Keshet paper in Journal of Semantics

By ekeshet
May 29, 2012 Bookmark and Share

Ezra Keshet's latest paper, "Focus on Conditional Conjunction" appeared online May 28, 2012 as a Journal of Semantics Advanced Access paper.  (From the journal website: "Journal of Semantics aims to be the premier journal in semantics. It covers all areas in the study of meaning, with a focus on formal and experimental methods."  2010 Impact Factor 0.783)


Certain conjunctions convey the meaning of a conditional statement. For instance, the sentence in (1a), which has the form of a simple conjunction, means roughly the same thing as the sentence in (1b), which has the form of an if-conditional. Such sentences are called conditional conjunctions (CCs):

  • (1) a. You eat too many carrots, and your skin will turn orange.

  • b. If you eat too many carrots, your skin will turn orange.

The most in-depth analyses of this phenomenon have argued that it is a case of systematic ambiguity, where the word and found in CCs has a different meaning from its normal one (Culicover & Jackendoff 1997; Klinedinst & Rothschild 2012). In this paper, I will instead pursue an analysis that does not assume two meanings for and but rather treats CCs as structures where a modal or adverb of quantification takes scope over an otherwise standard conjunction, as sketched in (2), the structure I propose for (1a) above. I argue that the special CC meaning arises when this modal element is focus-sensitive and thus allows the unfocussed portion of the sentence to join its restriction. For the structure in (2), the unfocussed portion of the sentence is basically Formula, which joins the restriction of the generic modal, yielding a meaning as follows: ‘Generally, in situations where you eat too many carrots, you eat too many carrots and your skin turns orange.’

  • (2) Graphic