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‘Boys Don’t Cry’ – An Ambiguous Statement?

In: Organon F, vol. 28, no. 3
Katharina Felka


Year, pages: 2021, 581 - 595
Language: eng
Generics; normative generics; semantics-pragmatics interface; conversational implicatures.
Article type: Research Article
About article:
As has often been observed in the literature, an utterance of a generic such as ‘Boys don’t cry’ can convey a normative behavioural rule that applies to boys, roughly: that boys shouldn’t cry. This observation has led many authors to the claim that generics are ambiguous: they allow both for a descriptive as well as a normative reading. The present paper argues against this common assumption: it argues that the observation in question should be addressed at the level of pragmatics, rather than at the level of semantics. In particular, the paper argues that the normative force of utterances of generics results from the presence of a conversational implicature. This result should somewhat alleviate the task of finding a proper semantic analysis of generics since it shows that at least one of their intriguing features need not be reflected in their truth-conditions.
How to cite:
ISO 690:
Felka, K. 2021. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ – An Ambiguous Statement?. In Organon F, vol. 28, no.3, pp. 581-595. 1335-0668. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31577/orgf.2021.28305

Felka, K. (2021). ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ – An Ambiguous Statement?. Organon F, 28(3), 581-595. 1335-0668. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31577/orgf.2021.28305
About edition:
Publisher: Filozofický ústav SAV, Filosofický ústav AVČR
Published: 30. 8. 2021
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0)