EXH passes on alternatives: a comment on Fox and Spector (2018)


Fox and Spector (Nat Lang Semant 26:1–50, 2018) use multiple instances of the exhaustivity operator EXH to derive the correct meaning of utterances that include pitch-focus marked disjunction in downward-entailing environments. They argue that the \(\sim \) operator evaluates alternatives to be used by EXH. Though the method is sound and gets the right result, we argue that the way in which EXH would need to interact with other instances of EXH, as well as other focus-sensitive elements, is at odds with how EXH is used to explain other phenomena. Specifically, the analysis in Fox and Spector (2018) predicts intervention effects for cases where EXH interacts with other focus-sensitive elements. This is problematic for many cases in which EXH is used to derive the desired inferences. We propose a different way of focus association for EXH that would work for the approach introduced in Fox and Spector (2018) as well as elsewhere. In addition, our account does not require a covert element to be focused.

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We would like to thank the participants of the 2016 OS “New Research in Semantics” at the University of Tübingen, especially Sigrid Beck, Vera Hohaus, and Anna Howell, for valuable feedback and comments. We are also very much indebted to one anonymous reviewer, who provided a plethora of helpful comments, especially with regard to the IFG.

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Correspondence to Nadine Bade.

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This research was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), Priority Programme 1727 “XPRAG.de” and Collaborative Research Center 833 “The Constitution of Meaning”.

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Bade, N., Sachs, K. EXH passes on alternatives: a comment on Fox and Spector (2018). Nat Lang Semantics 27, 19–45 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-019-9149-7

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  • Exhaustivity
  • Implicature
  • Focus
  • Intervention effects