[PS-3.57] Question structure and non-actuality implicatures

Kim, C.

University of Kent

Non-actuality implicatures (NAIs; Grant, Clifton & Frazier 2012) highlight the contrast between a described state of affairs and the actual world, introducing implicit Questions under Discussion (QUD; Roberts 1996) as to whether the described state holds. NAIs are triggered by predicates like want or modals like should; e.g. ''Alice should've eaten breakfast'' implicates Alice did not eat breakfast. This study asks whether the question structure of the discourse containing a NAI trigger influences how likely the inference is to survive, or alternatively, be cancelled. Experiment1 varied whether NAI sentences appeared as an answer to a QUD followed by another QUD (creating the impression of a complete answer to the first question), or as one of multiple continuations all partially answering the same QUD. Even though NAIs were never explicitly cancelled, discourses where NAI sentences were construed as partial answers gave rise to more ''cancellation'' interpretations (''Alice should've eaten breakfast'' meaning that she did eat breakfast). Experiment2 asks whether, even in structurally congruent discourses, the type of questions following a NAI can shift interpretations toward implicature or cancellation readings. NAIs followed by ''Why not?'' questions reinforced the implicature, whereas ''Why?'' (''Why is it important to eat breakfast?'') questions increased cancellation interpretations.