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Subjunctive Conditionals

Subjunctive Conditionals: A Linguistic Analysis

Michela Ippolito
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 216
  • Book Info
    Subjunctive Conditionals
    Book Description:

    In this book, Michela Ippolito proposes a compositional semantics for subjunctive (or would) conditionals in English that accounts for their felicity conditions and the constraints on the satisfaction of their presuppositions by capitalizing on the occurrence of past tense morphology in both antecedent and consequent clauses. Very little of the extensive literature on subjunctive conditionals tries to account for the meaning of these sentences compositionally or to relate this meaning to their linguistic form; this book fills that gap, connecting the different lines of research on conditionals. Ippolito's proposal will be of interest both to linguists and to philosophers concerned with conditionals and modality more generally.Ippolito reviews previous analyses of counterfactuals and subjunctive conditionals in the work of David Lewis, Robert Stalnaker, Angelika Kratzer, and others; considers the contrast between future simple past subjunctive conditionals and future past perfect subjunctive conditionals; presents a proposal for subjunctive conditionals that addresses puzzles left unsolved by previous proposals; reviews a number of presupposition triggers showing that they fit the pattern predicted by her proposal; and discusses an asymmetry between the past and the future among subjunctive conditionals, arguing that the best account of our linguistic intuitions must include an indeterministic view of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31487-9
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Samuel Jay Keyser

    We are pleased to present the sixty-fifth volume in the seriesLinguistic Inquiry Monographs. These monographs present new and original research beyond the scope of the article. We hope they will benefit our field by bringing to it perspectives that will stimulate further research and insight.

    Originally published in limited edition, theLinguistic Inquiry Monographsare now more widely available. This change is due to the great interest engendered by the series and by the needs of a growing readership. The editors thank the readers for their support and welcome suggestions about future directions for the series....

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    The scope of this book is what I will refer to assubjunctive conditionals. The termsubjunctive conditionalshas often been used in the philosophical and linguistic literature on English conditional sentences to refer to conditional sentences that have special tense or mood morphology in one or both of their clauses and that have an “irrealis flavor.” The contrast in (1) exemplifies these two features of subjunctive conditionals.

    (1) a. If John dies tomorrow, Mary will inherit a fortune.

    b. If John died tomorrow, Mary would inherit a fortune.

    The indicative conditional in (1a) shows present tense on the main...

  6. 2 Temporal Mismatches in Subjunctive Conditionals
    (pp. 21-52)

    As was mentioned in section 1.1, subjunctive conditionals in English are marked by what looks like past tense morphology in both the antecedent and the consequent clauses. However, subjunctive conditionals can be about the past, the present, or the future, as the examples in (1) illustrate.

    (1) a. If you were there now, Mary would be happier.

    b. If you arrived tomorrow, Mary would be happier.

    c. If you had arrived yesterday, Mary would have been happier.

    The past tenseswereandarrived(as well as the past tense on the modalwould) in (1a) and (1b), respectively, are clearly...

  7. 3 A Compositional Analysis
    (pp. 53-116)

    In chapter 2, I showed that whether a subjunctive conditional can be counterfactual or not does not correlate with the nature of the predicate in the antecedent (contra Arregui 2005). I argued that simple past subjunctive conditionals and past perfect subjunctive conditionals do not differ with respect to the counterfactuality of the antecedent per se; rather, they differ with respect to the counterfactuality of their presuppositions. The results are summed up in the three observations below. (By saying here that a proposition is taken to be counterfactual, I mean that it is taken to be false in the actual world.)...

  8. 4 Presuppositions
    (pp. 117-130)

    The view defended in this book is that, within the domain of subjunctive conditionals about the present or the future, the real difference is that between simple past ones and past perfect ones; moreover, this difference lies in the fact that, while simple past subjunctive conditionals require the presuppositions in the antecedent (and those in the consequent not entailed by the antecedent) to be compatible with the actual world at the utterance time, past perfect subjunctive conditionals do not. I have argued that the source of the different felicity conditions for different types of subjunctive conditionals does not correlate with...

  9. 5 An Asymmetry between the Past and the Future
    (pp. 131-136)

    My goal in this book has been to account for infelicitous instances of simple past subjunctive conditionals such as (1) and (2).

    (1) John was sick yesterday and couldn’t go to the concert. Now he is well. Too bad. #If he were sick tomorrow instead (of yesterday), he could go/could have gone.

    (2) I called John yesterday to wish him a happy birthday, but it was the wrong day. His birthday is tomorrow and he got really upset.

    I am mortified. #If only I called him tomorrow instead (of yesterday), he would be happy.

    Since simple past subjunctive conditionals can...

  10. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 137-140)

    When interpreting a subjunctive conditional (and a counterfactual in particular), how are we going to select the set of antecedent-worlds quantified over by the modal? This is the question that I set out to answer in this book. As the work of Lewis, Stalnaker, Kratzer, and others has shown, a notion of similarity is crucial in selecting the relevant set of worlds. The task for previous theories and for the one I have proposed is to be able to articulate in sufficient detail exactly how to measure similarity.

    The main tenets of the theory defended in this book are these....

  11. Notes
    (pp. 141-150)
  12. References
    (pp. 151-156)
  13. Index
    (pp. 157-160)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 161-164)