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Review of  Implicatures in Discourse

Reviewer: Raúl Morales Carrasco
Book Title: Implicatures in Discourse
Book Author: Sarah E. Blackwell
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 16.113

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Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2005 14:25:51 -0600
From: Raúl Morales
Subject: Implicatures in Discourse

AUTHOR: Blackwell, Sarah E.
TITLE: Implicatures in Discourse
SUBTITLE: The Case of Spanish NP Anaphora
SERIES: Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 105
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2003

Raúl Morales Carrasco, Systems and Computing Department, Puebla Institute
of Technology (ITPue), Puebla, Pue., México


The book under review is, one in the series of John Benjamins in
Linguistics, written for advanced undergraduate or postgraduate students.
Blackwell reports a highly relevant topic in today's research theory of
anaphora as a general phenomenon into languages; her observations support
a pragmatic theory of anaphora. She analyzes the use and interpretation of
definite noun phrase (NP) anaphora in Spanish conversations and oral
narratives within a neo-Gricean pragmatics framework of conversational
implicature, based on the previous work of Levinson (2000), Huang (2000)
and her own proposal.


The book is organized into six chapters. Chapter 1 introduce us to the
relation between definite NP anaphora and coreference. She explains
why "the most obvious property anaphoric expressions share is that they
derive their meaning in a given context from their association with other
elements in that context". Then, she comments that the 'c-command'
syntactic constraint "may be overridden by contextual and pragmatic
conditions". Finally, she establishes the premises for data and
methodology used. Data came from two genres of spoken Spanish discourse:
spontaneous conversation and a series of narratives useful to test the neo-
Gricean pragmatic theory and to observe the effects of coreference
constrains. She, analyzed data qualitatively using a combined discourse
and conversation analytic approach.

Chapter 2 gives us a panoramic view of neo-Gricean pragmatic approach to
anaphora setting the framework of her work. She takes as a premise
that "anaphora involves utterance interpretation, which is in turn an
inferential process involving conversational implicatures". She then
continues explaining Grice's theory of conversational implicature with
Levinson's pending problems proposal, and Huang proposal including
background knowledge, mutual knowledge, semantic constraint entailments,
and antecedent saliency. Finally, She outlines "the neo-Gricean pragmatic
framework of analysis used in the present study of anaphora in Spanish ...
including a set of consistency constraints on implicatures ... to provide
a fuller, more explanatory account of Spanish anaphora". This and next
chapter are vital for understanding her standpoint.

Chapter 3 is on approaches to reference from social, functional and
cognitive points of view. Here, the author analyzes how speaker's freedom
to use NP expressions in the same context 'implicate' coreference with a
given antecedent. She seeks: first, what kind of factors influence and
constraints speaker's choice to use a lexical NP instead of a pronoun, or
a pronoun instead of null subject; and second, to what extent these
factors influence implicatures, according to her neo-Gricean approach and
Huang's notion of consistency constraint. She shows "how the use of
recipient-designed recognitionals and minimization with regard to both
informativeness and surface linguistic form, influence a speaker's use of
referring expressions" taking account of givenness in terms of
predictability/recoverability, cognitive factors involved in anaphora
including 'accessibility' in the mind of the recipient, and the assumed
memory and attention state of the addressee when a certain NP type is used.

Chapter 4 is on NP anaphora in Spanish conversation. First, she addresses
the nature of conversation and objectives associated with conversation
analysis. Next, she describes the method to collect, select eight from
twenty 90-minute tapes of Spanish conversation, how she transcribes them
and finally the main characteristics of the participants. Then she
illustrates how 'the basic pattern of anaphora' is instantiated by the
interaction of the neo-Gricean principles I-(nformativeness) and M-
(anner), and the saliency of the antecedent. Finally, she examines the
ways in which patterns of anaphoric reference and the speaker's tendency
toward linguistic minimization are both influenced by the interlocutors
mutual knowledge of personal experiences, concerns and interpersonal

Chapter 5 is on referring expressions in Spanish narrative discourse. Here
she accounts for anaphora into this kind of discourse using her revised
neo-Gricean framework. First, she describes the data collection and
transcription phases of the study. Next, she examines: the role of the
antecedent saliency as a consistency constrain on implicatures of
coreference; the effects of background and mutual knowledge of narrator
and addressee on anaphora production and interpretation; the role of
agreement in implicatures of coreference and non-coreference; and the
contrastive function of 'marked' NP expressions. Then, she analyzes
backward anaphora, in sentences coordinated with 'but', observing both the
similarity in the syntactic structure of the clauses in which the anaphors
and antecedents occur, and also the fact that they appear to play a
similar pragmatic role in discourse structure: they 'communicate
uncertainty or negativity'. Finally, she concludes that regardless of the
type of referring expression, interpretation of coreference depends upon
inferences based on the 'state' of the interlocutors mutual knowledge; and
this 'state' "cancel[s] predicted implicatures of coreference, when these
are based solely on the saliency of the potential antecedents and the use
of minimal forms".

In Chapter 6, 'Conclusions', Blackwell presents a summary of findings
reached from this study and some reflections upon neo-Gricean approach to
anaphora. She comments how the evidence of Q(-uantity), I(-nformativeness)
and M(-anner) principles are reinforced by data of both genres of spoken
discourse analyzed. Finally, she concludes that any full explanation of
discourse requires to consider the interaction of factors
from 'syntactic', 'semantic', 'pragmatics' and 'cognitive' domains; so,
we "need to seek a better explanation, furnished by an integrated theory,
drawing on useful notions from the different domains cited above"; and
invites us to continue the analysis about the nature of discourse anaphora.


The book, with its Spanish conversation and narrative discourse examples
so carefully described about anaphora, represents an invaluable gift
because they are naturally occurring (Cornish,1999:37). It is an
outstanding contribution to the study of anaphora, as a step forward, and
shows clearly that many other factors play a role in the selection of the
best anaphoric form in a given environment. Moreover, it is evident that
there are still many puzzles to be solved.

Generally speaking, the book also provides a good overview of previous
approaches to anaphora. Based on her Ph.D. thesis, the book nicely
presents research that is useful for graduate and postgraduate students as
a companion text in any linguistic or computational linguistic course. The
overall impression is that the book is well designed, well written and
easy to read. There are some errors which, however, do not harm the
pleasure of reading. Here are examples:

(1) On page 111 example (117) line 16, "... todas esas peripecias nos
pasó" should be "... todas esas peripecias nos pasaron" due to Spanish
number concordance.

(2) On page 122 example (122) line 5 Spanish, her transcription omits (I
think) a 'se' third person reflexive pronoun according to her translation
into English. The actual transcription literally means "the things don't
forget me".

(3) On page 258 line 21, a duplicated 'that' in "... determiners signals
not only definite reference, but also that that the hearer, ..." can be

I suggest reviewing the original tape to check (1) and (2).

In conclusion, Blackwell's linguistic research is entirely professional
and her book can be recommended to anyone interested in the subject. The
book could be used both as a reference for its empirical results, and as a
source of inspiration for further study.


Cornish, Francis. (1999). Anaphora, Discourse, and Understanding. Evidence
from English and French. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Huang, Yan. (2000). Anaphora. A Cross-linguistic Approach. Oxford
University Press

Levinson, Stephen C. (2000). Presumptive meanings. MIT Press. Cambridge,


The reviewer received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Center for
Computing Research (CIC), at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN),
Mexico, with a thesis titled 'Automatic Resolution of Indirect Anaphora in
Spanish'. Currently he is a full time professor at Puebla Institute of
Technology (ITPue), México. His primary research interest is anaphora
resolution for natural language processing (NLP) and information
extraction systems along with a broader research area of computational