Generics in Context: The Robustness and the Explanatory Implicatures
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.
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