Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Intercultural Pragmatics

Editor-in-Chief: Kecskes, Istvan

5 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.125
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 1.154

CiteScore 2017: 1.25

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.719
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.417

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 15, Issue 2


Missing-link conditionals: pragmatically infelicitous or semantically defective?

Karolina Krzyżanowska / Igor Douven
Published Online: 2018-04-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2018-0004


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.

Keywords: conditionals; experimental pragmatics; logical/pragmatic responders; semantics


  • Adams, Ernest. 1965. The logic of conditionals. Inquiry, 8:166–197.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Adams, Ernest. 1975. The Logic of Conditionals. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.Google Scholar

  • Asher, Nicholas & Alex Lascarides. 2003. Logics of Conversation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Barrouillet, Pierre & Caroline Gauffroy. 2015. Probability in reasoning: A developmental test on conditionals. Cognition 137. 22–39.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Barrouillet, Pierre, Nelly Grosset & Jean-Francois Lecas. 2000. Conditional reasoning by mental models: Chronometric and developmental evidence. Cognition 75(3). 237–266.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Barrouillet, Pierre & Jean-Francois Lecas. 1999. Mental models in conditional reasoning and working memory. Thinking & Reasoning 5(4). 289–302.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bennett, Jonathan. 2003. A Philosophical Guide to Conditionals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar

  • Bott, Lewis & Ira A. Noveck. 2004. Some utterances are underinformative: The onset and time course of scalar inferences. Journal of Memory and Language 51. 437–457.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Caroline, Gauffroy & Pierre Barrouillet. 2014. Conditional reasoning in context: A developmental dual processes account. Thinking & Reasoning 20(3). 372–384. doi: .CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Chinn, Susan. 2000. A simple method for converting an odds ratio to effect size for use in meta- analysis. Statistics in Medicine 19. 3127–3131.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cruz, Nicole, David Over Mike Oaksford & Jean Baratgin. 2016. Centering and the meaning of conditionals. In Anna Papafragou, Daniel Grodner, Daniel Mirman & John C. Trueswell, editors, Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1104–1109, Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.Google Scholar

  • Davidson, Donald. 1967. Truth and meaning. Synthese 17(3). 304–323.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Davidson, Donald. 2001. A coherence theory of truth and knowledge. In Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective, 137–153. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Douven, Igor. 2008. The evidential support theory of conditionals. Synthese 164(1). 19–44.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Douven, Igor. 2016. The Epistemology of Indicative Conditionals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Douven, Igor. 2017a. How to account for the oddness of missing-link conditionals. Synthese 194 (5). 1541–1554. doi: .CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Douven, Igor. 2017b Abduction. In Edward N. Zalta, editor, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, California, CA: Stanford University.Google Scholar

  • Douven, Igor, Shira Elqayam, Henrik Singmann & Janneke Van Wijngaarden-Huitink. 2018 (in press). Conditionals and inferential connections: A hypothetical inferential theory. Cognitive Psychology.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Douven, Igor & Patricia Mirabile. 2018. (in press). Best, second-best, and good-enough explanations: How they matter to reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.Google Scholar

  • Douven, Igor & Sara Verbrugge. 2012. Indicatives, concessives, and evidential support. Thinking & Reasoning 18(4). 480–499.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Edgington, Dorothy. 1995. On conditionals. Mind 104(414). 235–329.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Evans, Jonathan St, B. T. Julie, L Barston & Paul Pollard. 1983. On the conflict between logic and belief in syllogistic reasoning. Memory & cognition 11(3). 295–306.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Evans, Jonathan St, B. T. Simon, J. Handley & David E. Over. 2003. Conditionals and conditional probability. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 29(2). 321–335.Google Scholar

  • Evans, Jonathan St. B. T., Simon J. Handley, Helen Neilens & David E. Over. 2007. Thinking about conditionals: A study of individual differences. Memory & Cognition. 35(7). 1772–1784.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Evans, Jonathan St. B. T. & David E. Over. 2004. If. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Grice, H. Paul. 1989. Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Johnson-Laird, Philip N. & M. J. Byrne Ruth. 2002. Conditionals: A theory of meaning, pragmatics, and inference. Psychological Review 109(4). 646–678.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kehler, Andrew. 2002. Coherence, Reference, and the Theory of Grammar. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar

  • Klauer, Karl Christoph, Jochen Musch & Birgit Naumer. 2000. On belief bias in syllogistic reasoning. Psychological Review 107. 852–884.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Krzyżanowska, Karolina, Peter J. Collins & Ulrike Hahn. 2017. Between a conditional’s antecedent and its consequent: Discourse coherence vs. probabilistic relevance. Cognition 164. 199–205.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Krzyżanowska, Karolina, Sylvia Wenmackers & Igor Douven. 2013. Inferential conditionals and evidentiality. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 22(3). 315–334.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Krzyżanowska, Karolina, Sylvia Wenmackers & Igor Douven. 2014. Rethinking Gibbard’s riverboat argument. Studia Logica 102(4). 771–792.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Levinson, Stephen. 2000. Presumptive Meanings: The theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature. Cambridge, MA. The MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Oberauer, Klaus, Sonja M. Geiger, Katrin Fischer & Andrea Weidenfeld. 2007a. Two meanings of “if ”? Individual differences in the interpretation of conditionals. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 60(6). 790–819.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Oberauer, Klaus, Andrea Weidenfeld & Katrin Fischer. 2007b. What makes us believe a conditional? the roles of covariation and causality. Thinking & Reasoning 13(4). 340–369.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Over, David E., Constantinos Hadjichristidis, Jonathan St. B.T. Evans, Simon J. Handley & Steven A. Sloman. 2007. The probability of causal conditionals. Cognitive Psychology 54. 62–97.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Pearson, Ronald. 2011. Exploring Data in Engineering, the Sciences, and Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Politzer, Guy & Jean Baratgin. 2015. Deductive schemas with uncertain premises using qualitative probability expressions. Thinking & Reasoning 22(1). 78–98. doi: .CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Rieger, Adam. 2013. Conditionals are material: The positive arguments. Synthese 190(15). 3161–3174. doi: .CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Rieger, Adam. 2015. Defending a simple theory of conditionals. American Philosophical Quarterly 52(3). 253–260.Google Scholar

  • Skovgaard-Olsen, Niels, Henrik Singmann & Karl Christoph Klauer. 2016a. The relevance effect and conditionals. Cognition. 150. 26–36.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Skovgaard-Olsen, Niels, Henrik Singmann & Karl Christoph Klauer. 2016b. Relevance and reason relations. Cognitive Science. doi: .CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Spohn, Wolfgang. 2013. A ranking-theoretic approach to conditionals. Cognitive Science 37(6). 1074–1106.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Spychalska, Maria, Jarmo Kontinen & Markus Werning. 2016. Investigating scalar implicatures in a truth-value judgement task: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 31(6). 817–840. doi: . 1161806.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Stalnaker, Robert. 1968. A theory of conditionals. In Nicholas Rescher, editor, Studies in Logical Theory, American Philosophical Quarterly Monograph Series 2, 98–112. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar

  • Stalnaker, Robert. 1975. Indicative conditionals. Philosophia 5(3). 269–286.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sztencel, Magdalena. 2018. Semantics, Pragmatics and Meaning Revisited: The Case of Conditionals. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar

  • Vidal, Mathieu & Jean Baratgin. 2017. A psychological study of unconnected conditionals. Journal of Cognitive Psychology 29. 769–781. doi: . 1305388.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Von Fintel, Kai. 2012. Subjunctive conditionals. In Gillian Russell & Graff Fara Delia, editors, The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language, 466–477. Routledge: New York.Google Scholar

About the article

Karolina Krzyżanowska

Karolina Krzyżanowska: is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation of the University of Amsterdam. She obtained her PhD in Philosophy from the University of Groningen in 2015. Before coming to Amsterdam, she was a research fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy and at the Center for Advanced Studies of the LMU Munich. Her research interests include semantics and pragmatics of conditionals, and their role in reasoning and decision making.

Igor Douven

Igor Douven (PhD Leuven) is a CNRS Research Professor at Sorbonne University, Paris. His current research is mainly in cognitive science, having to do with concepts, conditionals, and non-deductive inference. Previously, he worked in philosophy, especially in formal epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science.

Published Online: 2018-04-27

Published in Print: 2018-04-25

Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics, Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 191–211, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2018-0004.

Export Citation

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in