Now with spare time on my hands am rekindling my interest in linguistics. Doing some self study and am struggling with an exercise. I have 2 propositions and I am trying to work out the relationship between the two, if any. I think it is to do with entailment or implicature...or something else. The propositions are:

A- Mary inherited vintage jewellery from her grandmother.
B- Mary has an antique diamond ring.

At first sight I would say entailment but the tense difference makes me think not. And if I am right, what is the relationship?

There is no other context either. No sign it is a dialogue.
There could be a subtlety I do not get. English is my third language.

1 Answer 1

  • A. Mary inherited vintage jewelry from her grandmother.
  • B. Mary has an antique diamond ring.

Neither proposition entails the other. Both are consistent with the same set of facts, but each one contains information that is not logically deducible from the other. (A) says nothing, for instance, about what kind of jewelry was inherited, and (B) says nothing about where the diamond ring came from.

On the other hand, given both propositions as true at the same time -- and assuming what's been assumed without explicit discussion, namely that Mary refers to the same person in (A) and (B), and that Mary is still alive -- most people would conversationally identify the diamond ring as being jewelry inherited from the grandmother. The laws of narrative are very strong. Though they're generally considered pragmatic, not semantic.

  • 1
    Indeed, Grice's maxim of relevance states that when someone utters those two sentences in close connection, the hearer is entitled to conclude that the ring is among the jewellery, since otherwise the maxim is violated by the introduction of irrelevant information. But as you say, this is not part of formal logic or entailment. Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 7:17
  • 1
    Right. And since the Maxim of Relevance is the only one that can't be violated by the speaker (being governed by the addressee's interpretations, rather than the speaker's intentions), relevance drives everything else. Which is one of the points of Relevance Theory.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 16:19
  • Many thanks both for getting back to me. I need to do some more reading and studying!
    – tan146
    Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 10:11

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