The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

ESSL meeting 11/1 - Paul Marty

Title: Scalar implicatures: working memory and a comparison with `Only’.
Speaker: Paul Marty
Date/Time: Thursday, November 1, 5:30pm
Location: 32-D831


A Scalar Implicature (SI) arises when the use of a weaker expression (e.g., some politicians are corrupt) implies the denial of an alternative sentence (e.g., not all politicians are corrupt). The cognitive effort associated with the processing of SIs involves central memory resources (De Neys and Schaeken 2007). The goal of the present investigation is to locate this previous result within the current psycholinguistic debate, and to understand at which level of SI processing these resources are specifically involved. Using a dual-task approach, we show that (i) tapping participant’s memory resources interferes with the derivation of SIs, whereas (ii) it does not affect the interpretation of sentences with only involving similar mechanisms (e.g., only some politicians are corrupt). We explain how these findings suggest that the central memory resources are not involved in (some of) the core sub-process at the source of SIs, and discuss how this new difference between SIs and only bears on recent linguistic debates on the division of labor between grammar and pragmatics.