Lessons from Sobel sequences

Malte Willer


Abstract Folklore has it that Sobel sequences favor a variably strict analysis of conditionals over its plainly strict alternative. While recent discussions for or against the lore have focussed on Sobel sequences involving counterfactuals, this paper draws attention to the fact that indicative Sobel sequences are just as felicitous as are their counterfactual cousins. The fact, or so I shall argue here, disrupts the folklore: given minimal assumptions about the semantics and pragmatics of indicative conditionals, a textbook variably strict analysis fails to predict that indicative Sobel sequences are felicitous. The correct lesson to draw from Sobel sequences is that their felicity challenges classical implementations of the variably strict and of the plainly strict analysis alike. In response to this challenge I develop a dynamic strict analysis of conditionals that handles indicative Sobel sequences with grace while preserving intuitive constraints on the semantics and pragmatics of their members. A discussion of how such an analysis may handle the challenge from reverse Sobel sequences is provided.



conditionals; Sobel sequences; dynamic semantics; variably strict analysis

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/sp.10.4

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

ISSN: 1937-8912

Journal doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/sp