Alternatives are blind to some but not all kinds of context: the view from Hurford Disjunctions


  • Adèle Hénot-Mortier



Hurford Disjunctions (HDs) are infelicitous disjunctions in which one disjunct entails the other (Hurford 1974). The infelicity of basic HDs has been successfully modeled by several competing approaches (Schlenker 2009; Meyer 2013; Katzir and Singh 2014; Anvari 2018). As first noticed by Singh (2008) however, HDs involving entailing scalar items like 'all' and 'some' are subject to an asymmetry: when the weaker scalar item linearly precedes the stronger one, the sentence seems to be rescued from infelicity. This fact is not readily accounted for by standard approaches, which treat the disjuncts in a symmetric fashion. Fox and Spector (2018) and Tomioka (2021) proposed different solutions to that problem and extensions thereof, but at the cost of positing relatively heavy and complex machineries. Here we propose a novel analysis of Singh’s asymmetry, based on the familiar process of alternative pruning (Fox and Katzir 2011; Crnič et al. 2015 a.o.). In particular, we claim that exhaustification targeting the weak disjunct operates on a set of formal alternatives that is sensitive to previously uttered material. This leads us to propose a new 'dynamic' constraint on alternative pruning, which ensures that the only remaining alternatives to a prejacent p are those which could be realistically entertained instead of 'p, given the eventualities previously and overtly raised by the speaker'. Unlike other approaches, our account derives Singh’s asymmetry 'via' a direct computation, and not a global principle constraining either the insertion of the exhaustivity operator (Fox and Spector 2018), or the particular shape of the alternative set (Tomioka 2021).




How to Cite

Hénot-Mortier, A. (2023). Alternatives are blind to some but not all kinds of context: the view from Hurford Disjunctions. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 27, 291–308.