An Experimental Comparison Between Presuppositions and Indirect Scalar Implicatures

  • Jacopo RomoliEmail author
  • Florian Schwarz
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 45)


We compare two aspects of meaning, namely the presupposition of stop in the scope of negation (John didn’t stop going to the movies. ↪ John used to go to the movies.) and the scalar implicature associated with the strong scalar item always under negation (didn’t always go to the movies. ↪ John sometimes went to the movies.) (‘Indirect Scalar Implicatures’ (ISIs); Chierchia, Structures and Beyond, 2004). In our results, ISIs are found to pattern with presuppositions in that responses reflecting an interpretation without an inference (corresponding to a ‘literal’ interpretation) are slower than ones based on the relevant inference (Chemla and Bott, Lang Cogn Process, 38:241–260, 2013), contrary to what has been found for direct scalar implicatures (Bott and Noveck, J Mem Lang, 51:437–457, 2004, among others). These results are puzzling from the traditional perspective that ISIs are generated in the same way as direct implicatures. We explore two possible interpretations: first, strong scalar terms could receive a presuppositional analysis as well and presuppose that their domain is non-empty. Alternatively, we could group stop and ISIs together from another angle and see them as obligatory scalar implicatures, in contrast to the non-obligatory direct ones.


Presuppositions Implicatures Indirect scalar implicatures Processing Experimental pragmatics Covered box task Reaction time Presupposition projection Local accommodation Negation 



For discussion and suggestions, thanks to Cory Bill, Emmanuel Chemla, Gennaro Chierchia, Stephen Crain, Alexandre Cremers, Raj Singh, Benjamin Spector, Yasutada Sudo, and the audience at Sinn und Bedeutung 18 in Vitoria. Thanks to Rachel Stults, Jamie Fisher, and Robert Wilder for assistance with data collection and to Dorothy Ahn for images used in the experimental stimuli. The work reported here was in part supported by a grant from the University Research Foundation of the University of Pennsylvania.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Room 17E10, School of CommunicationUniversity of UlsterNewtownabbeyUK
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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