Hurford’s constraint, the semantics of disjunction, and the nature of alternatives

Open Access

DOI: 10.1007/s11050-017-9134-y

Cite this article as:
Ciardelli, I. & Roelofsen, F. Nat Lang Semantics (2017). doi:10.1007/s11050-017-9134-y


This paper contributes to two recent lines of work on disjunction: on the one hand, work on so-called Hurford disjunctions, i.e., disjunctions where one disjunct entails another, and on the other hand, work in alternative and inquisitive semantics where disjunction has been argued to generate multiple propositional alternatives. We point out that Hurford effects are found not only in disjunctive statements, but also in disjunctive questions. These cases are not covered by the standard accounts of Hurford phenomena, which assume a truth-conditional treatment of disjunction. We show that inquisitive semantics facilitates a unified explanation of Hurford phenomena in statements and questions. We also argue that Hurford effects provide an empirical handle on the subtle differences between inquisitive semantics and alternative semantics, providing insight into the notion of alternatives and the notion of meaning adopted in these two frameworks.


Hurford disjunctions Inquisitive semantics Alternative semantics Questions Redundancy Exhaustification 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ILLCAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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