This Friday we are having the last colloquium of this semester! The talk will be given by Dr. Alan Bale (Concordia University) on Friday, December 2nd at 3:30pm in the Education building, room 624.

Title: Ignorance and Distraction: A case study that uses experimental methodologies to help distinguish between different theories of inference. 

Abstract: Ever since Grice (1975), there has been a vibrant literature on the nature of quantity implicatures (e.g., inferences from “some” to “not all” as well as inferences from “some” to “I don’t know whether all”). Some authors have defended the spirit of Grice’s original proposal, namely that these types of inferences stem from people rationally reasoning about basic principles of conversational cooperation (for a recent defence, see Geurts 2010). Others have amended Grice’s original proposal with various grammatical interventions, special algorithms, and/or default heuristics that sometimes run counter to rational reasoning (e.g., Levinson 2000). Still others have proposed that at least some types of quantity implicatures are purely grammatical and do not involve any type of strengthening outside of the linguistic faculty (e.g., Chierchia, Fox and Spector 2012; Meyer 2013). 

In this talk, I will discuss how inducing states of ignorance and employing methods of distraction can allow us to gather experimental evidence that might be able to distinguish between these various theories. In particular, I will argue that the cumulative results from several recent studies, including those from an experiment conducted in my lab, are inconsistent with the grammatical account of quantity implicatures. Rather, such results are more consistent with Grice’s original proposal (with some relatively minor amendments).