A contest of strength: or versus either–or


  • Andreea C. Nicolae
  • Uli Sauerland


Many languages have more than one way of conveying disjunction. Often one of these forms seems more strongly associated with an exclusive interpretation than the other. For example, in English either–or is felt to be more exclusive than plain or, and the same holds for German entweder–oder vs plain oder. In this paper we demonstrate experimentally that the difference in strength only arises when the two forms are both used; in isolation both disjunctions exhibit the same level of exclusivity. Our theoretical account assumes that only the stronger form is obligatorily associated with an implicature generating exhaustification operator, but given the strongest meaning preference in neutral, non-contrastive, contexts, the exhaustified interpretation is also employed for the weaker form. To account for contrastive contexts, we must furthermore employ the covert epistemic modal from Meyer (2013), and claim that the strong form acts as an alternative to the weak form, thereby generating an implicature that blocks the application of the strongest meaning preference.  


How to Cite

Nicolae, A. C., & Sauerland, U. (2019). A contest of strength: or versus either–or. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 20, 551–568. Retrieved from https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/sub/index.php/sub/article/view/280