What's a distinct or alternative?

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The alternatives introduced by or constructions are typically distinct from each other. Hurford's (1974) constraint dictates that disjuncts must not entail each other, which defines Distinctness as mutual nonentailment. In agreement with Simons (2001), I first argue that this constraint is too strong and too semantic, but relying on the Relevance-theoretic concept of contextual adjustment (Carston, 2002), I call for a more radical pragmatic shift. I include a discussion of Equivalence or constructions, where the alternatives are not referentially distinct, arguing that again, it is pragmatic considerations that determine whether to impose Distinctness or not. The take-home message is that pragmatics governs the variable application of the Distinctness constraint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation431/15


    • Contextual adjustment
    • Explicature
    • Hurford's constraint
    • Privileged Interactional Interpretation
    • Sperber & Wilson relevance


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