Definition of Implicature:
Implicature is a technical term in the pragmatics, subfield of linguistics.
It is coined by H.P. Grice.
It refers to what is suggested in an utterance; or the process of making explicit what is implicit in the original text.

H.P. Grice
Herbert Paul Grice (March 13, 1913, Birmingham, England – August 28, 1988, Berkeley, California), usually publishing under the name H.P. Grice, was a British-educated philosopher of language and spent the final two decades of his career in the United States. Grice is remembered mainly for his contribution to the study of speaker meaning, linguistic meaning, and several of the interrelations between these two phenomena. His famous book is called Studies in the Way of Words.

Grice’s Theory of Implicature
According to Grice, the sum of what is said in a sentence and what is implicated in an utterance of the same sentence is called the total significance of an utterance.
Implicature covers a number of ways in which literally unsaid information can be conveyed.
According to Grice, in order to achieve particular communicative goals, in a conversation, the speaker and the hearer should follow a set of principle. To put it in a more clear way, the participants in a conversation normally communicate in an efficient, rational and cooperative way. They should speak sincerely, relevantly and clearly, while providing sufficient information.

Thus, Grice proposed the term of the cooperative principle and its maxims.
The principle, its maxims and their submaxims are illustrated as follows:

The cooperative principle: make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.
The maxims of conversation:
1) The maxim of quality: Try to make your contribution one that is true, specifically:
DO NOT say what you believe to be false.
DO NOT say that for which you lack adequate evidence.
2) The maxim of quantity:
Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purpose of the exchange.
DO NOT make your contribution more informative more than required.
3) The maxim of relevance:
To make your contribution relevant
4) The maxim of manner:
Be perspicuous, and specifically:
Avoid obscurity of expression;
Aviod Ambiguity;
Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity à avoid unnecessary lengthy and boring words.)
Be orderly.
But in real communication, the participants often flout the cooperative principle and its maxims. In such cases, conversational implicatures arise.

For the above-mentioned implicature types, we’ll focus on conventional implicature, conversational implicature.

Types of Implicature

Basically, there are two types of implicature, namely, conversational implicature and conventional implicature.
Conversational implicature is a message that speakers in a conversation mean more than they say, and cannot be found in the plain sense of the sentence. It is based on stereotyped expectations of what would be the case.
1. “Have you got any cash on you?”

Implicature: The speaker really wants the hearer to understand the following meaning: “Can you lend me some money? I don’t have much on me.”

2 .A wife is getting ready to get out for the evening
Husband: How much longer will you be?
Wife: Mix yourself a drink.

Implicature: Then the husband’s understanding of his wife’s utterance is she won’t offer a particular time, but she will be long enough for him to have a drink.
3. “Mr. Jones seldom dines at the restaurant.”

Implicature: By saying the speaker really wants the hearer to understand that Mr. Jones sometimes dines at the restaurant, but not too often.
4. “Don’t you think it’s quite stuffy here?”

Implicature: In some situations, the speaker really wants the hearer to open the windows to air the room.

5. A: I was planning to climb Mount Qomolangma next week.
B: Your knee needs time to heal properly.

Implicature: A should not go mountain-climbing next week.

6. I saw John with a woman.

Implicature: I saw John with a woman different from his wife, sister or mother.

Conversational implicature falls into two categories: Standard/Generalized
conversational implicature & Particularized conversational implicature.
Standard/Generalized conversational implicature refers to the reference that arises from observing cooperative principle and its maxims.
Particularized conversational implicature refers to the implicature that arises from flouting the cooperative principle and its maxims.
An utterance may be interpreted as either observing or flouting the principle by attributing to different contexts.
1AMay we know your age, please?
BI’m nineteen years old.
(If we know that B is, say, fourteen years old, he or she is flouting the maxim of quality.)

Bush really is the leader of the intellectual elite of the USA.
(Flout the maxim of quality.)

2AWhen are you going to the bus station?
BSometime this morning.
(Here B is flouting the maxim of quantity because he fails to provide the precise time of his or her going to the bus station. The particualrized conversational implicature is that B does not know the precise time of his or her departure.)

A: You are not supposed to drive on this private road. Do you have a driving licence?
B: Oh yes, indeed I took driving lessons in 1988, and although I was able to pass the written test on my first try, the practical examination was much more tedious and I failed two times before I was eventually given a license which I since keep in my handbag wherever I go…
(Flout the maxim of quantity.)

3AThe hostess is an awful bore, don’t you think?
BThe roses are lovely, aren’t they?
(B is flouting the maxim of relevance, because B is uttering a literally irrelevant sentence. The particualrized conversational implicature is “ Let’s not talk about the hostess here and now.” )

4ALet’s get the kids something.
BOkay, but I veto I-C-E-C-R-E-A-M.
(B is flouting the maxim of manner, because B is spelling out the word ice-cream instead of uttering it as a word. The particularized conversational implicature is that B does not want his children to have any icecream.)

According to Grice, in order to achieve conversational implicature, one has to understand 3 things:
  • The usual linguistic meaning of what is said.
  • Contextual information (shared or general knowledge).
  • The assumption that the speaker is obeying what Grice calls the cooperative
Conventional implicature refers to the conventional meaning of the words used which will help determine what is implicated as well as what is said. .
1. He is an Englishman; he is, therefore, brave.
This sentence conventionally implicate that the man’s being brave is because of his being an Englishman.
(The conventional implicature is attributed to the presence of the lexical term “therefore”, because “therefore” as a specific word is highly suggestive.)

2. Joe is poor but happy.
(This sentence hints that poverty and happiness are in conflict, but in spite of this, Joe still feels happy. Actually, the specific word “but” has created a sense of contrast and makes the sentence easy to understand.)

Mitchell S Green.( 2007): ‘Direct Reference, Empty Names and Implicature.’ Canadian Journal of Philosophy 419-448.
Paul Grice: ‘Logic and Conversation’. In: Syntax and Semantics, vol. 3. P. Cole, J. L.
Morgan (eds.); New York: Academic Press (1975): 41-58.
Stephen Levinson (1983): Pragmatics. Chap3. Cambridge University Press.
Green, M. forthcoming: 2003. ‘Grice’s Frown: On Meaning and Expression.’ In G. Meggle and C. Plunze,eds., Saying, Meaning, Implicating. Leipzig: University of Leipzig Press.
Grice, H.P. 1989. Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press