Rick Nouwen

28 Oct 2011, 2pm-4pm, Manchester 227

Ignorance without disjunction? The implicatures of numeral modifiers

It has been observed (Geurts & Nouwen 2007) that certain numeral statements, particularly those involving the modifier “at least”, give rise to ignorance implicatures. For instance, (i) implies that the speaker does not know the exact number of journalists who contacted Bill.

(i) At least three journalists contacted Bill.

These inferences are reminiscent of ignorance implicatures that show up with disjunctive statements. (“Either Bob or Bill is guilty” implies that the speaker doesn’t know who is guilty). In fact, one could argue that (i) expresses a disjunction: exactly 3 journalists contacted Bill or more than 3 journalists contacted him. In this talk I will argue that this line of reasoning is too simplistic, both from a logical and from a linguistic point of view.