The Grice Club


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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Zeugma as Implicature


In arguing against a supposed ambiguity, philosophers often rely on the zeugma test. In an application of the zeugma test, a supposedly ambiguous expression is placed in a sentence in which several of its supposed meanings are forced together. If the resulting sentence sounds zeugmatic, that is taken as evidence for ambiguity; if it does not sound zeugmatic, that is taken as evidence against ambiguity. The aim of this article is to show that arguments based on the second direction of the test are misguided: ambiguous expressions, and in particular philosophically contested ones, do not reliably lead to zeugmaticity, so an absence of zeugmaticity provides no meaningful evidence for an absence of ambiguity.

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