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Numerous Meanings

The Meaning of English Cardinals and the Legacy of Paul Grice

Series:

Bert Bultinck

Outlandish as it may seem to the uninitiated, the meaning of English cardinal numbers has been the object of many heated and fascinating debates. Notwithstanding the numerous important objections that have been formulated in the last three decades, the (neo-)Gricean, scalar account is still the standard semantic description of numerals.
In this book, Bultinck writes the history of this implicature-driven approach and demonstrates that it suffers from methodological insecurity and postulates highly non-conventional meanings of numerals as their "literal meaning", while it confuses the level of lexical semantics with that of utterances and cannot deal with a large number of counter-examples. Relying on the results of an extensive corpus-based analysis, an alternative account of the meaning of English cardinals and the ways in which their interpretation is influenced by other linguistic elements is presented. As such, this analysis constitutes a prism that offers todays linguist an iridescent history of one of the most fascinating, if often misconstrued, topics in contemporary meaning research: the conversational implicatures.