Topic: HUMAN SEMANTICS
Conditional truth and future reference
By Stefan Kaufmann
This paper proposes a compositional model-theoretic account of the way the interpretation of indicative conditionals is determined and constrained by the temporal and modal expressions in their constituents. The main claim is that the tenses in both the antecedent and the consequent of an indicative conditional are interpreted in the same way as in isolation. This is controversial for the antecedents of predictive conditionals like ‘ If he arrives tomorrow, she will leave ’, whose Present tense is often claimed to differ semantically from that in their stand-alone counterparts, such as ‘He arrives tomorrow ’. Under the unified analysis developed in this paper, the differences observed in pairs like these are explained by interactions between the temporal and modal dimensions of interpretation. This perspective also sheds new light on the relationship between ‘non-predictive’ and ‘epistemic’ readings of indicative conditionals.
Appeared in the Journal of Semantics, August 2005