Anankastic conditionals are just conditionals

Main Article Content

Cleo Condoravdi
Sven Lauer


Since Sæbø (1985, 2001) drew the attention of formal semanticists to the compositionality problems raised by anankastic conditionals like If you want to go to Harlem, you have to take the A train, a number of authors have proposed analyses tailor-made for such conditionals. We demonstrate that the seemingly puzzling properties of anankastic conditionals in fact show up independently from each other within a wider range of conditionals, which we call ‘near-anankastic’. While they do not have the means-of implication typically associated with anankastics, near-anankastics give rise to their own special additional implications. As a crucial ingredient for a unified account, we provide a new analysis of the semantics of the desire predicate in the antecedent — an issue that has not been adequately pursued in the previous literature. We claim that want has an independently motivated reading on which it predicates the existence of an action-relevant preference (Condoravdi & Lauer 2011, 2012, Lauer 2013). We then show that the semantically determined interpretation of anankastic and near-anankastic conditionals arises, predictably and compositionally, from a range of interacting factors that are at play in the interpretation of conditional sentences more generally. The special implications associated with each kind of conditional arise pragmatically. Anankastic and near-anankastic conditionals alike turn out to be just what they seem: regular, hypothetical, indicative conditionals.

BibTeX info

Article Details

Main Articles