Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



This study investigates the meaning and use of the Japanese utterance comparative expressions -() ‘than that’ and -() ‘than anything’ and considers the role of comparison in discourse. I argue that and can compare individuals at the semantic (at-issue) level, but they can also compare utterances (speech acts) at the non-at-issue level (= conventional implicature (CI)) (e.g., Grice 1975Potts 2005McCready 2010Sawada 2010Gutzmann 2011). The utterance comparative conventionally implicates that in () is more important than the previous utterance, and the utterance comparative conventionally implicates that in () is more important than any alternative utterance.

An interesting feature of the utterance comparatives -() and -() is that their pragmatic functions are quite flexible. As for , in some contexts, it can function as a topic-changing expression, but in other contexts it does not. As for , when it occurs discourse-initially, it functions like the expression , but when it occurs discourse-finally, it functions as an additive reinforcing expression. I argue that the pragmatic effects of utterance comparative expressions arise based on the interaction between their scalar meanings and the general pragmatic principles of relevance/Question Under Discussion and manner (e.g., Grice 1975Roberts 1996).

This study demonstrates that in addition to regular comparison and metalinguistic comparison, there is a third type of comparison: utterance comparison, and that the notion of comparison plays an important role in advancing the conversation economically/effectively. Finally, cross-linguistic variations in utterance comparison will also be discussed using English and Korean data.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

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