Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 255–290

Free Choice Disjunction and Epistemic Possibility

  • Thomas Ede Zimmermann

DOI: 10.1023/A:1011255819284

Cite this article as:
Zimmermann, T.E. Natural Language Semantics (2000) 8: 255. doi:10.1023/A:1011255819284


This paper offers an explanation of the fact that sentences of the form (1) ‘X may A or B’ may be construed as implying (2) ‘X may A and X may B’, especially if they are used to grant permission. It is suggested that the effect arises because disjunctions are conjunctive lists of epistemic possibilities. Consequently, if the modal may is itself epistemic, (1) comes out as equivalent to (2), due to general laws of epistemic logic. On the other hand, on a deontic reading of may, (2) is only implied under exceptional circumstances – which usually obtain when (1) is used performatively.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

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  • Thomas Ede Zimmermann

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