Simplifying with Free Choice

  title={Simplifying with Free Choice},
  author={Malte Willer},
This paper offers a unified semantic explanation of two observations that prove to be problematic for classical analyses of modals, conditionals, and disjunctions: (1) the fact that disjunctions scoping under possibility modals give rise to the free choice effect and (2) the fact that counterfactuals license simplification of disjunctive antecedents. It shows that the data are well explained by a dynamic semantic analysis of modals and conditionals that uses ideas from the inquisitive semantic… 

Two puzzles about ability can

An analysis is proposed that explains not only why the can of ability, while essentially being an existential modal operator, sometimes resists distribution over disjunction and interacts with its duals in particular and hitherto unnoticed ways, but also has a tendency to license free choice inferences.

Independent alternatives

  • R. Booth
  • Philosophy
    Philosophical Studies
  • 2021
Orthodox semantics for natural language modals give rise to two puzzles for their interactions with disjunction: Ross’s puzzle and the puzzle of free choice permission. It is widely assumed that each

A Semantic Theory of Redundancy

Theorists trying to model natural language have recently sought to explain a range of data by positing covert operators at logical form. For instance, many contemporary semanticists argue that the

Negating Conditionals in Bilateral Semantics

A recurring narrative in the literature on conditionals is that the empirical facts about negated ifs provide compelling evidence for the principle of Conditional Excluded Middle and sit

Indicative Conditionals and Graded Information

An account of indicative conditionals that combines features of minimal change semantics and information semantics, and captures three important facts: that a conditional is logically independent from its antecedent; that a sequence of antecedents behaves like a single conjunctive antecedence; and that conditionals restrict the quantification domain of epistemic modals.

Free choice, simplification, and Innocent Inclusion

This work proposes a modification of the exhaustivity operator from Fox that on top of negating all the Innocently Excludable alternatives affirms all the ‘Innocently Includable’ ones and argues for this property of ‘cell identification’ based on the simplification of disjunctive antecedents and the effects on free choice that arise as the result of the introduction of universal quantifiers.

Free choice, simplification, and Innocent Inclusion

We propose a modification of the exhaustivity operator from Fox (in: Sauerland and Stateva (eds) Presupposition and implicature in compositional semantics, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp 71–120,

Complex sentential operators refute unrestricted Simplification of Disjunctive Antecedents

There is a longstanding debate about the status of the principle Simplification of Disjunctive Antecedents (SDA), according to which a counterfactual with a syntactically disjunctive antecedent [(φ ∨

Fixing de Morgan’s Laws in Counterfactuals

Classical semantics for counterfactuals are based on a notion of comparative similarity. These semantics are intensional, hence they predict that logically equivalent clauses can be substituted in

UvA-DARE Negation and Alternatives in Conditional Antecedents

A number of authors, beginning with Alonso-Ovalle (2006), have used conditional antecedents to argue for the presence of alternatives in semantics. In this tradition, recent experimental work from



Free Choice and the Theory of Scalar Implicatures

  • D. Fox
  • Philosophy, Linguistics
  • 2007
This chapter will be concerned with the conjunctive interpretation of a family of disjunctive constructions. The relevant conjunctive interpretation, sometimes referred to as a ‘free choice effect,’

Free Choice Disjunction and Epistemic Possibility

This paper offers an explanation of the fact that sentences of the form (1) ‘X may A or B’ may be construed as implying (2) ‘X may A and X may B’, especially if they are used to grant permission. It

Breaking de Morgan's law in counterfactual antecedents

The main goal of this paper is to investigate the relation between the meaning of a sentence and its truth conditions. We report on a comprehension experiment on counterfactual conditionals, based on

Deontic Modality and the Semantics of Choice

A unified solution to Ross’s puzzle and free choice permission is proposed and a generalization of the classical semantics for disjunction is combined that explains the puzzling facts in terms of semantic consequence.

Dynamics of Epistemic Modality

A dynamic semantics for epistemically modalized sentences is an attractive alternative to the orthodox view that our best theory of meaning ascribes to such sentences truth-conditions relative to

On the syntax of disjunction scope

Under the account argued for here the syntactic properties of elements such as either and whether are almost entirely predictable given three components of information: the meaning of disjunction as explicated by Rooth and Partee (1982); a number of general principles and conditions, and certain very simple lexical facts such as the fact that either is [−WH], while whether is [+WH].

A Uniform Theory of Conditionals

It is shown that this new analysis provides an improved treatment of three phenomena (the import-export equivalence, reverse Sobel-sequences and disjunctive antecedents) and broader themes in the philosophy of language and formal semantics are also engaged here.

Free choice, modals, and imperatives

The article proposes an analysis of imperatives and possibility and necessity statements that (i) explains their differences with respect to the licensing of free choice any and (ii) accounts for the

Entertaining Alternatives: Disjunctions as Modals

Following Zimmermann (2000), I propose that disjunctions are to be treated as conjunctions of modal propositions, and that the essential contribution of ‘or’ is merely to present a list of