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Summary Details

Query:   Only If
Author:  Annabel Cormack
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Morphology

Summary:   Regarding query:

We asked if there were any languages having a single-word for reverse
implication, equivalent to English 'only if'.
We are grateful to the following people for suggestions and discussion:

Martin Weisser, Chemnitz Technical University
Janet H. Randall, NEU
Eve Ng, University of Massachusetts
Rob Malouf, San Diego State University
Tadhg O hIfearnain, University of Limerick
Felecia Briscoe UTSA
Heike Wiese, Yale
Jasper Holmes
Zhang Yi, Nanjing University
Boyan Nikolaev
Ulrich Wa├čner, Mannheim
Roger Levy, University of Edinburgh
C. Rowe, HKU Hong Kong
Willy Vandeweghe

Thanks also to Jack Hoeksema (RUG), Hans van de Koot (UCL), Ad Neeleman
(UCL), Yi Xu (UCL).

Some of the suggestions turned out on investigation to correspond
to 'if', rather than 'only if'. We need a connective that patterns with
'only if' in (1), rather than with 'if' in (2):

(1) I'll go only if you go. And maybe not even then.
(2) I'll go {if/provided} you go. #And maybe not even then.

So we seem to have to exclude 'provided/providing' in English,
'vorausgesetzt' and 'falls' (German), 'mura' (Irish), 'chu fei'
'ako' (Bulgarian).

We are left with Dutch 'mits', where there seems to be agreement
among our
informants, and Mandarin Chinese 'cai' (tone 2), where at least some
speakers do seem to have a consistent 'only if' interpretation.

Jack Hoeksema writes:

''Regarding MITS: I think it is a bona fide candidate. One of the
reasons I
think so is that it does not appear to be a trigger for strong polarity
items, much like ''only if'', compare
*I will ice you only if you so much as lay a finger on her.
*Ik vermoord je mits je haar ook maar met een vinger aanraakt.''

Eve Ng offers the following for Mandarin 'cai':

''Lucy neng zhao-dao ren kan haizi cai neng canjia juhui;
Lucy can find-RESULTATIVE person watch child only.then can attend party
'Lucy can only go to the party if she finds a babysitter'

A) keshi, ruguo Henry bu-neng zai ta, Lucy haishi bu-neng qu.
however if Henry not-can give-ride 3 Lucy still not-can go
'but if Henry can't give her a ride, Lucy still can't go.'

B) *keshi, ta zhao-bu-dao haishi keneng hui qu.
however 3 find-not-RESULTATIVE still maybe will go


Haoma shangshu cai neng bei liu chu-jin.
number even only.then can PASSIVE six divide-complete
'Only if a number is even can it be divided by six.'

Keshi, shangshu de haoma bing bu yiding neng bei liu chu-jin.
however even GENITIVE number PARTICLE not definitely can PASSIVE six
'However, an even number can't necessarily be divided by six.'

_bing_ is hard to translate here; it indicates that the following
clause is
going to be negative, and is optional here, but the sentence sounds
with it.''

Any further suggestions and discussion would be welcome.

Larry Horn
Annabel Cormack

LL Issue: 16.3643
Date Posted: 21-Dec-2005


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