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.
Aloni, M. 2007. Free choice, modals and imperatives. Natural Language Semantics 15 (1): 65–94.
Aloni, M., and I. Ciardelli. 2013. A logical account of free-choice imperatives. In The dynamic, inquisitive, and visionary life of \(\varphi \), \(?\varphi \), and \(\Diamond \varphi \): A festschrift for Jeroen Groenendijk, Martin Stokhof, and Frank Veltman, ed. M. Aloni, M. Franke, and F. Roelofsen, 1–17. Amsterdam: ILLC Publications.
Alonso-Ovalle, L. 2006. Disjunction in alternative semantics. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Bartels, C. 1999. The intonation of English statements and questions: A compositional interpretation. New York, NY: Routledge.
Belnap, N. 1966. Questions, answers, and presuppositions. The Journal of Philosophy 63 (20): 609–611.
Biezma, M., and K. Rawlins. 2012. Responding to alternative and polar questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (5): 361–406.
Chierchia, G., D. Fox, and B. Spector. 2009. Hurford’s constraint and the theory of scalar implicatures: Evidence for embedded implicatures. In Presuppositions and implicatures, ed. P. Egré, and G. Magri, 47–62. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chierchia, G., D. Fox, and B. Spector. 2012. Scalar implicature as a grammatical phenomenon. In Semantics: An international handbook of natural language meaning, vol. 3, ed. P. Portner, C. Maienborn, and K. von Heusinger, 2297–2331. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Ciardelli, I., and M. Aloni. 2016. Choice-offering imperatives in inquisitive and truth-maker semantics. Presented at ‘Imperatives: worlds and beyond’, Hamburg University, June 2016.
Ciardelli, I., J. Groenendijk, and F. Roelofsen. 2013. Inquisitive semantics: A new notion of meaning. Language and Linguistics Compass 7 (9): 459–476.
Ciardelli, I., J. Groenendijk, and F. Roelofsen. 2015. Inquisitive semantics. European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information lecture notes. www.illc.uva.nl/inquisitivesemantics.
Ciardelli, I., F. Roelofsen, and N. Theiler. 2016. Composing alternatives. Linguistics and Philosophy. doi:10.1007/s10988-016-9195-2.
Fox, D. 2007. Free choice disjunction and the theory of scalar implicatures. In Presupposition and implicature in compositional semantics, ed. U. Sauerland and P. Stateva, 71–120. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Fox, D., and B. Spector. 2015. Economy and embedded exhaustification. MIT and Institut Jean Nicod: Manuscript.
Gajewski, J., and Y. Sharvit. 2012. In defense of the grammatical approach to local implicatures. Natural Language Semantics 20 (1): 31–57.
Gazdar, G. 1979. Pragmatics: Implicature, presupposition, and logical form. New York, NY: Academic Press.
Hamblin, C.L. 1973. Questions in Montague English. Foundations of Language 10 (1): 41–53.
Hurford, J. 1974. Exclusive or inclusive disjunction. Foundations of Language 11 (3): 409–411.
Karttunen, L. 1977. Syntax and semantics of questions. Linguistics and Philosophy 1: 3–44.
Katzir, R., and R. Singh. 2013. Hurford disjunctions: Embedded exhaustification and structural economy. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 18, ed. U. Etxeberria, A. Fălăuş, A. Irurtzun, and B. Leferman, 201–216.
Mayr, C., and J. Romoli. 2016. A puzzle for theories of redundancy: Exhaustification, incrementality, and the notion of local context. Semantics and Pragmatics 9 (7): 1–48.
Meyer, M.-C. 2013. Ignorance and grammar. Ph.D. thesis, MIT.
Meyer, M.-C. 2014. Deriving Hurford’s constraint. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory 24, ed. T. Snider, S. D’Antonio, and M. Weigand, 577–596. LSA and CLC Publications.
Montague, R. 1973. The proper treatment of quantification in ordinary English. In Approaches to natural language, ed. J. Hintikka, J. Moravcsik, and P. Suppes, 221–242. Dordrecht: Reidel.
Pruitt, K., and F. Roelofsen. 2011. Disjunctive questions: Prosody, syntax, and semantics. Available via www.illc.uva.nl/inquisitivesemantics: Presented at a seminar at the Georg August Universität Göttingen.
Pruitt, K., and F. Roelofsen. 2013. The interpretation of prosody in disjunctive questions. Linguistic Inquiry 44: 632–650.
Roelofsen, F. 2013a. Algebraic foundations for the semantic treatment of inquisitive content. Synthese 190 (1): 79–102.
Roelofsen, F. 2013b. An inquisitive perspective on meaning: The case of disjunction. Stanford Linguistics Colloquium, February 2013.
Roelofsen, F., and D.F. Farkas. 2015. Polarity particle responses as a window onto the interpretation of questions and assertions. Language 91 (2): 359–414.
Roelofsen, F., and S. van Gool. 2010. Disjunctive questions, intonation, and highlighting. In Logic, language, and meaning: Selected papers from the Seventeenth Amsterdam Colloquium, ed. M. Aloni, H. Bastiaanse, T. de Jager, and K. Schulz, 384–394. Berlin: Springer.
Schlenker, P. 2008. Be articulate: A pragmatic theory of presupposition projection. Theoretical Linguistics 34 (3): 157–212.
Simons, M. 2001. Disjunction and alternativeness. Linguistics and Philosophy 24 (5): 597–619.
Singh, R. 2008. On the interpretation of disjunction: Asymmetric, incremental, and eager for inconsistency. Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (2): 245–260.
von Stechow, A. 1991. Focusing and backgrounding operators. In Discourse particles: Descriptive and theoretical investigations on the logical, syntactic and pragmatic properties of discourse particles in German, ed. W. Abraham, 37–84. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Uegaki, W. 2014. Japanese alternative questions are disjunctions of polar questions. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory 24, ed. T. Snider, S. D’Antonio, and M. Weigand, 42–62. LSA and CLC Publications.
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).
About this article
Cite this article
Ciardelli, I., Roelofsen, F. Hurford’s constraint, the semantics of disjunction, and the nature of alternatives. Nat Lang Semantics 25, 199–222 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-017-9134-y
- Hurford disjunctions
- Inquisitive semantics
- Alternative semantics