UConn Ling Lunch: Cleo Condoravdi (Dec. 11, 2012)

Cleo Condoravdi gave an Ling Lunch talk on Dec. 11th.

The title of the talk is “Anankastic Conditionals”.



Anankastic conditionals are conditionals of the form in (1) that express a

necessary-means-of relation between the complement of the desire

predicate in the antecedent and the complement of the modal in the

consequent, e.g., in (1) that taking the A-train is necessary to go to Harlem (in

an optimal way). Conditionals of the same form need not have the

anankastic interpretation, e.g., (2) does not express that trying to think about

something other than eating chocolate is necessary for eating chocolate in an

optimal way, but rather it is used to give advice to the addressee on how to

avoid eating chocolate.


(1) If you want to go to Harlem, you have to/should take the A-train.


(2) If you want to eat chocolate, you should try thinking about

something else.


How does a sentence of the form “If want(p), must(q)” end up conveying a

relationship between p and q? All existing analyses treat either “want” or the

whole antecedent as effectively vacuous. Moreover, the analyses of von

Fintel and Iatridou (2005) and of von Stechow, Krasikova and Penka (2006)

assume that, on the teleological construal, modals have an extra argument,

supplied by the complement of “want”.


We argue that with the correct lexical semantics for “want”, based on the

notion of preference structures in Condoravdi and Lauer (2011), any

peculiarities of anankastic conditionals can be reduced to general properties

of conditionals. Thus, anankastic conditionals are just what they seem to be:

conditional sentences. No special semantics for the modals needs to be

assumed to derive the anankastic

interpretation: It will simply arise when contextual parameters align in the

right way.