A pragmatic analysis of tautological utternances

Gregory L. Ward, Julia Hirschberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The interpretation of tautological utterances of the form, e.g., if it rains, it rains has generally been characterized in the literature as a case of Gricean conversational implicature (Grice 1975). However, in recent years, this analysis, and indeed the entire Gricean program, has come under attack. Wierzbicka (1987) contends that tautology must be seen as a language-specific, attitudinal phenomenon, thus, in her view, vitiating Grice's universalist approach. In this paper, we take issue with this claim, pointing out certain flaws in Wierzbicka's 'radical semantics' approach to tautology. We then propose a new Gricean account of tautological utterances based upon a large corpus of naturally occurring data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-520
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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