ImpliPer: Reconsidering the epistemic step: The role of speaker’s and listener’s perspectives for the processing of quantity and temporal implicatures

Principal investigator:
Dr. Maria Spychalska
Universität zu Köln

Project description:
In Gricean pragmatics the derivation of conversation implicatures involves reasoning about the epistemic state of the speaker (her set of beliefs and knowledge). For instance, the assumption that the speaker is competent is essential for deriving the scalar implicature of the quantifier “some”. In contrast, implicatures related to disjunctions seem to involve the assumption that the speaker is epistemically ignorant. The goal of the project is to directly investigate the role of the information about the epistemic state of the speaker for pragmatic processing. The main question addressed is whether this epistemic information about the speaker is incrementally processed by the listener and whether it plays any role for the truth-conditional sentence evaluation.

The project focuses in particular on the generalized implicatures related to logical terms. In the first part, I investigate quantity implicatures, especially the “some, but not all” implicature and the implicatures related to disjuctions. In the second part, I focus on temporal implicatures of conjunctive sentence. A novel experimental paradigm is introduced, where the implicature processing is tested in the context of partial information. The paradigm employ pseudo-game situations with multiple agents (player vs. speaker), where only partial information about the model is available to the speaker, or both to the speaker and the listener. To investigate the role of the epistemic information in the processing of the speaker meaning, the method of event-related brain potentials is used. Temporal implicatures are further investigated in contexts where the discourse relation between events is determined by world knowledge. To this aim a paradigm is developed that uses a visual presentation of real-life activities that are related or unrelated to each other. Combining the findings on implicatures related to different maxims (Quantity and Manner), I aim to look from a broader perspective at the role of the epistemic reasoning in pragmatics.