Advertisement

Generics in Context: The Robustness and the Explanatory Implicatures

  • Martina RosolaEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11939)

Abstract

Generics are sentences that express generalizations about a category or about its members. They display a characteristic context-sensitivity: the same generic can express a statistical regularity, a principled connection, or a norm. Sally Haslanger (2014) argues that this phenomenon depends on the implicit content that generics carry in different contexts.

I elaborate on Haslanger’s proposal, arguing that the implicit content of generics is complex and constituted by two different propositions. A first proposition, that I here call the robustness proposition, characterizes as robust the link between the category the generic is about and the predicated property. This proposition is relatively invariant and is, as I claimed elsewhere, a generalized conversational implicature. In this paper, I will argue that a second implicature, the ‘explanatory implicature’, arises which crucially depends on what explanation is called for in a certain context. Given its context-dependence, I conclude that this proposition is a particularized conversational implicature. While generics convey by default that the category and the property are strictly related, the specification of this relation hinges on the characteristics of the context in which the generic occurs.

References

  1. 1.
    Atlas, J.D., Levinson, S.C.: It-clefts, informativeness, and logical form: radical pragmatics (revised standard version). In: Cole, P. (ed.) Radical Pragmatics, pp. 1–62. Academic Press (1981)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Burton-Roberts, N.: Generic sentences and analyticity. Stud. Lang. 1, 155–196 (1977)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Carlson, G.N., Pelletier, F.J. (eds.): The Generic Book. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1995)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dahl, Ö.: On generics. In: Keenan, E.L. (ed.) Formal Semantics of Natural Language, pp. 99–111 (1975)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Felka, K.: On the presuppositions of number sentences. Synthese 192(5), 1393–1412 (2015)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    von Fintel, K.: Would you believe it? The King of France is back! Presuppositions and truth-value intuitions. In: Reimer, M., Bezuidenhout, A. (eds.) Descriptions and Beyond, pp. 315–341. Oxford University Press (2004)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Grice, P.: Logic and conversation (1975). Reprinted in Grice, P.: Studies in the Way of Words, pp. 22–40. Harvard University Press (1989)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Haslanger, S.: The normal, the natural and the good: generics and ideology. Polit. Soc. 3, 365–392 (2014)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lawler, J.: Studies in English Generics, vol. 1, no. 1. University of Michigan Papers in Linguistics (1973)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Levinson, S.C.: Presumptive Meanings. The Theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature. The MIT Press, Cambridge (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Shanon, B.: On the two kinds of presuppositions in natural language. Found. Lang. 14, 247–249 (1976)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FiNO Consortium - Università degli studi di GenovaGenovaItaly

Personalised recommendations