Examples of conversational implicatures


Example 1:
maxim of relation A: Where did I leave the keys?
B: The car's on the drive.
Example 2:
maxim of quantity A: Bill and Martha are leaving tomorrow.
B: I'll miss Martha.
Analysis and comments:
In the first example, speaker B flouts the maxim of relation by not providing the requested information and instead saying something which appears to be about something else (the where- abouts of the car). On the assumption that B continues to observe the CP, it must be assumed that she intends her contribution to be relevant as an answer to A's question. This allows A to infer from B's turn that B implies that A no longer needs to look for the car keys.

In the second example, speaker B flouts the maxim of quantity (as his response only attends to part of the topic initiated by A). As a result, the deliberate omission can be said to imply that perhaps he was not so fond of Bill.

Note that later research stresses that speakers may cancel an implicature. This is often the case in situations where the implied message is brought to the forefront of the interaction, as in the following hypothetical sequel to the exchange in example 2. Here B denies having implied the conclusion drawn by A. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that B did not intend to make that particular implication. Perhaps he wants to avoid going on record as having said unpleasant things about Bill. In any case, from this sequel, it is also clear that an implicature always counts as an implicitly intended message which a hearer attributes to a speaker.

Example 2 - sequel
A: You were not so fond of Bill then?
B: Hardly so. I just meant that Martha's a real treasure.