Tsinghua University – University of Amsterdam Joint Research Centre for Logic

Invited Talk – Maria Aloni

Disjunction and Negation in Dynamic Semantics

In Free Choice (fc) inferences, conjunctive meanings are derived from disjunctive modal sentences contrary to the prescriptions of classical logic:

  • (1)  Deontic fc [Kam73]
    1. You may go to the beach or to the cinema.
    2. ↝You may go to the beach and you may go to the cinema.
  • (2)  Epistemic fc [Zim00]
    1. Mr. X might be in Victoria or in Brixton.
    2. ↝ Mr. X might be in Victoria and he might be in Brixton.

[Alo22] presented a formal account of fc inferences in a bilateral state-basedmodal logic (BSML). The novel hypothesis at the core of that proposal was that fc and related inferences are a straightforward consequence of a tendency in human cognition to neglect models that verify sentences by virtue of some empty configurations (neglect-zero). Using tools from team semantics [YV17], [Alo22] showed that neglect-zero derives fc inferences (when interpreting disjunctions speakers associate each disjunct with a non-empty possibility) and their cancellation under negation. The latter result relied on the adopted bilateralism, where each connective comes with an assertion and a rejection condition and negation is defined in terms of the latter notion.

In this talk I will present DyBSML, a quantified dynamic version of BSML, which captures besides fc and related inferences also cross-sentential and donkey anaphora and their interactions with modality [GSV96, Alo00]. One difference with respect to classical dynamic semantics [e.g., GS91, GSV96] concerns the treatment of negation. Like BSML, DyBSML will validate double negation elimination and therefore provide an account of Barbara Partee’s bathroom example [KM95]:

  • (3) Either there is no bathroom in this house or it’s in a funny place.

DyBSML will be further applied to capture the obligatory ignorance infer- ence triggered by epistemic indefinites in German and other languages [AOMB15, AP15]:

  • (4) Epistemic indefinites (German)Epistemic indefinites (Germ an)

                     1. Irgendein Student hat angerufen #Rat mal wer?

                         Irgend-one student has called     guess prt who?

                     2. Some student called – the speaker doesn’t know who


  1. [Alo00] Maria Aloni. Conceptual covers in dynamic semantics. In Lawrence Cavedon, Patrick Blackburn, Nick Braisby, and Atsushi Shimojima, editors, Logic, Language and Computation, Vol. III. CSLI, Stanford, CA, 2000.
  2. [Alo22] Maria Aloni. Logic and conversation: the case of free choice. Under review, 2022.
  3. [AOMB15] Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Men ́endez-Benito. Epistemic Indefi- nites. Oxford University Press, 2015.
  4. [AP15] Maria Aloni and Angelika Port. Epistemic indefinites and meth- ods of identifications. In Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Men ́endez- Benito, editors, Epistemic Indefinites. Oxford University Press, 2015.
  5. [GS91] Jeroen Groenendijk and Martin Stokhof. Dynamic predicate logic. Linguistics and Philosophy, 14(1):39–100, 1991.
  6. [GSV96] Jeroen Groenendijk, Martin Stokhof, and Frank Veltman. Coref- erence and modality. In The handbook of contemporary semantic theory, pages 179–216. Blackwell, 1996.
  7. [Kam73] Hans Kamp. Free choice permission. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 74:57–74, 1973.
  8. [KM95] Emiel Krahmer and Reinhard Muskens. Negation and disjunction in discourse representation theory. Journal of Semantics, 12(4):357– 376, 1995.
  9. [YV17] Fan Yang and Jouko V ̈a ̈an ̈anen. Propositional team logics. Annals of Pure and Applied Logic, 168:1406–1441, 2017.
  10. [Zim00] Ede Zimmermann. Free choice disjunction and epistemic possibility. Natural Language Semantics, 8:255–290, 2000.