Scalar implicatures of embedded disjunction

Luka Crnič*, Emmanuel Chemla, Danny Fox

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Sentences with disjunction in the scope of a universal quantifier, Every A is P or Q, tend to give rise to distributive inferences that each of the disjuncts holds of at least one individual in the domain of the quantifier, Some A is P & Some A is Q. These inferences are standardly derived as an entailment of the meaning of the sentence together with the scalar implicature that it is not the case that either disjunct holds of every individual in the domain of the quantifier, ¬Every A is P & ¬Every A is Q (plain negated inferences). As we show, this derivation faces a challenge in that distributive inferences may obtain in the absence of plain negated inferences. We address this challenge by showing that on particular assumptions about alternatives, a derivation of distributive inferences as scalar implicatures can be maintained without in fact necessitating plain negated inferences. These assumptions accord naturally with the grammatical approach to scalar implicatures. We also present experimental data that suggest that plain negated inferences are not only unnecessary for deriving distributive inferences, but might in fact be unavailable.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)271-305
Number of pages35
JournalNatural Language Semantics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 26 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Disjunction
  • Embedded exhaustification
  • Scalar implicatures


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