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Q-Phenomena, I-Phenomena and Impliciture: Some Experimental Pragmatics

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Elements of communicative content that are not expressed by constituents of the sentence uttered, what we will call "unexpressed elements of content" (UECs), played an important role in the history and development of generative grammar. In the 80's and 90's, mostly inspired by the work of Grice, UECs and mechanisms for recovering them not contemplated by linguistic theory of the time, began to surface under a variety of labels. We will collectively refer to these phenomena as 'impliciture' (extending Bach: 1994). Impliciture phenomena raise some interesting questions, only some of which is the field in a position to say anything about at present. Levinson (2000) has taken the useful step of distinguishing what we call "Q-phenomena", mostly related to linguistic scales, from "I-phenomena", mostly related to stereotypical information. Starting in the late 80's, experimental work began on the nature of these unspoken contents and their attendant mechanisms. In a recent study, Garrett and Harnish (2007) looked at I-phenomena, that have been proposed to depend on stereotypical background information. We asked whether these contents really are delivered by such mechanisms as "default heuristics", operating on general background knowledge, or whether they might be more tied to language via something like the "standardization" of a form for a certain use. Initial results for the materials tested seem to favor standardization as a mechanism for delivering this content. Completed research by Orjada (2007) and Rybarova (2007) extends the study of impliciture to additional examples and new populations. One assesses performance in RH damaged populations. The other contrasts performance for populations with high and low frontal lobe function.

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