Even: The conventional implicature approach reconsidered

Linguistics and Philosophy 18 (2):153 - 173 (1995)
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Abstract

Like Bennett's account of ‘even’, my analysis incorporates the following plausible and widespread intuitions. (a) The word ‘even’ does not make a truth-functional difference; it makes a difference only in conventional implicature. In particular, ‘even’ functions neither as a universal quantifier, nor a most or many quantifier. The only quantified statement that ‘Even A is F’ implies is the existential claim ‘There is an x (namely, A) that is F’, but this implication is nothing more than what the Equivalence Thesis already demands. (b) ‘Even’ is epistemic in character, implying some type of unexpectedness, surprise, or unlikelihood. Moreover, despite Kay's arguments to the contrary, this implication is part of the meaning of ‘even’. (c) ‘Even’ is a scalar term, since unexpectedness comes in degrees. And, finally, (d) the felicity of an ‘even’-sentence S requires that S* be sufficiently surprising in comparison to its true neighbors. However,pace Bennett, being more surprising than just one true neighbor will not suffice. At the same time, being more surprising than all true neighbors is unnecessary. Suffice it that S* is more surprising than most true neighbors.

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Robert Francescotti
San Diego State University

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