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  1. Two Puzzles About Ability Can.Malte Willer - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (3):551-586.
    The received wisdom on ability modals is that they differ from their epistemic and deontic cousins in what inferences they license and better receive a universal or conditional analysis instead of an existential one. The goal of this paper is to sharpen the empirical picture about the semantics of ability modals, and to propose an analysis that explains what makes the can of ability so special but that also preserves the crucial idea that all uses of can share a common (...)
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  • Simplifying with Free Choice.Malte Willer - 2018 - Topoi 37 (3):379-392.
    This paper offers a unified semantic explanation of two observations that prove to be problematic for classical analyses of modals, conditionals, and disjunctions: the fact that disjunctions scoping under possibility modals give rise to the free choice effect and 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 tradition in its treatment of disjunction. The analysis explains (...)
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  • Interpreting plural predication: homogeneity and non-maximality.Manuel Križ & Benjamin Spector - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (5):1131-1178.
    Plural definite descriptions across many languages display two well-known properties. First, they can give rise to so-called non-maximal readings, in the sense that they ‘allow for exceptions’. Second, while they tend to have a quasi-universal quantificational force in affirmative sentences, they tend to be interpreted existentially in the scope of negation. Building on previous works, we offer a theory in which sentences containing plural definite expressions trigger a family of possible interpretations, and where general principles of language use account for (...)
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  • Semantic expressivism for epistemic modals.Peter Hawke & Shane Steinert-Threlkeld - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (2):475-511.
    Expressivists about epistemic modals deny that ‘Jane might be late’ canonically serves to express the speaker’s acceptance of a certain propositional content. Instead, they hold that it expresses a lack of acceptance. Prominent expressivists embrace pragmatic expressivism: the doxastic property expressed by a declarative is not helpfully identified with that sentence’s compositional semantic value. Against this, we defend semantic expressivism about epistemic modals: the semantic value of a declarative from this domain is the property of doxastic attitudes it canonically serves (...)
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  • Choice and prohibition in non-monotonic contexts.Nicole Gotzner, Jacopo Romoli & Paolo Santorio - 2020 - Natural Language Semantics 28 (2):141-174.
    Disjunctions in the scope of possibility modals give rise to a conjunctive inference, generally referred to as ‘free choice.’ For example, Emma can take Spanish or Calculus suggests that Emma can take Spanish and can take Calculus. This inference is not valid on standard semantics for modals in combination with a Boolean semantics for disjunction. Hence free choice has sparked a whole industry of theories in philosophy of language and semantics. This paper investigates free choice in sentences involving a non-monotonic (...)
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  • The counterfactual direct argument.Simon Goldstein - 2020 - Linguistics and Philosophy 43 (2):193-232.
    Many have accepted that ordinary counterfactuals and might counterfactuals are duals. In this paper, I show that this thesis leads to paradoxical results when combined with a few different unorthodox yet increasingly popular theses, including the thesis that counterfactuals are strict conditionals. Given Duality and several other theses, we can quickly infer the validity of another paradoxical principle, ‘The Counterfactual Direct Argument’, which says that ‘A> ’ entails ‘A> ’. First, I provide a collapse theorem for the ‘counterfactual direct argument’. (...)
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  • Free Choice Impossibility Results.Simon Goldstein - 2020 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 49 (2):249-282.
    Free Choice is the principle that possibly p or q implies and is implied by possibly p and possibly q. A variety of recent attempts to validate Free Choice rely on a nonclassical semantics for disjunction, where the meaning of p or q is not a set of possible worlds. This paper begins with a battery of impossibility results, showing that some kind of nonclassical semantics for disjunction is required in order to validate Free Choice. The paper then provides a (...)
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  • Agentive Free Choice.Melissa Fusco - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophical Logic:1-31.
    The Free Choice effect---whereby <>(p or q) seems to entail both <>p and <>q---has traditionally been characterized as a phenomenon affecting the deontic modal "may". This paper presents an extension of the semantic account of free choice defended in Fusco (2015) to the agentive modal "can", the "can" which, intuitively, describes an agent's powers. -/- I begin by sketching a model of inexact ability, which grounds a modal approach to agency (Belnap & Perloff 1998; Belnap, Perloff, and Xu 2001) in (...)
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  • Agential Free Choice.Melissa Fusco - 2021 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 50 (1):57-87.
    The Free Choice effect—whereby \\) seems to entail both \ and \—has traditionally been characterized as a phenomenon affecting the deontic modal ‘may’. This paper presents an extension of the semantic account of free choice defended by Fusco to the agentive modal ‘can’, the ‘can’ which, intuitively, describes an agent’s powers. On this account, free choice is a nonspecific de re phenomenon that—unlike typical cases—affects disjunction. I begin by sketching a model of inexact ability, which grounds a modal approach to (...)
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  • Free choice, simplification, and Innocent Inclusion.Moshe E. Bar-Lev & Danny Fox - 2020 - Natural Language Semantics 28 (3):175-223.
    We propose a modification of the exhaustivity operator from Fox Presupposition and implicature in compositional semantics, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp 71–120, 2007. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230210752_4) that on top of negating all the Innocently Excludable alternatives affirms all the ‘Innocently Includable’ ones. The main result of supplementing the notion of Innocent Exclusion with that of Innocent Inclusion is that it allows the exhaustivity operator to identify cells in the partition induced by the set of alternatives whenever possible. We argue for this property of (...)
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  • An Implicature account of Homogeneity and Non-maximality.Moshe E. Bar-Lev - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (5):1045-1097.
    I provide arguments in favor of an implicature approach to Homogeneity where the basic meaning of the kids laughed is some of the kids laughed, and its strengthened meaning is all of the kids laughed. The arguments come from asymmetries between positive and negatives sentences containing definite plurals with respect to children’s behavior, the availability of Non-maximal readings, and the robustness of neither-true-nor-false judgments :205–248, 2015). I propose to avoid some problems of Magri’s analysis by modeling the Implicature account of (...)
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  • Independent alternatives: Ross’s puzzle and free choice.Richard Jefferson Booth - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 179 (4):1241-1273.
    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 puzzle can be explained in terms of the licensing of ‘Diversity’ inferences: from the truth of a possibility or necessity modal with an embedded disjunction, hearers infer that each disjunct is compatible with the relevant set of worlds. I argue that Diversity inferences are too weak to explain the full (...)
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  • Wanting What’s Not Best.Kyle Blumberg & John Hawthorne - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 179 (4):1275-1296.
    In this paper, we propose a novel account of desire reports, i.e. sentences of the form 'S wants p'. Our theory is partly motivated by Phillips-Brown's (2021) observation that subjects can desire things even if those things aren't best by the subject's lights. That is, being best isn't necessary for being desired. We compare our proposal to existing theories, and show that it provides a neat account of the central phenomenon.
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  • On preferring.Kyle Blumberg - 2022 - Linguistics and Philosophy 45 (6):1315-1344.
    In this paper, I draw attention to comparative preference claims, i.e. sentences of the form \S prefers p to q\. I show that preference claims exhibit interesting patterns, and try to develop a semantics that captures them. Then I use my account of preference to provide an analysis of desire. The resulting entry for desire ascriptions is independently motivated, and finds support from a wide range of phenomena.
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  • Deontic Logic and Natural Language.Fabrizio Cariani - forthcoming - In Dov Gabbay, Ron van der Meyden, John Horty, Xavier Parent & Leandert van der Torre (eds.), The Handbook of Deontic Logic (Vol. II). College Publications.
    There has been a recent surge of work on deontic modality within philosophy of language. This work has put the deontic logic tradition in contact with natural language semantics, resulting in significant increase in sophistication on both ends. This chapter surveys the main motivations, achievements, and prospects of this work.
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  • Ignorance Implicatures and Non-Doxastic Attitude Verbs.Kyle H. Blumberg - 2017 - Proceedings of the 21st Amsterdam Colloquium.
    This paper is about conjunctions and disjunctions in the scope of non-doxastic atti- tude verbs. These constructions generate a certain type of ignorance implicature. I argue that the best way to account for these implicatures is by appealing to a notion of contex- tual redundancy (Schlenker, 2008; Fox, 2008; Mayr and Romoli, 2016). This pragmatic approach to ignorance implicatures is contrasted with a semantic account of disjunctions under `wonder' that appeals to exhausti cation (Roelofsen and Uegaki, 2016). I argue that (...)
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  • A Preference Semantics for Imperatives.William B. Starr - 2020 - Semantics and Pragmatics 20.
    Imperative sentences like Dance! do not seem to represent the world. Recent modal analyses challenge this idea, but its intuitive and historical appeal remain strong. This paper presents three new challenges for a non-representational analysis, showing that the obstacles facing it are even steeper than previously appreciated. I will argue that the only way for the non-representationalist to meet these three challenges is to adopt a dynamic semantics. Such a dynamic semantics is proposed here: imperatives introduce preferences between alternatives. This (...)
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