Free choice and presuppositional exhaustification

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Guillermo Del Pinal
Itai Bassi
Uli Sauerland


Sentences such as Olivia can take Logic or Algebra (‘♢∨-sentences’) are typically interpreted as entailing that Olivia can take Logic and can take Algebra. Given a standard semantics for modals and disjunction, those ‘Free choice’ (FC) readings are not predicted from the surface form of ♢∨-sentences. Yet the standard semantics is appropriate for the ‘double prohibition’ reading typically assigned to ¬♢∨-sentences like Olivia can’t take Logic or Algebra. Several extant approaches to FC can account for those two cases, but face challenges when ♢∨, ¬♢∨ and related sentences appear embedded in certain environments. In this paper, we present a novel account of FC that builds on a ‘grammatical’ theory of scalar implicatures — proposed by Bassi et al. (2021) and Del Pinal (2021) — according to which covert exhaustification is a presupposition trigger such that the prejacent forms the assertive content while any excludable or includable alternatives are incorporated at the non-at issue, presuppositional level. Applied to ♢∨, ¬♢∨, and similar sentences, ‘presuppositional exhaustification’ predicts that their default interpretations have an assertive component (roughly, the classical interpretation of the prejacent) and a homogeneity presupposition which projects in standard ways. Those predictions, we then show, support a uniform account of the puzzling behavior of ♢∨, ¬♢∨, and related sentences when embedded under (negative) factives (Marty & Romoli 2020), disjunctions (Romoli & Santorio 2019), and in the scope of universal, existential (Bar-Lev & Fox 2020) and non-monotonic quantifiers (Gotzner et al. 2020).


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Author Biography

Guillermo Del Pinal, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts at Amherst