Reporting conditionals with modals

Sztencel, Magdalena and Duffy, Sarah (2019) Reporting conditionals with modals. In: Indirect Reports and Pragmatics in the World Languages. Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology (19). Springer, Cham, pp. 201-226. ISBN 9783319787701, 9783319787718

Sztencel, Duffy - Reporting conditionals with modals AAM.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (1MB) | Preview
Official URL:


Conditionals and modals work in tandem in some instances of practical reasoning, or decision making. Consider the following example (from Kratzer 2012):
a. I want to become a mayor.
b. (q) I will become a mayor only if (p) I go to the pub.
c. Therefore, I should go to the pub.
Given what the cogniser wants (a) and the relevant circumstances (b), the conclusion that the cogniser goes to the pub comes out as necessary. Hence, the presence of the necessity modal should in (c). Indeed, given the context of (a), the necessity modal in (c) is simply a reflection of the necessity of p for q, which is overtly represented by the use of the ‘only if p, q’ construction. This chapter looks into whether indirect reports of conditionals – in particular, indirect reports which involve the use of a modal verb – are sensitive to the necessity of p for q in cases where necessity is not overtly represented in a conditional, as in ‘if p, q’ formulations.
We report on two online experiments into the relation between (i) perceived necessity or sufficiency of the truth of a conditional antecedent for the truth of the consequent, and (ii) the formulation of an indirect report of a conditional with necessity or possibility modals (have to, should, could). In Experiment 1, the ‘necessity/sufficiency of p for q’ variable was manipulated by contextually altering the number of alternative antecedents (e.g. Cummins et al. 1991; Thompson 1994; Politzer 2003). It was found that modals used in indirect reports of ‘if p, q’ conditionals co-vary with the number of alternative antecedents in predictable ways. This suggests that modals used in indirect reports of ‘if p, q’ conditionals may be a diagnostic for biconditional versus material interpretations of conditionals. The aim of Experiment 2 was to find out whether the results of Experiment 1 could be replicated in contexts which lower/eliminate the believability of the conditionals. It was found that manipulating the believability variable has no reliable effect on the results.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Conditionals, biconditional interpretation, material interpretation, modals, indirect reports, alternative antecedents, relevant circumstances, believability of conditionals
Subjects: Q100 Linguistics
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 14 May 2018 15:28
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 19:34

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics