Verbuk, A., & Shultz, T. (2010). Acquisition of relevance implicatures: a case against a rationality-based account of conversational implicatures. Journal of Pragmatics, 42 (8), 2297-2313.



In our L1 acquisition experiment, we tested between the Language-based and Rationality-based accounts of how Relevance implicatures are computed, and found support for the Language-based account but not the Rationality-based account. While on the Language-based account (e.g., Horn, 1984; Levinson, 2000), Relevance implicatures are situated within the language module, on the Rationality-based account (Kasher, 1991), they are not situated within the language module, and are interpreted as being derived by Rationality-based reasoning, which is also instrumental in deriving non-linguistic inferences. We tested children aged 5;18;1 on computing Relevance implicatures and nonlinguistic inferences that were parallel in nature. On the Language-based account, children were predicted to perform better on computing non-linguistic inferences than Relevance implicatures that are parallel in nature because in order to compute Relevance implicatures children need to master additional linguistic prerequisites. On the Rationality-based account, children were not predicted to perform better on computing non-linguistic inferences than Relevance implicatures. We found that children performed significantly better on computing non-linguistic inferences than Relevance implicatures, which provided evidence for the Language-based account. We argue that reasoning about language, and specifically, about the role of seemingly irrelevant utterances in discourse, constitutes the main acquisition challenge with respect to Relevance implicatures.


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