The underlying conditionality of conditionals which do not use 'if'

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In addressing a question at the semantics-pragmatics interface of how conditionals in English should be categorised, this paper addresses the underlying question: what is a conditional? Conditionals in English are very often associated with the canonical pattern ‘if p then q’. But while the word 'if' provides a simple function to aid us in expressing our conditional thought, it goes without saying that conditional thought does not go hand in hand with the single word 'if'. This paper explores some of the ways that conditionals may be expressed in English without using if by presenting observations obtained from the International Corpus of English (ICE-GB) combined with results from previous empirical studies (e.g. Declerck & Reed 2001). In doing so, this paper considers the question what exactly it is to be a conditional, proposing some criteria to guide the categorisation of conditional expressions. In turn, this paper aims to shed some light as to why conditionals using 'if' are so often focussed upon.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

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


  • pragmatics
  • conditionals

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