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Structurally-defined alternatives


Scalar implicatures depend on alternatives in order to avoid the symmetry problem. I argue for a structure-sensitive characterization of these alternatives: the alternatives for a structure are all those structures that are at most as complex as the original one. There have been claims in the literature that complexity is irrelevant for implicatures and that the relevant condition is the semantic notion of monotonicity. I provide new data that pose a challenge to the use of monotonicity and that support the structure-sensitive definition. I show that what appeared to be a problem for the complexity approach is overcome once an appropriate notion of complexity is adopted, and that upon closer inspection, the argument in favor of monotonicity turns out to be an argument against it and in favor of the complexity approach.

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Correspondence to Roni Katzir.

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Katzir, R. Structurally-defined alternatives. Linguist and Philos 30, 669–690 (2007).

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  • Scalar implicature
  • Horn scales
  • Complexity
  • Alternatives