A Contribution from the Perspective of Language Cognitive Sciences on the Default Semantics and Architecture of Mind Debate

  • Caterina SciannaEmail author
Part of the Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology book series (PEPRPHPS, volume 20)


This essay is a contribution to the recent debate between Capone’s ‘Default Semantics and the architecture of mind’ and Zhang and Zhang’s ‘Explicature versus default meaning: A response to Alessandro Capone’s Default Semantics and the architecture of the mind’ about the relationship between Jaszczolt’s default semantics and relevance theory. Relevance theory and default semantics have made different predictions about the elaboration of scalar inferences. Default semantics, gathers Levinson’s idea of ‘default interpretations’, and considers generalized conversational implicatures as instances of default interpretations. On the other hand, relevance theory rejects default meanings and thinks of inferential enrichments as inferentially derived explicatures.

Neither theory fully resolves the problem. Scalar inferences are directly elaborated in context, with inner workings that are similar to those used by Levinson. Studies of scalar implicatures have certainly argued that generating an implicature carries a cost that could not be attributed to retrieval probabilities or factors relating to semantic complexity, but it seems that costs are associated with deriving implicatures per se. Pragmatic interpretation needs the extra cost of elaboration, with respect to semantic interpretation. It is only a formal computational process that allows semantic interpretation, whereas at least, pragmatic interpretation has to integrate semantics and several contextual aspects. Nevertheless, pragmatic elaboration, when it is supported by context, does not seem to be elaborated after the literal meaning.


Default semantics Relevance theory Scalar inference Sentence processing Conversational implicature 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Cognitive, Psicologiche, Pedagogiche e degli Studi CulturaliUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly

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