May 29, 2012
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 , 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.’