Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 271–305 | Cite as

Scalar implicatures of embedded disjunction

  • Luka CrničEmail author
  • Emmanuel Chemla
  • Danny Fox


Sentences with disjunction in the scope of a universal quantifier, Every A is P or Q, tend to give rise to distributive inferences that each of the disjuncts holds of at least one individual in the domain of the quantifier, Some A is P & Some A is Q. These inferences are standardly derived as an entailment of the meaning of the sentence together with the scalar implicature that it is not the case that either disjunct holds of every individual in the domain of the quantifier, \({\neg}\) Every A is P & \({\neg}\) Every A is Q (plain negated inferences). As we show, this derivation faces a challenge in that distributive inferences may obtain in the absence of plain negated inferences. We address this challenge by showing that on particular assumptions about alternatives, a derivation of distributive inferences as scalar implicatures can be maintained without in fact necessitating plain negated inferences. These assumptions accord naturally with the grammatical approach to scalar implicatures. We also present experimental data that suggest that plain negated inferences are not only unnecessary for deriving distributive inferences, but might in fact be unavailable.


Scalar implicatures Disjunction Embedded exhaustification 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bott L., Noveck I.A. (2004) Some utterances are underinformative: The onset and time course of scalar inferences. Journal of Memory and Language 51(3): 437–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Braine, M.D., and B. Rumain. 1981. Development of comprehension of ‘or:’ Evidence for a sequence of competencies. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 31: 46–70.Google Scholar
  3. Chemla, E., and B. Spector. 2011. Experimental evidence for embedded scalar implicatures. Journal of Semantics 28: 359–400.Google Scholar
  4. Chierchia, G. 2010. Meaning as an inferential system: Polarity and free choice phenomena. Manuscript, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  5. Chierchia, G., D. Fox, and B. Spector. 2011. The grammatical view of scalar implicatures and the relationship between semantics and pragmatics. In Handbook of semantics, ed. P. Portner, C. Maienborn, and K. von Heusinger, 2297–2332. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  6. Crnič L. (2013) Focus particles and embedded exhaustification. Journal of Semantics 30(4): 533–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fox, D. 2007. Free choice and the theory of scalar implicatures. In Presupposition and implicature in compositional semantics, ed. U. Sauerland, and P. Stateva, 71–120. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  8. Fox, D. 2013. Cancelling the maxim of quantity: Another challenge for a Gricean theory of scalar implicatures. Manuscript, MIT & HUJI (to appear in Semantics and Pragmatics).Google Scholar
  9. Fox, D., and M. Hackl. 2006. The universal density of measurement. Linguistics and Philosophy 29: 537–586.Google Scholar
  10. Fox, D., and R. Katzir. 2011. On the characterization of alternatives. Natural Language Semantics 19(1): 87–107.Google Scholar
  11. Fox, D., and B. Spector. 2009. Economy and embedded exhaustification. Handout from a talk at Cornell, MIT & ENS.Google Scholar
  12. Gazdar, G. 1979. Pragmatics: Implicature, presupposition, and logical form. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  13. Geurts, B., and N. Pouscoulous. 2009. Embedded implicatures?!? Semantics and Pragmatics 2: 1–34.Google Scholar
  14. Groenendijk, J., and M. Stokhof. 1984. Studies in the semantics of questions and the pragmatics of answers. PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  15. Gualmini, A., S. Hulsey, V. Hacquard, and D. Fox. 2008. The question–answer requirement for scope assignment. Natural Language Semantics 16: 205–237.Google Scholar
  16. Horn, L.R. 1984. Toward a new taxonomy for pragmatic inference. In Form and use in context: Linguistic applications, ed. D. Schiffrin. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ippolito, M. 2010. Embedded implicatures? Remarks on the debate between globalist and localist theories. Semantics and Pragmatics 3: 1–15.Google Scholar
  18. Ippolito, M. 2011. A note on embedded implicatures and counterfactual presuppositions. Journal of Semantics 28(2): 267–278.Google Scholar
  19. Ivlieva, N. 2013. Scalar implicatures and the grammar of plurality and disjunction. PhD dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
  20. Katzir R. (2007) Structurally defined alternatives. Linguistics and Philosophy 30: 669–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Katzir, R. 2013. On the roles of markedness and contradiction in the use of alternatives. Manuscript, Tel Aviv University.Google Scholar
  22. Kratzer, A., and J. Shimoyama. 2002. Indeterminate pronouns: The view from Japanese. Paper presented at the 3rd Tokyo Conference on Psycholinguistics.Google Scholar
  23. Levinson, S. 2000. Presumptive meanings: The theory of generalized conversational implicature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Magri G. (2009) A theory of individual level predicates based on blind mandatory scalar implicatures. Natural Language Semantics 17: 245–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Magri, G. 2011. Another argument for embedded scalar implicatures based on oddness in downward entailing environments. Semantics and Pragmatics 4(6): 1–51.Google Scholar
  26. Matsumoto, Y. 1995. The conversational condition on Horn scales. Linguistics and Philosophy 18(1): 21–60.Google Scholar
  27. Mayol, L., and E. Castroviejo. 2013. How to cancel an implicature. Journal of Pragmatics 50(1): 84–104.Google Scholar
  28. Meyer, M.-C. 2012. Generalized free choice and missing alternatives. In Proceedings of CLS 48. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.Google Scholar
  29. Noveck, I.A. 2000. When children are more logical than adults: Experimental investigations of scalar implicature. Cognition 78(2): 165–188.Google Scholar
  30. Roberts, C. 2012. Information structure in discourse: Towards an integrated formal theory of pragmatics. Semantics and Pragmatics 5(6): 1–69. (First appeared in Jae Hak Yoon and Andreas Kathol (eds.) OSUWPL Volume 49: Papers in Semantics, 1996. The Ohio State University Department of Linguistics.)Google Scholar
  31. Rooth, M. 1992. A theory of focus interpretation. Natural Language Semantics 1(1): 75–116.Google Scholar
  32. Russell B. (2006) Against grammatical computation of scalar implicatures. Journal of Semantics 23: 361–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sauerland, U. 2004. Scalar implicatures in complex sentences. Linguistics and Philosophy 27(3): 367–391.Google Scholar
  34. Schwarzschild, R. 1996. Pluralities. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  35. Singh, R., K. Wexler, A. Astle, D. Kamawar, and D. Fox. 2013. Disjunction, acquisition, and the theory of scalar implicatures. Manuscript, Carleton University, MIT, Hebrew University Jerusalem.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Ecole Normale SupérieureParisFrance
  3. 3.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations