: The View from Acquisition

  • Cory Bill
  • Jacopo Romoli
  • Florian Schwarz
  • Stephen Crain


This paper reports an experimental investigation of presuppositions and scalar implicatures in language acquisition. Recent proposals (Chemla 2009; Romoli 2012, Romoli in J Semant 1–47, 2014) posit the same mechanisms for generating both types of inferences, in contrast to the traditional view. We used a Covered Box picture selection task to compare the interpretations assigned by two groups of children (4/5 and 7 year olds) and by adults, in response to sentences with presuppositions and ones with either ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ scalar implicatures. The main finding was that the behavior of children and adults differed across inference types. This asymmetry is consistent with the traditional perspective, but poses a challenge for the more recent uniform accounts. We discuss how the latter could be amended to account for these findings, and also relate the findings to previous results on presupposition processing. Finally, we discuss an unexpected difference found between direct and indirect scalar implicatures.


Presuppositions Scalar implicatures Pragmatics Child language acquisition 



For helpful feedback and discussion, we would like to thank Emmanuel Chemla, Gennaro Chierchia, Alexandre Cremers, Lynda Kennedy, Kelly Rombough, Raj Singh, Jesse Snedeker, Ayaka Sugawara, Rosalind Thornton, Lyn Tieu, the audiences at the CUNY2014 and PLC38 conferences, and the members of the CCD Language Acquisition Group at Macquarie University. We would also like to thank Dorothy Ahn for images used in the experimental stimuli.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cory Bill
    • 1
  • Jacopo Romoli
    • 2
  • Florian Schwarz
    • 3
  • Stephen Crain
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of CommunicationUniversity of UlsterBelfastUK
  3. 3.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of LinguisticsMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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