The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 5/4 - Itai Bassi

Speaker: Itai Bassi (MIT)
Time: Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
Place: 32-D831
Title: Existential Semantics for Bare Conditionals (joint work with Moshe E. Bar-Lev)

Bare conditionals show quantificational variability contingent on whether they are in an Upward Entailing or a Downward Entailing environment. For example, the conditional in (1) is interpreted universally while (2) existentially:

1) if you work hard you succeed
in all cases where you work hard you succeed
2) no one will succeed if they goof off
no x is such that there is a case where they goof off and succeed

We suggest that contrary to the widely accepted view, the basic semantics of if p, q involves existential quantification, and its universal character in UE environments is derived by a grammatical strengthening mechanism of recursive exhaustification over domain alternatives. We further show how the phenomenon of Conditional Perfection (from if p, q to if and only if p, q), a long-standing puzzle, can be derived in our system.

Some challenges to the analysis will be mentioned, as well as the prospects of extending it to deal with Homogeneity phenomena in general.