One of the most intriguing things about language is the way that meaning is tied to context. Take this sentence for example:
“Everybody was there yesterday”
Which day is ‘yesterday’? The word ‘yesterday’ has no fixed meaning and needs a context. It refers to a different day each day that you say it. Same goes for the word ‘there’. We need a context to know where ‘there’ is. How about “everybody”? Does that literally mean every individual in the entire world? Of course not. It means something like “every person within a contextually relevant group of people”. Since this sentence has no context, you probably had to invent one, maybe by imagining a room full of people you know.
The branch of linguistics that studies how context interacts with meaning is called ‘pragmatics’, and in this post I want to introduce you to one of my favourite topics in pragmatics: implicatures.