Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 115–128

Innocent exclusion in an Alternative Semantics



The exclusive component of unembedded disjunctions is standardly derived as a conversational implicature by assuming that or forms a lexical scale with and. It is well known, however, that this assumption does not suffice to determine the required scalar competitors of disjunctions with more than two atomic disjuncts (McCawley, Everything that linguists have always wanted to know about logic* (But were ashamed to ask). Chicago University Press, Chicago, 1993, p. 324; Simons, “Or”: Issues in the semantics and pragmatics of disjunction. Ph.D. thesis, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1998). To solve this, Sauerland (Linguist Philos 27(3): 367–391, 2004) assumes that or forms a lexical scale with two otherwise unattested silent connectives (\({\mathbb{L}}\) and \({\mathbb{R}}\)) that retrieve the left and right terms of a disjunction. A number of recent works have proposed an Alternative Semantics for indefinites and disjunction to account for their interaction with modals and other propositional operators (Kratzer and Shimoyama, In: Otsu Y (ed) The Proceedings of the Third Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics. Hituzi Syobo, Tokyo, pp. 1–25, 2002; Aloni, In: Weisgerber M (ed) Proceedings of the Conference “SuB7—Sinn und Bedeutung”. Arbeitspapier Nr. 114. Konstanz, pp. 28–37, 2003; Simons, Nat Lang Semantics 13: 271–316, 2005; Alonso-Ovalle, Disjunction in alternative semantics. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 2006). We note that the McCawley–Simons problem does not arise in an Alternative Semantics, if we assume that the set of pragmatic competitors to a disjunction is the closure under intersection of the set of propositions that it denotes. An adaptation of the strengthening mechanism presented in Fox (In: Sauerland U, Stateva P (eds) Presupposition and implicature in compositional semantics. MacMillan, Palgrave, pp. 71–120, 2007) allows for the derivation of the exclusive component of disjunctions with more than two atomic disjuncts without having to rely on the \({\mathbb{L}}\) and \({\mathbb{R}}\) operators. The proposal extends to the case of disjunctions with logically dependent disjuncts.


Disjunction Scalar implicatures Alternative Semantics 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Hispanic Studies, McCormack 4-609University of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

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