Metalinguistic conditionals and the role of explicit content

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Abstract

This paper aims to bridge the relationship between metalinguistic 'if you like' as a non-propositional discourse marker and its conditional counterparts. This paper claims that metalinguistic 'if you like' is polysemous between a hedge that denotes the speaker's reduced commitment to some aspect of the main clause, and an optional yet potential conditional reading that interlocutors can legitimately draw on in interaction which is brought about due to the 'if p, q' sentence form. That is, although the metalinguistic reading is most likely obtained automatically by default, it also carries an available conditional reading that is akin to other metalinguistic conditional clauses such as 'if you see what I mean'. Next, a semantic representation of metalinguistic 'if you like' is developed that takes on board a characterization of conditionality that departs from lexico-grammatical conventions, such that conditionals of the form 'if p, q' no longer bear a one-to-one correspondence with 'conditional' truth conditions. Employing a radical contextualist semantic framework in which the unit of truth-conditional analysis is not constrained to the sentence from, utterances employing metalinguistic 'if you like' are given a semantic representation such that the if-clause does not contribute propositional content, yet they also maintain their status as conditionals as the sentence form gives rise to a potential conditional secondary meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1337–1365
JournalLinguistics
Volume57
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • conceptual conditionals
  • explicit content
  • if you like
  • metalinguistic conditionals
  • radical contextualism

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