40-plus years ago Paul Grice initiated modern pragmatics by defining a relation of conversational implicature within a general theory of cooperation and rationality. While critics have disputed the formulation and derivation of Gricean principles, the overall framework, with appropriate emendations, remains the most natural and explanatory approach to predicting constraints on lexical incorporation, the behavior of scalar predicates, pragmatic strengthening, and other linguistic phenomena. Despite recent arguments for an enriched conception of propositional content, a range of real and fictional exchanges bearing on the distinction between lying and misleading supports the neo-Gricean view of an austere conception of what is said.
In reports filed from several fronts in the semantics/pragmatics border wars, I seek to bolster the loyalist (neo-)-Gricean forces against various recent revisionist sorties, including (but not limited to) the relevance-theoretic view on which the maxims (or more specifically their sole surviving descendant, the principle of relevance) inform truth-conditional content through the determination of “explicatures”, Levinson’s defense of implicatures serving as input to logical form, recent arguments by Mira Ariel for a semantic treatment of the upper bound (‘not all’) for propositions of the form Most F are G, and Chierchia’s proposal to reanalyze implicatures as part of compositional semantics. I argue for drawing the semantics/pragmatics boundary in a relatively traditional way, maintaining a constrained characterization of what is said, while adopting a variant of Kent Bach’s position on “impliciture” and supporting the Gricean conception of implicature as an aspect of speaker meaning, as opposed to its reconstruction in terms of default inference or utterance interpretation. I survey current controversies concerning the meaning and acquisition of disjunction and other scalar operators, the relation of subcontrariety and its implications for lexicalization, the nature of polarity licensing, and the innateness controversy. In each case, I seek to emphasize the significance of the generalizations that a (neo-)classical pragmatic approach enables us to capture.