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The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, page 122, reads

He was dying is an implicature because of the possibility of cancellation, as in When I last saw him he was dying, but now you would hardly know he had been ill; other speakers might insist on he seemed to be dying or the like, and for them subsequent reaching of the terminal point has the strength of an entailment

Why does the verb seem changes the implicature of die into an entailment?

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    That is interesting, because the Cambridge English Dictionary does not recognise the word ‘implicature’ at all. As far as I know, this word was coined by the American linguistic philosopher Searle. It’s meaning is well explained in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: plato.stanford.edu/entries/implicature. The verb ‘die’ is an awkward one, to be sure. We are all ‘dying’ from the moment of birth. It is often a hyperbolic idiom (dying of hunger/boredom. But to say “I am dying” literally, I claim to be obout to die quite soon. If I don’t, I was wrong. – Tuffy Oct 8 '19 at 13:49
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You've got it backward: CGEL is saying that for some speakers bare he was dying entails his subsequent death, because dying is a process which ends in death. These speakers insist on something like he seemed to be dying—which evokes a contrast between the "seeming" and the reality—to change the entailment into an implicature.

Here's the relevant excerpt:

enter image description here enter image description here

The Cambridge Grammar of The English Language (Huddleston & Pullum 2002, p. 122).

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  • I'd done a snip to write a post, and then saw you'd written one. So I though I'd give you a snip as a present. Of course, if you don't like it, please take it out! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 8 '19 at 20:37
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    @Araucaria Thanks! I guessed there was probably more to Huff&Puff's argument than was quoted, but was too lazy to look it up. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 8 '19 at 21:51

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