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The Explicit/Implicit Distinction in Pragmatics and the Limits of Explicit Communication

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This paper has two main parts. The first is a critical survey of ways in which the explicit/implicit distinction has been and is currently construed in linguistic pragmatics, which reaches the conclusion that the distinction is not to be equated with a semantics/pragmatics distinction but rather concerns a division within communicated contents (or speaker meaning). The second part homes in on one particular way of drawing such a pragmatically-based distinction, the explicature/implicature distinction in Relevance Theory. According to this account, processes of pragmatic enrichment play a major role in the recovery of explicit content and only some of these processes are linguistically triggered, others being entirely pragmatically motivated. I conclude with a brief consideration of the language-communication relation and the limits on explicitness.


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