In linguistics, exhaustivity is the phenomenon where a proposition can be strengthened with the negation of certain alternatives. For example, in response to the question "Which students got an A?", the utterance "Ava got an A" has an exhaustive interpretation when it conveys that no other students got an A. It has a non-exhaustive interpretation when it merely conveys that Ava was among the students who got an A.

Exhaustivity is a major topic in the linguistic subfields of semantics and pragmatics. Research on the topic aims to explain when and why expressions receive exhaustive interpretations. Particular factors include focus,[1] disjunction,[2] questions,[3] and polarity items.[4] A major theoretical issue is whether exhaustivity is a semantic entailment encoded in the grammar, a pragmatic implicature arising from Gricean social cognition, or some combination of the two.[5][6] [7][8]

See also