, Volume 80, Supplement 1, pp 89–109 | Cite as

The Implicit Dimension of Meaning: Ways of “Filling In” and “Filling Out” Content

Original Article


I distinguish between the classical Gricean approach to conversational implicatures (CIs), which I call the action-theoretic (AT) approach, and the approach to CIs taken in contemporary cognitive science. Once we free ourselves from the AT account, and see implicating as a form of what I call “conversational tailoring”, we can more easily see the many different ways that CIs arise in conversation. I will show that they arise not only on the basis of a speaker’s utterance of complete sentences (CIs which most resemble classical Gricean CIs) but also on the basis of sub-sentential clauses—cases of so-called embedded implicatures—as well as from discourse segments containing several sentences—cases that Geurts (2006, 2009) calls ‘multiplicatures’. I will argue that they arise also from contents that are themselves implicit, such as presupposed contents or other implicatures. All but the first sort of case are difficult for the traditional Gricean AT account to handle, whereas they fall naturally out of an account that sees conversational participants as engaged in conversational tailoring—i.e., as engaged in a process of shaping informational and discourse structural properties of utterances in their successive conversational turns, and hence shaping their interlocutors’ cognitive environments.


Scalar Implicature Conversational Context Conversational Participant Conversational Turn Engagement Ring 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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