Classifying conditionals: The case of metalinguistic 'if you like'

Research output: Working paper

13 Downloads (Pure)


It is agreed that metalinguistic ‘if you like’ puts some aspect of communication into metalinguistic focus, serving the pragmatic function of commenting upon the appropriateness of the words uttered, but there is little consensus as to whether metalinguistic ‘if you like’ introduces a conditional. By taking observations from the International Corpus of English, this paper aims to show that utterances using metalinguistic ‘if you like’ belong in the class of conditional expressions. This is achieved by proposing pragmatic criteria to guide the categorisation of conditional expressions, where conditionality is not inherently linked to truth-conditional content. Next, this paper argues that ‘if you like’ can be classed in the broad category of speechact
conditionals, where it is not the truth of the if-clause that provides the situations of truth of the main clause, but rather where the if-clause refers to the situations where the main clause is felicitously used. Finally, by utilising the semantic contextualist framework of Default Semantics (Jaszczolt 2010), this paper shows that ‘if you like’ is comparable to other if-clauses which
overtly invoke a metalinguistic sense in a full phrase. In sum, this paper takes the case of ‘if you like’ as a case study in re-conceptualising the class of conditionals and truth-conditional content.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameCambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics
ISSN (Print)2050-5949
ISSN (Electronic)7


  • conditionals
  • pragmatics
  • if you like

Cite this