Distribution Effects

  • Melanie Bervoets
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 102)


Free choice inferences, or distribution effects, are well-known with modals and other quantifiers. This chapter shows that these inferences turn up with the future-directed opining verbs in analogous ways, with some of the verbs exhibiting the pattern associated with existential terms, and others displaying the pattern found with universals. We even see that among the universals, the verbs split into subclasses that correspond to weak and strong necessity. This symmetry between the future-directed opining verbs and the better studied quantifiers motivates the pursuit of a unified account of free choice that can derive the correct inferences in all environments. In general, a scalar implicature based approach to free choice has been widely (though not universally) accepted, and the grammatical theories in this family have the ability to effectively deal with embedding contexts, something required to generate the future-directed opining data demonstrated here. These theories, such as Bar-Lev and Fox (Universal free choice and innocent inclusion. In: Semantics and linguistic theory, vol 27, pp 95–115, 2017), are also easily tied to a notion of relevance that can account for the context-sensitivity of inferences found with universal constructions, including the universal future-directed opining verbs. Additionally, a grammatical approach can help to explain the presence of distribution inferences with modal-based wide disjunctions (including with the future-directed opining verbs), but not with other wide disjunctions. But while the potential power of these approaches affords them the ability to capture a broader range of inferences, it also necessitates a principled deployment that can maintain a coherent overall picture of exhaustification.


Free choice Disjunction Modality Scalar implicature Weak necessity Opinion verbs Exhaustification Relevance Pruning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melanie Bervoets
    • 1
  1. 1.TorontoCanada

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