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Academic Paper


Title: Experimental Pragmatics and What Is said: A response to Gibbs and Moise.
Author: Steve Nicolle
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Africa International University
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Pragmatics
Abstract: Gibbs and Moise (1997) present experimental results which, they claim, show that people recognise a distinction between what is said and what is implicated. They also claim that these results provide support for theories of utterance interpretation (such as Relevance Theory) which recognise that pragmatic processes are involved not only in understanding what is implicated but also in working out what is said (the ‘explicature’). We attempted to replicate some of these experiments and also adapted them. Our results fail to confirm Gibbs and Moise’s claims. Most significantly, they show that, under certain conditions, subjects select implicatures when asked to select the paraphrase that best reflects what a speaker has said. We suggest that our results can be explained within the framework of Relevance Theory (Sperber & Wilson 1986) if we assume that subjects select the paraphrase that comes closest to achieving the same set of communicated contextual effects as the original utterance. When an utterance gives rise to a single strong implicature, subjects tend to select this as the paraphrase that best reflects what is said; in other cases (for example in Gibbs & Moise’s stimuli) subjects tend to select the explicature.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Cognition 69: 337-354.


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