Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Aloni and van Rooij: "Free Choice Items and Alternatives" (2007)

This paper argues for a purely pragmatic treatment of some facts about the free-choice items any, irgend-, and qualsiasi (English, German, and Italian, respectively). The manuscript on Maria Aloni's website is dated 2005, but the paper appears to have been officially published for the first time in 2007.

The positive part of the paper is built around a logical implementation of Gricean reasoning. As far as I can see, it is equivalent to assuming that speakers only utter sentences φ that (1) they know, and (2) that maximally informative among the alternatives Alt(φ). This can be formalized in standard epistemic logic. A stronger assumption is later introduced in order to handle some more cases (p. 14).

These assumptions constrain the set of knowledge states that the speaker may be in, and this gives rise to implicatures. For instance, if both p and q are alternatives to the sentence p v q, then the speaker is blocked from uttering the disjunction is she in fact knows that one of the alternatives is the case.

The paper refers centrally to Gerald Gazdar's book Pragmatics from 1979.

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