, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 379–392 | Cite as

Simplifying with Free Choice

  • Malte WillerEmail author


This paper offers a unified semantic explanation of two observations that prove to be problematic for classical analyses of modals, conditionals, and disjunctions: (1) the fact that disjunctions scoping under possibility modals give rise to the free choice effect and (2) the fact that counterfactuals license simplification of disjunctive antecedents. It shows that the data are well explained by a dynamic semantic analysis of modals and conditionals that uses ideas from the inquisitive semantic tradition in its treatment of disjunction. The analysis explains why embedding a disjunctive possibility under negation reverts disjunction to its classical behavior, is general enough to predict less studied simplification patterns, and also makes progress toward a unified perspective on the distinction between informative, inquisitive, and attentive content.


Free choice Simplification of disjunctive antecedents Modals Conditionals Dynamic semantics Inquisitive semantics 



Thanks to audiences at the University of Chicago, the 20th Amsterdam Colloquium, and the 2nd UC Berkeley Meaning Science Workshop (organized by Seth Yalcin). Special thanks to Martin Aher, Fabrizio Cariani, Lucas Champollion, Ivano Ciardelli, Melissa Fusco, Daniel Lassiter, Matt Mandelkern, Patrick Munoz, Paul Portner, Paolo Santorio, Floris Roelofsen, Will Starr, and two anonymous reviewers for Topoi for extensive and very helpful comments and discussion.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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