Even more evidence for the emptiness of plurality: An experimental investigation of plural interpretation as a species of implicature

Hazel Anne Pearson, Manizeh Khan, Jesse Snedeker


In two experiments, we test a family of theories that treat the 'more than one' meaning component of the plural morpheme as an implicature rather than an inherent part of its semantics (Sauerland et al. 2005, Spector 2007, Zweig 2009). We find that under certain circumstances, this meaning component appears to be canceled, in the manner of an implicature. Our findings suggest that the implicature is relatively difficult to cancel, and that cancelation is facilitated by employing a linguistic environment in which plural marking contributes to the presupposed but not the asserted content. The notion that implicatures may be more easily canceled when they contribute to the presuppositional component is a novel contribution of the study.


Plurality; Implicature; Number marking; Experimental semantics

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/salt.v20i0.2554