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Abstract
Based on a crowdsourced truth value judgment experiment, we provide empirical evidence challenging two classical views in semantics, and we develop a novel account of counterfactuals that combines ideas from inquisitive semantics and causal reasoning. First, we show that two truth-conditionally equivalent clauses can make different semantic contributions when embedded in a counterfactual antecedent. Assuming compositionality, this means that the meaning of these clauses is not fully determined by their truth conditions. This finding has a clear explanation in inquisitive semantics: truth-conditionally equivalent clauses may be associated with different propositional alternatives, each of which counts as a separate counterfactual assumption. Second, we show that our results contradict the common idea that the interpretation of a counterfactual involves minimizing change with respect to the actual state of affairs. We propose to replace the idea of minimal change by a distinction between foreground and background for a given counterfactual assumption: the background is held fixed in the counterfactual situation, while the foreground can be varied without any minimality constraint.
Keywords Counterfactuals  Experimental semantics  Crowdsourcing survey  Disjunctive antecedents  Inquisitive semantics  Minimal change semantics  Ordering semantics  Causal reasoning
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Reprint years 2018
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DOI 10.1007/s10988-018-9232-4
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References found in this work BETA

Counterfactuals.David Lewis - 1973 - Blackwell.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Conditional Heresies.Fabrizio Cariani & Simon Goldstein - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2):251-282.
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Free choice, simplification, and Innocent Inclusion.Moshe E. Bar-Lev & Danny Fox - 2020 - Natural Language Semantics 28 (3):175-223.
Coordinating Ifs.Justin Khoo - 2021 - Journal of Semantics 38 (2):341-361.

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