Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 383–410 | Cite as

Entertaining Alternatives: Disjunctions as Modals

  • Bart Geurts


Following Zimmermann (2000), I propose that disjunctions are to be treated as conjunctions of modal propositions, and that the essential contribution of ‘or’ is merely to present a list of alternatives. Any further ingredients in the interpretation of a disjunctive sentence (such as exhaustivity) are due to extraneous factors; they are not part of the meaning of ‘or’. My analysis differs from Zimmermann’s in that it is more general and renders the logical form of disjunctive sentences less complex, but the main innovation is that the context dependence of modality is called upon to play a leading role. The theory applies not only to disjunctions of ‘may’-sentences but also covers universal modalities and conditional disjuncts. The paper concludes with a discussion of narrow-scope ‘or’.


Logical Form Context Dependence Extraneous Factor Essential Contribution Main Innovation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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