The story of some: Everyday pragmatic inference by children and adults

Aidan Feeney*, Susan Scrafton, Amber Duckworth, Simon J. Handley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


The statement, some elephants have trunks, is logically true but pragmatically infelicitous. Whilst some is logically consistent with all, it is often pragmatically interpreted as precluding all. In Experiments 1 and 2, we show that with pragmatically impoverished materials, sensitivity to the pragmatic implicature associated with some is apparent earlier in development than has previously been found. Amongst 8-year-old children, we observed much greater sensitivity to the implicature in pragmatically enriched contexts. Finally, in Experiment 3, we found that amongst adults, logical responses to infelicitous some statements take longer to produce than do logical responses to felicitous some statements, and that working memory capacity predicts the tendency to give logical responses to the former kind of statement. These results suggest that some adults develop the ability to inhibit a pragmatic response in favour of a logical answer. We discuss the implications of these findings for theories of pragmatic inference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-132
Number of pages12
JournalCanadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes

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