Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 271–316 | Cite as

Dividing things up: The semantics of or and the modal/or interaction

In this paper, the meanings of sentences containing the word or and a modal verb are used to arrive at a novel account of the meaning of or coordinations. It is proposed that or coordinations denote sets whose members are the denotations of the disjuncts; and that the truth conditions of sentences containing or coordinations require the existence of some set made available by the semantic environment which can be ‘divided up’ in accordance with the disjuncts. The relevant notion of ‘dividing things up’ is made explicit in the paper. Detailed attention is given to the question of how the proposed truth conditions are derived from the syntactic input. The account offered allows for the derivation of both the disjunctive and the non-disjunctive readings of modal/or sentences, including the much-discussed ‘free choice’ readings of may/or sentences.

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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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