Linguistics Department

Colloquium - Itamar Francez (U. of Chicago) "Chimerical Conditionals"

Mon, January 28, 2013 | CLA 1.302B

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

The sentences in (1) and (2) exemplify the famous contrast between hypothetical and so-called biscuit conditionals (Austin 1956, DeRose and Grandy 1999; Siegel 2006, iner alia). Intuitively, in biscuit conditionals, the antecedent and consequent are independent of each other, whereas in a hypothetical conditional they are not.

(1) If John went shopping, there's beer in the fridge.

(2) If you're thirsty, there's beer in the fridge.

This paper introduces and analyzes a new class of conditionals termed "chimerical conditionals", which seems to defy categorization in terms of the biscuit/hypothetical distinction. For example, (3) pull intuitions in opposite directions vis a vis the distinction.

(3) If you enter the museum from the south, there are guards.

On one intuition, (3) is a biscuit conditionals, since thedistribution of guards is independent of my entry plans. On another, (3) is a hypothetical conditional, since if I choose a different entrance, there might not be guards.

The talk demonstrates that chimericity is a systematic phenomenon, linked to the presence of implicit arguments in the consequent. First, it proposes a mixed semantic-pragmatic analysis of the biscuit/hypothetical distinction, inspired by Franke (2009), and relying crucially on identifying issues (questions under discussion) raised by the antecedent and consequent. Second, it proposes an account of chimericity, deriving it from the interaction of independently motivated assumptions about the presuppositional nature of implicit arguments and the proposed analysis of the hypothetical/biscuit distinction.

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