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Investigation of Scalar Implicatures of Binus University Students_Part 1

By Dr. Clara Herlina

Abstract: Scalar implicatures are based on a range of quantifiers ordered in terms of informational strength, for example in quantity: some, most, all; in frequency: sometimes, often, and always. This study measures the scalar implicatures among university students who learn English as a foreign language. The participants for this study are fourth semester English Department students at Binus University. Using the same instruments as in Slabakova (2009) and Noveck’s study (2001) the present study aims to find out the general ability of the university students of computing scalar implicatures and to discover the level of pragmatic/logical competence of the university students with regards to their gender and grade point average. The results show that the students with GPA lower than three are more logical than those with GPA higher than three; while female students are more pragmatic than male students.

Key words: scalar implicatures, pragmatic, logical, gender, GPA

Human communication often involves more than what has been said or heard. The speakers often intend to convey more than the words they utter and the hearers manage to invoke the interpretation beyond the literal meaning of what they hear. In pragmatics, this is called implicature. Mei (2001) mentions that the meaning of implicature-to imply is to fold something into something else (it is from the Latin word plicare meaning ‘to fold’). To achieve at the same implicature between the speakers and the hearers, Peccei (1999) mentions that there must be a considerable amount of shared knowledge between the speakers and the hearers. Consider the following example:

(1) Some lecturers are smart.

Upon hearing this utterance, the hearers would agree that the speaker wants to convey that:

(2) Not all lecturers are smart.

The assumption in (2) is not encoded by the speaker’s utterance or said by the speaker, but it is the assumption derived by the hearer based on what the speaker has said. Logically, some means some (not all) and possibly all. Notice that when we say All books are blue, it will logically entails that Some books are blue, because some is part of all. However, if the speaker of utterance (1) above had meant all lecturers are smart, she would have uttered (3):

(3) All lecturers are smart.

To arrive at the same assumption between the speaker and the hearer, Paul Grice, a philosopher of language, offered a mechanism of inferential communication. Grice (1989) proposed that all speakers, regardless of their cultural background, adhere to a basic principle governing conversation: co-operative principles, which were later known as Grice’s Maxims. According to Grice’s Maxims, interlocutors should speak sincerely, relevantly, clearly and provide sufficient information.

According to Grice’s Maxims, in producing utterance (1) and meaning (2), the speaker has used part of the following maxims:

(4) Quantity Maxim

i. Make your contribution as informative as is required

ii. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required

Uttering the sentence (1) in most cases will communicate the assumption (2). This seems to be because the speaker does not use the stronger terms such as (3). If the speaker believes that all lecturers are smart, she would have said so. According to quantity maxim: make your contribution as informative as is required, the speaker will not use stronger term all unless required. The hearer, will also assume that stronger term does not apply.

When a speaker deliberately qualifies or scales his or her statement with language that conveys to the listeners an inference or implicature that indicates that the speaker has reasons not to choose a stronger or more informative term, s/he is making a scalar implicature. Scalar implicatures are based on a range of quantifiers ordered in terms of informational strength, for example in quantity: some, most, all; in frequency: sometimes, often, always. The basic assumption for scalar implicature is that a speaker will choose one that is truthful and optimally informative. In other words, the speaker will use a weaker term (e.g. some), it is an indication that the speaker chose not to articulate a more informative term from the same scale (e.g. all) (Gazdar, 1979; Horn, 1984).

Studies on how children and adults compute implicatures are numerous (Horn, 1984; Levinson, 2000; Chierchia, 2004; Noveck, 2001; Musolino & Lidz, 2002); while scalar implicatures, according to Slabakova (2009) have not been directly tested in second language acquisition.

Following Slabakova (2009) and Noveck (2001), I carry out an investigation on the computation of scalar implicatures among university students who learn English as a foreign language. This present study has two goals. One is to find out the general ability of the university students of computing scalar implicatures. Second, is to discover the level of pragmatic/logical competence of the university students with regards to their gender and grade point average. Previously, Noveck (2001) measured the scalar implicature between children and adults; while Slabakova (2009) measured the performance of two adult native speaker groups, English and Korean and also based on the participants TOEFL scores, which were divided into Advanced and Intermediate levels. Investigations of scalar implicature based on the speakers’ gender have rarely been done ; while the grade point average of the speakers is another way to group the participants based on their cognitive ability. The general purpose of this study is to find out whether female students are more pragmatic or more logical than male students and vice versa. The second purpose is to find out whether students with higher GPA (consequently ‘smarter’ students) are more logical or more pragmatic than students with lower GPA.

Conversational implicature derives from the shared presumption that speaker and hearer are interacting rationally and cooperatively to reach a common goal. The governing rule to achieve at appropriate implicature between the speaker and the hearer, Grice (1989, p. 26) offers Cooperative Principle: “Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange”.

END OF PART I

 


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