Dept of Philosophy
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15232, USA
Tel: (412) 268-5083
Fax: (412) 268-1440
Disjunction and Alternativeness
There is a requirement which a disjunction must satisfy in order to constitute a felicitous
contribution to an ordinary conversation: its disjuncts must be interpretable as relevant
alternatives. When such an interpretation is not available, the disjunction is highly
anomalous. The disjuncts of sentence (1), for example, appear unrelated to one another,
but do not constitute distinct alternatives, perhaps by virtue of one disjunct entailing
another, as in (2).
(1) Either there is dirt in the fuel line or it is raining in Tel-Aviv.
(2) Either there is dirt in the fuel line or there is something in the fuel line.