Alternatives and attention in language and reasoning: A reply to Mascarenhas & Picat 2019

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Nadine Bade
Léo Picat
WooJin Chung
Salvador Mascarenhas


In this paper, we employ an experimental paradigm using insights from the psychology of reasoning to investigate the question whether certain modals generate and draw attention to alternatives. The article extends and builds on the methodology and findings of Mascarenhas & Picat 2019. Based on experimental results, they argue that the English epistemic modal might raises alternatives. We apply the same methodology to the English modal allowed to to test different hypotheses regarding the involvement of alternatives in deontic modality. We find commonalities and differences between the two modals we tested. We discuss theoretical consequences for existing semantic analyses of these modals, and argue that reasoning tasks can serve as a diagnostic tool to discover which natural language expressions involve alternatives.


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