Ryzhova, Margarita; Demberg, Vera

Processing cost effects of atypicality inferences in a dual-task setup

Journal of Pragmatics, 211, pp. 47-80, 2023.

Whether pragmatic inferences are cognitively more effortful than processing literal language has been a longstanding question in pragmatics. So far, experimental studies have exclusively tested generalized (scalar) implicatures. Current theories would predict that particularized implicatures should be cognitively effortful – however, this prediction has to date not been tested empirically. The present article contributes to the debate by investigating a specific type of particularized implicature, atypicality inferences, in a dual-task paradigm. In three experiments, we used either a non-linguistic (Experiment 1) or a linguistic (Experiments 2 and 3) secondary task, to modulate the amount of available cognitive resources. Our results show that the strength of pragmatic inferences is largely unaffected by the secondary task, which contrasts with prior predictions. We discuss the implications for traditional and modern accounts of pragmatic processing.