Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 199–222 | Cite as

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

  • Ivano Ciardelli
  • Floris RoelofsenEmail author
Open Access


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 



We are grateful to Jeroen Groenendijk and Matthijs Westera for many discussions closely related to the ideas presented in this paper, and to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. We also gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the European Research Council (ERC, Grant Agreement No. 680220).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ILLCAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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