Michela Ippolito, University of Toronto

Friday, May 2nd at 4pm in Humanities Two - Room 259

Negative Conditionals

In this talk I will look again at one kind of counterfactual conditionals, which I will call Negative Conditionals (NCs), from a cross-linguistic perspective. NCs have properties that set them aside from standard would conditionals: (i) they contain a negative element in the antecedent clause or in the complementizer domain; (ii) they are obligatorily counterfactual; (iii) the negation does not anti license PPIs; (iv) the negation does not license NPIs. Drawing on work by Schwarz (2006) and Schwarz and Bhatt (2006), I will call the negation that occurs in NCs light negation (LN) and I will argue that (a) LN is a strengthening operator modifying the modal operator and forcing an “iff” interpretation; (b) for interpretability reasons, LN must move close to the modal and it can do that overtly (as in Chinese) or covertly (as in German and English); (c) LN is factive. This analysis will allow us to explain the facts above as well as other interesting properties of NCs such as their incompatibility with the pro form then in the consequent, the impossibility of a “backtracking” NC and the rhetorical flavor of questions formed with NCs.   

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