Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 27, 2018

Missing-link conditionals: pragmatically infelicitous or semantically defective?

Karolina Krzyżanowska and Igor Douven
From the journal Intercultural Pragmatics

Abstract

According to virtually all major theories of conditionals, conditionals with a true antecedent and a true consequent are true. Yet conditionals whose antecedent and consequent have nothing to do with each other—so-called missing-link conditionals—strike us as odd, regardless of the truth values of their constituent clauses. Most theorists attribute this apparent oddness to pragmatics, but on a recent proposal, it rather betokens a semantic defect. Research in experimental pragmatics suggests that people can be more or less sensitive to pragmatic cues and may be inclined to differing degrees to evaluate a true sentence carrying a false implicature as false. We report the results of an empirical study that investigated whether people’s sensitivity to false implicatures is associated with how they tend to evaluate missing-link conditionals with true clauses. These results shed light on the question of whether missing-link conditionals are best seen as pragmatically infelicitous or rather as semantically defective.

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Published Online: 2018-4-27
Published in Print: 2018-4-25

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