, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 219-244
Date: 06 May 2009

What Asymmetric Coordination in German tells us about the syntax and semantics of conditionals

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Abstract

In this paper, I argue on empirical grounds that (VL-initial) Asymmetric Coordination in German cannot be reduced to a syntactic structure of the form [if S1, then S2], but rather needs to be analyzed as some kind of adjunction to the if-clause, i.e., along the lines of [[if S1] and S2]. This conclusion gives rise to an apparent mismatch between syntactic structure (narrow scope of if) and semantic interpretation (wide scope of if). To resolve this paradoxical situation, I propose a compositional semantics for conditionals that is based on the idea that (indexed) if is to be construed as some kind of anaphor (variable) that ranges over objects of type modal base picking up a modal background in the actual context. Even though this analysis assigns a non-vacuous semantics to the complementizer if, it is still compatible with the syntax of Asymmetric Coordination in German, and, in contrast to alternative accounts, avoids the generation of non-existent distributive readings.