Conversational implicatures, reference point constructions, and that noun thing

William Salmon 1
  • 1 Department of Writing Studies, University of Minnesota Duluth, 1201 Ordean Ct, HUM 435, Duluth, MN 55812, USA


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.

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Linguistics publishes articles and book reviews in the traditional disciplines of linguistics as well as in neighboring disciplines insofar as these are deemed to be of interest to linguists and other students of natural language. The journal also features occasional Special Issues in these fields.