By Clara Herlina


This general principle is instantiated by four general maxims of conversation:

QUALITY: try to make your contribution one that is true

1. Do not say what you believe to be false.

2. Do not say that for which you lack of evidence


1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of exchange)

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

RELATION: be relevant

MANNER: be perspicuous

1. Avoid obscurity of expression

2. Avoid ambiguity

3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity)

4. Be orderly.

According to Horn (1984) all Grice’s maxims (except the maxim of Quality) can be replaced with two fundamental principles:

Q (quantity) Principle (Hearer based)

Make your contribution sufficient; say as much as you can (Quantity)

R (relation) Principle (Speaker based)

Make your contribution necessary, say no more than you must (Relation, Quantity, Manner)

Grice also divides conversational implicature into two kinds. The first kind generalized conversational implicatures are those conversational implicatures which arise without requiring any particular contextual conditions. Levinson (2000) calls this generalized conversational implicatures as default inferences, that is, inferences that are automatically generated and that may be cancelled if context appears to call for it. The second kind particularized conversational implicatures are those which require such condition. Huang (2007, p. 31) gives the following examples:

(1) Generalized conversational implicature:

Most of John’s friends believe in marriage

( Not all of John’s friends believe in marriage)

(2) Particularized conversational implicature:

John: Where’s Peter?

Mary: The light in his office is on.

(Peter is in his office)

The implicature of sentence (1) is derived from observing the maxim. Any utterance with the form “most x are y” has a default interpretation “not all x are y”. By contrast, the implicature in sentence (2) depends on its linguistic context. Mary’s reply points to the connection between the light in Peter’s office and his location. So, if the light is on, Peter must be in his office.

One exemplary case of generalized conversational implicatures is scalar implicature. Scalar implicatures is based on the application of Grice’s maxim of quantity. Levinson’s theory of scalar implicatures as default GCIs argues that they exploit pre-existing scales such as (some, all), (and, or), (possible, necessary), (start, finish), etc.

Another theory of scalar implicatures comes from Sperber and Wilson (1986) and Carston (1998). They propose Relevance Theory framework. In the Relevance Theory framework, an implicature is defined as an inference that the speaker intends and expects the hearer to draw in order to arrive at an interpretation of the utterance that is relevant enough. In particular, a scalar implicature is derived when a relatively weak statement fails to meet the hearer’s expectation of relevance. For example in the following dialogue:

X: Have all the students come? Y: Some are.

Y’s answer is not relevant unless it is taken to implicate that some of the students have not come. According to the neo-Griceans (Levinson, 1983 ; Horn, 1984, 2006; Gazdar, 1979), scalar implicatures are automatically derived by competent language users, and can then be cancelled if the context suggest doing so, whereas for Relevance Theory scalar implicatures are derived only when they are contextually needed to achieve the expected level of relevance.