Biscuit conditionals: Quantification over potential literal acts [Book Review]

Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (2):167 - 203 (2006)
In biscuit conditionals (BCs) such as If you’re hungry, there’s pizza in the fridge, the if clause appears to apply to the illocutionary act performed in uttering the main clause, rather than to its propositional content. Accordingly, previous analyses of BCs have focused on illocutionary acts, and, this, I argue, leads them to yield incorrect paraphrases. I propose, instead, that BCs involve existential quantification over potential literal acts such as assertions, questions, commands, and exclamations, the semantic objects associated with declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamative sentences, respectively. Such an existential interpretation of BCs requires only that we add potential literal acts to our inventory of individuals, and it produces reasonable paraphrases in which if has its normal meaning: If you’re hungry,[there’s a (relevant/salient) assertion that] there’s pizza in the fridge. These potential literal act variables are introduced into semantic interpretations and then undergo Existential Closure. Hence, we would expect to see similar interpretations in contexts other than BCs, that is, with other if constructions, with connectives other than if, with potential literal acts other than assertion, and in root sentences. This prediction is borne out, along with the parallel prediction that we cannot quantify over purely illocutionary acts like offers, but only over potential literal acts, those conventionally associated with a particular morphosyntactic shape.
Keywords Linguistics   Philosophy of Language   Artificial Intelligence   Computational Linguistics   Semantics   Syntax
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DOI 10.1007/s10988-006-0003-2
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References found in this work BETA
William G. Lycan (2001). Real Conditionals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA
Eric McCready (2008). What Man Does. Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (6):671-724.

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