The neural computation of scalar implicature
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CitationHartshorne, Joshua K., Jesse Snedeker, Stephanie Yen-Mun Liem Azar, and Albert E. Kim. 2014. “The Neural Computation of Scalar Implicature.” Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 30 (5) (December 24): 620–634. doi:10.1080/23273798.2014.981195.
AbstractLanguage comprehension involves not only constructing the literal meaning of a sentence but also going beyond the literal meaning to infer what was meant but not said. One widely studied test case is scalar implicature: The inference that, e.g., Sally ate some of the cookies implies she did not eat all of them. Research is mixed on whether this is due to a rote, grammaticalised procedure or instead a complex, contextualised inference. We find that in sentences like If Sally ate some of the cookies, then the rest are on the counter, that the rest triggers a late, sustained positivity relative to Sally ate some of the cookies, and the rest are on the counter. This is consistent with behavioural results and linguistic theory suggesting that the former sentence does not trigger a scalar implicature. This motivates a view on which scalar implicature is contextualised but dependent on grammatical structure.
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