People Innovation Excellence

Investigation of Scalar Implicatures of Binus University Students_Part 3

By Dr. Clara Herlina



Forty two students of semester IV English Department Bina Nusantara University participated in this study. There were 11 male students and 31 female students. These students were further divided by their grade point average (GPA). The following table shows the demography of the students.


The experiment by Noveck (2001) served as a model. Sentences were based on three types of information : factually universal ( that elephants have trunks is represented by the quantifier all), factually existential (that birds live in cages is represented by some) , and absurd (that garages can sing is false with both quantifiers). The materials were made up of 40 sentences that can be broken down into the following subgroups:

(a) Eight true All sentences (e.g. All elephants have trunks)

(b) Eight true (but pragmatically infelicitous) Some sentences (e.g. Some books have pages)

(c) Eight false All sentences (e.g. All books have color pictures)

(d) Eight true (and felicitous) Some sentences (e.g. Some dresses have pocket)

(e) Four absurd All sentences (e.g. All chairs tell time)

(f) Four absurd Some sentences (e.g. Some books are good to eat)


Participants were told that they were going to be presented a series of statements and that their job was simply say whether or not they agree with each statement. They were told that it was not a test and they would not have to explain their response. It was anticipated that the students would react to the absurd sentences with incredulity. However, the researcher gave some explanation about the difficult words and absurd sentences, and instructed the participants to respond with I do not agree whenever the participants were unsure.


The responses were coded for logical correctness. The following table shows the percentage of responses for each subgroup.

The table above shows that students generally agree with the logical response. For ‘true all’ sentences, more than 75% of the responses agree with the statements. Also for ‘false all’ sentences, almost 100% responses disagree which are in accordance with correct response expected. The percentages of correct responses for ‘absurd all’ and ‘absurd some’ sentences are also quite high. However, the responses for ‘infelicitous some’ seem deviate from the others. The correct response for the ‘infelicitous some’ sentences should be ‘Yes’ or ‘Agree’; but the result shows that less than 40% of responses are in line with the correct answer. Another interesting fact from the result is that students with GPA lower than 3 shows different response from students with GPA higher than 3. Overall, the responses of students with GPA lower than 3 are lower than students with GPA higher than 3. The only striking difference is in the ‘infelicitous some sentences’, students with lower GPA gave 38.8 % responses while students with higher GPA only gave 16.8% ‘agree’ responses. A similar phenomenon occurs in the responses based on gender. Male students gave 36.4 % ‘agree’ responses compared to female who gave 23.4% ‘agree’ responses for ‘infelicitous some’ sentences. Another variable, previous English experience, does not show significant difference between students who had English course before and those who had not had English course. Students with previous English experience give higher “agree” responses (28.2%) compared to those without previous English experience (22.7%).

The response to the ‘infelicitous some’ sentences is crucial in determining whether a person is more logical or more pragmatic. For example for the sentence ‘Some hammers have handles’, a logical person will answer ‘agree’ as some is part of all, because if all hammers have handles, logically some hammers also have handles. However, a pragmatic person will answer ‘disagree’ because she will think that if some hammers have handles, then some other hammers do not have handles, which will be inappropriate.


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