Loose Talk, Pragmatic Slack, and a Little Bit of Metaphor
Daniel Hoek, Princeton University. In addition to conversational implicature, there is also conversational exculpature, a pragmatic process whereby some information is subtracted from what the speaker literally says. He gives a precise theory of this pragmatic content subtraction, and shows how it accounts for the phenomenon of "loose talk" about numbers and measurements. For instance, exculpature explains why you can say "Ellen arrived at six o'clock" without implying that Ellen arrived between 5:59 and 6:01 pm. Unlike extant pragmatic theories of loose talk, this explanation gets all the embedding facts right, and handles cases in which the loose contact of an assertion is stronger than its literal content. He will also indicate a few other phenomena that may be amenable to the exculpature-based treatment, such as Waltonian metaphors.