Some content words signal that future content will likely follow. The words seem to act as a typing system for instances of the content. For example:

"I have an idea." --> one expects the idea to soon follow

"I have an example." --> (what is the example?)

"There are two things I need to say." --> (what are the two things?)

Is there a name for these kinds of words?

2 Answers 2


User6726 is absolutely correct, but to expand a little bit:

The "more to follow" idea comes from Gricean implicature, not from the words themselves.

Grice's Maxims are four rules that people "expect" everyone in a conversation to follow. One is the maxim of relevance: if you're saying something, you're saying it for a reason, so it should be relevant to the context. Another is the maxim of quantity: you'll say as much as you need to get the point across.

"I have an idea" on its own generally seems to violate either relevance or quantity: in most contexts, that doesn't really add anything or give any useful information (bad relevance), and if the idea is relevant, you haven't said enough about it (bad quantity). But if you followed it up with "…we could foo the bar", that would fulfill both relevance and quantity. So people will be expecting that followup—it's the only way the first part makes pragmatic sense.

  • Thanks. I'd suggest that, [Words-of-Type-X mandate follow-up content or they violate a Gricean maxim]. Hence, there's a difference between the set of "Words-of-Type-X" and the policy (a Gricean maxim). So, I fully agree with you on the policy, but I'm hopeful that additional thought has gone into the categorization of words that could trigger the policy. Jun 3, 2019 at 16:01
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    @jeffschneider That's the thing, there's nothing special about those words that makes them act that way. "I disagree with Einstein's ideas" doesn't violate a maxim on its own, but "have you seen?" does, without any nouns at all.
    – Draconis
    Jun 3, 2019 at 16:58
  • Thanks. I'd suggest that "have you seen" violates argument realization, and I'd classify as a different problem. "Einstein's ideas" could trigger a follow-up but won't because common sense knowledge overrides the Gricean event. The phenomenon seems to be triggered when the reader is: 1. left wondering "which one(s)" (we have a pretty good guess on which of Einstein's ideas). 2. left wondering about examples or instances. Perhaps, hyponyms of 'content', 'cognitive construct', ... Jun 3, 2019 at 18:07
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    Are you saying that I created an expectation of "more to come" by not saying enough?
    – user6726
    Jun 3, 2019 at 20:52
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    @user6726 Dammit, now I wish I'd made that joke in the answer itself…
    – Draconis
    Jun 3, 2019 at 20:55

These words are nouns. The effect you're referring to doesn't come from those words. For example "That's why I rejected that idea", "I accepted his example", "As you know, Dr. Seuss wrote about two things". You can create an expectation of "more to come" by not saying enough.

  • There must be a word for this type of unresolved dependencies, in some grammar, whether noun, determiner or interjection. Oh oh! ...
    – vectory
    Jun 3, 2019 at 23:59
  • My work is done here.
    – user6726
    Jun 4, 2019 at 1:24

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