Scalar diversity and negative strengthening

  • Anton Benz
  • Carla Bombi
  • Nicole Gotzner


In recent years, experimental research has demontrated great variability in the rates of scalar inferences across different triggering expressions (Doran et al. 2009, 2012, van Tiel et al. 2016). These studies have been taken as evidence against the so-called uniformity assumption, which posits that scalar implicature is triggered by a single mechanism and that the behaviour of one scale should generalize to the whole family of scales. In the following, we present an experimental study that tests negative strengthening for a variety of strong scalar terms, following up on van Tiel et al. (2016). For example, we tested whether the statement John is not brilliant is strengthened to mean that John is not intelligent (see especially Horn 1989). We show that endorsement rates of the scalar implicature (e.g., John is intelligent but not brilliant) are anti-correlated with endorsements of negative strengthening. Further, we demonstrate that a modified version of the uniformity hypothesis taking into account negative strengthening is consistent with van Tiel et al.’s data. Therefore, variation across scales may be more systematic than suggested by the van Tiel et al. study.
How to Cite
Benz, A., Bombi, C., & Gotzner, N. (2019). Scalar diversity and negative strengthening. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 22(1), 191-203. Retrieved from