UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 8 (1996)

A relevance-theoretic account of metarepresentative uses in conditionals



The purpose of this paper is to give a relevance-theoretic account of certain 'non-basic' indicative conditionals. There has been a claim (e.g. Grice 1989) that natural language if is semantically identical with material implication in logic. This approach runs into some problems, one of which is that some natural-language conditionals do not appear to involve the required truth-functional relation between antecedent and consequent. I attempt to show that the relevance-theoretic notions of metarepresentation and pragmatic enrichment (Carston 1988, Wilson and Sperber 1992) allow us to preserve the view that if is equivalent to material implication.

[PDF file]