Conversational implicatures, reference point constructions, and that noun thing

William N Salmon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This paper offers the first empirical and theoretical account of an NP construction referred to as that noun thing (TNT) in English. I argue that the construction is a Langackerian reference point construction, with the basic use of referring in situations in which speakers find it difficult to characterize the referent in question. I also show that speakers systematically rely on this relational means of referring in specific contexts to convey a range of Gricean conversational implicatures such as speaker disapproval, which are above and beyond the conventional meaning of the construction. The TNT thus offers a clear space from which to view the interplay of conventional meaning in cognitive and construction grammars with classic Gricean pragmatics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-477
Number of pages35
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston.


  • cognitive grammar
  • conversational implicature
  • reference point
  • speaker distance


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