The term "pragmatic strengthening" has been tossed around in a lot of papers I've been looking at for a project I'm doing on idioms, and I can't seem to find a simple definition anywhere. Is anyone familiar with this, or could point me to some explanatory materials?
"Pragmatic strengthening" refers to a situation of ambiguity in the meaning of an utterance, where pragmatic inferences about that utterance serve to strengthen one interpretation. This strengthening can continue to the point where a secondary meaning becomes the default. Pragmatic strengthening is an important process in language change and grammaticalisation as, over time, it can lead to changes in default meaning.