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LINGUIST List 19.3524

Wed Nov 19 2008

Diss: Semantics: Huitink: 'Modals, Conditionals and Compositionality'

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        1.    Janneke Huitink, Modals, Conditionals and Compositionality

Message 1: Modals, Conditionals and Compositionality
Date: 19-Nov-2008
From: Janneke Huitink <janneke.huitinkgmail.com>
Subject: Modals, Conditionals and Compositionality
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Institution: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Program: Department of Philosophy
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Janneke Huitink

Dissertation Title: Modals, Conditionals and Compositionality

Dissertation URL: http://ncs.ruhosting.nl/janneke/diss.html

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Dissertation Director:
Rob van der Sandt
Bart Geurts

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation concerns three constructions in which modal or
conditional expressions seem to fail to contribute their ordinary meaning,
or even appear to go completely uninterpreted. I first discuss concord
readings for combinations of modal verbs and adverbs as in 'It may perhaps
be raining'. After arguing that modal concord does not follow from modal
logic, and cannot be treated in terms of syntactic agreement, I propose a
type-shifting analysis which treats modal adverbs as polysemous between
their ordinary meaning and a non-quantificational meaning. Then I discuss
anankastic conditionals 'If you want to go to Harlem, you must take the A
train'. I propose that anankastic if-clauses are not arguments of the modal
in their consequent, but are best analyzed as arguments of a higher, covert
modal. Finally, I show that the interpretation of if-clauses in the scope
of a quantifier 'Usually if it is raining, it is cold' can be accounted for
by adopting a partial semantics for conditionals, along the lines of Belnap
(1970). I argue that this makes for a plausible semantics of conditionals,
which is just as good as its main contender (i.e. the Lewis/Kratzer
analysis), and perhaps even better.

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