Michael Blome-Tillmann

McGill Philosophy ~ Cambridge Philosophy

Conversational Implicatures (and How to Spot Them)

This is a critical overview paper on conversational implicatures (published in Blackwell's Philosophy Compass).


In everyday conversations we often convey information that goes above and beyond what we strictly speaking say: exaggeration and irony are obvious examples. H.P. Grice introduced the technical notion of a conversational implicature in systematizing the phenomenon of meaning one thing by saying something else. In introducing the notion, Grice drew a line between what is said, which he understood as being closely related to the conventional meaning of the words uttered, and what is conversationally implicated, which can be inferred from the fact that an utterance has been made in context. Since Grice’s seminal work, conversational implicatures have become one of the major research areas in pragmatics. This article introduces the notion of a conversational implicature, discusses some of the key issues that lie at the heart of the recent debate, and explicates tests that allow us to reliably distinguish between semantic entailments and conventional implicatures on the one hand and conversational implicatures on the other.