Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 221–264 | Cite as

When aspect matters: the case of would-conditionals



Differences in the interpretation of would-conditionals with simple (perfective) and perfect antecedent clauses are marked enough to discourage a unified view. However, this paper presents a unified, Lewis–Stalnaker style semantics for the modal in such constructions. Differences in the interpretation of the conditionals are derived from the interaction between the interpretation of different types of aspect and the modal. The paper makes a distinction between perfective and perfect aspect in terms of whether they make reference to or quantify over Lewis-style events. In making reference to Lewis-events, perfective aspect is shown to be incompatible with counterfactual would-conditionals. The so-called ‘epistemic flavor’ of perfective conditionals about the future is derived from the use of diagonalization as an interpretive strategy called upon to resolve reference.


Conditionals Counterfactuals Tense Aspect Modality 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linguistics DepartmentUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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