Conditional utterances and conditional thoughts: A radical contextualist account

Chi-Hé Elder & Kasia Jaszczolt University of Cambridge
ICL19, Geneva 26 July 2013

Conditional utterances in English
if p (then) q


Conditional utterances in English
Conditional expressions are not the only way to express conditional thoughts
(1) (2)

Take one more step and I’ll kill you Your money or your life


could you close the door? If that’s a real diamond. I’ll eat my hat! 4 .Conditional utterances in English Conditional expressions can be used for other purposes other than expressing conditional thoughts (3) (4) If you wouldn’t mind.

A cross-linguistic perspective Guugu Yimithirr (Australian. QNL): no overt conditionals (5) The dog might bark. (Evans & Levinson 2009: 443. The postman might run away. after Haviland 1979) 5 .

Outline Classifying conditionals Conditionals and speakers’ intentions Recovering intended effects through linguistic cues Radical contextualism Representing conditional meaning in Interactive Semantics 6 .

Theoretical assumption: Want a semantics that captures intuitive meanings The diversity of ways of expressing conditional meaning. Default Semantics) 7 . Radical contextualism. are not a problem for a radical contextualist theory. as well as the diversity of uses to which conditional if can be put. Logical form may be enriched or even overridden to give speaker’s intended meaning (Jaszczolt 2010.

Classifying conditionals No bi-unique correlation between conditional constructions and conditional meanings Does not make sense to talk of a category of conditionals in terms of constructions “The history of the conditional is the story of a syntactic mistake” (Kratzer 2012:106) 8 .

Devising criteria for classification Want to allow that conditional meaning may or may not be speaker’s primary intended meaning No conditional LF Primary meaning is conditional Conditional LF Primary meaning is conditional Primary meaning is not conditional 9 .

Criteria for classification 2 roles of the antecedent p: indicates remoteness from the actual world speaker is not committed to its truth is a supposition restricts situations in which main clause holds 10 .

Pilot study (ICE-GB. Elder 2012) 46% of conditional utterances use if Narrowing scope to conditional constructions Want to look at relation between form and content 11 .

Conditionals and speech acts (6) If you rang her now she’d say yes (advice) (7) If you hit me with it once more I’ll kill you (threat) Be great if you would do that (request) (8) 12 .

Experimental studies in ‘pragmatic conditionals’ Interlocutors infer pragmatic effects from particular aspects of the content of conditional clauses (Bonnefon & Politzer 2010) What linguistic clues generate these inferences? 13 .

If you come near my family once more I’ll kill you. Sperber & Wilson 1995) Illocutionary forces may be derived pragmatically Labels used are for exemplification only 14 . Searle & Vanderveken 1985) It’s not a threat it’s a promise.Speech acts: A disclaimer Speech are not easily classifiable by grammatical cues (cf. Speakers may not be aware of the speech act they are performing (cf. Austin 1962. Searle 1975.

Example (9) If you drop the vase it will break >> Don’t drop the vase q negative consequence p hearer’s action Conditional warning Main message: Don’t do p 15 .

Indicators of speech acts Does p or q express volition? If so. on whom? 16 . of whom? Does the outcome described in q have a positive/negative effect on someone? If so.

Threat (10) If you do that one more time I’ll kill you q speaker’s action p hearer’s action negative consequence to hearer Main message: Don’t do p 17 .

Conditional offer If you’re hungry there are biscuits on the sideboard >> If you’re hungry there are biscuits which you may have on the sideboard >> If you’re hungry please help yourself to biscuits on the sideboard (11) p q hearer’s action positive consequence Issuing authority is speaker Main message: You may do q 18 .

Discussion Utterance may have conditional LF with non-conditional primary meaning LF may be overridden to give primary meaning Constituent parts of conditional construction may be enriched/overridden giving input to non-conditional implicature 19 .

there may not be an intention of a consequent 20 .No consequent? (12) Now if you’d like to put on your helmet …that’d be great? …you’ll be safe? …the police won’t catch you? >> put on your helmet There need not be one single intended consequent recoverable from the context At the level of thoughts.

Now if you’d like to put on your helmet… p hearer’s action q (inferred) positive consequence Conventionalised use of if Main message: Do p 21 .

Intermediary conclusions Speaker’s primary intended meaning may arise at any level of pragmatic process There are different degrees of intentions associated with conditional meaning Why would we want to capture this variety of meaning in semantics? How is it possible to capture this variety of meaning of conditionals in semantics? 22 .

there is no evidence that languages differ in whether or not logical connectives are present in their logical forms.Conditionals in radical contextualism “…while perhaps none of the logical connectives are universally lexically expressed.” (von Fintel & Matthewson 2008:170) 23 .

Suppositions as primary or secondary meanings (12) Now if you’d like to put on your helmet 24 .

2005. Jaszczolt. ‘Default Semantics’. Oxford: Oxford University Press K. Oxford: Oxford University Press. M. 215-246. Jaszczolt. M. Heine and H. The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis.Conditionals in Default Semantics K. In: B. Default Semantics: Foundations of a Compositional Theory of Acts of Communication. 2010. 25 . Narrog (eds).

world knowledge (WK) word meaning and sentence structure (WS) merger representation Σ situation of discourse (SD) stereotypes and presumptions about society and culture (SC) properties of human inferential system (IS) Fig. 1: Sources of information contributing to a merger representation Σ .

social and cultural assumptions. and world knowledge) (CPIpm) Secondary meanings:  Social. 2: Utterance interpretation according to the processing model of the revised version of Default Semantics . cultural and cognitive defaults (CD) world-knowledge defaultspm (SCWDpm) conscious pragmatic inferencepm (from situation of discourse. cultural and world-knowledge defaultssm (SCWDsm)  conscious pragmatic inferencesm (CPIsm) Fig.Primary meaning: combination of word meaning and sentence structure (WS) merger representation Σ social.

sources of information types of processes 28 .

Mapping between sources and processes WK SC WS SD IS      SCWD or CPI SCWD or CPI WS (logical form) CPI CD DS/IS makes use of the processing model and it indexes the components of ∑ with a subscript standing for the type of processing 29 .

Representing conditional thought (two dimensions) 1. there are biscuits on the sideboard’ PM: Help yourself to biscuits 5. 3. 2. ?? ‘Please put your helmet on’ SM: If you put your helmet on. ‘If you leave your tea on a wobbly table…’ ‘If you’d like to put your helmet on’ PM: Put your helmet on SM p  qWS. 4. SM ‘If you’re hungry. p  ? ∑. PM ‘If it rains we’ll stay at home’ p  qWS. you’ll be safer’ p  q∑. ? p  q∑. SM . PM ‘Touch his iPad and he’ll scream’ PM: If you touch his iPad he’ll scream’ 6.PM p  ? ∑.

p ? ∑. CPIpm [x put on y]WS 31 .Fig 3: ∑ for 2. SM ‘If you’d like to put your helmet on’ x y e1 e2 the addressee (x) helmet (y) ∑ e1 : e2 : [the speaker requests e2]CD.

Fig 4: ∑ for 5. CD. CPIpm [x touch z’s y]WS. p  q∑. CPIpm e2]WS [e1 → e2]CD. CPIpm [z scream]WS 32 . PM ‘Touch his iPad and he’ll scream’ x y z e1 e2 the addressee (x) ipad (y) contextually salient male (z) ∑ [ACCtf [ACCrf e1: e2: e1] CD.

When conditional thought is adopted as the object of study. the category of conditionals cannot be restricted to specific constructions. The diversity of (i) uses to which conditional if can be put and (ii) ways of expressing conditional meaning can be represented in a radical contextualist account (DS/IS). 33 . DS/IS allows us to represent (i) the intended use of conditional sentences.Conclusions Conditional thought may constitute primary or secondary meaning and may be expressed by a conditional or other sentence form. as well as (ii) conditional meaning expressed in a non-conditional form.

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