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Implicating Questions


  • Thanks to audiences at University of Sheffield and University at Buffalo for their comments. Thanks to Larry Horn for references. Thanks to Ralf Meerbote for correcting problems with previous versions of my German examples (all remaining errors are mine). Thanks to Jay Atlas, Kent Bach, John G. Bennett, Larry Horn, Gail Mauner, Michael McGlone, and Jennifer Saul for comments, discussions, suggestions, and reassurances. Special thanks to Christine Gunlogson for numerous references, copious comments, extended discussion, many suggestions, and yet more reassurance. I dedicate this paper, my first serious foray into pragmatics, to my former undergraduate teacher, Jay Atlas. I was fortunate to have Jay both as my first teacher in philosophy of language and as my supervisor for my senior thesis. I am now fortunate to have him as a friend and philosophical colleague. He finds much to disagree with in this paper, but I am sure that he will continue to do so with his usual generosity, tolerance, and humor.

Department of Philosophy, 135 Park Hall, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, 14260-4150, USA.


I modify Grice's theory of conversational implicature so as to accommodate acts of implicating propositions by asking questions, acts of implicating questions by asserting propositions, and acts of implicating questions by asking questions. I describe the relations between a declarative sentence's semantic content (the proposition it semantically expresses), on the one hand, and the propositions that a speaker locutes, asserts, and implicates by uttering that sentence, on the other. I discuss analogous relations between an interrogative sentence's semantic content (the question it semantically expresses), and the questions that a speaker locutes, asks, and implicates by uttering that sentence.