On the similarity between unless and only-if-not


  • Ekaterina Vostrikova


This paper discusses the semantics of unless-conditionals and compares them to only-if-not-conditionals. I propose that the meaning of unless-conditionals can be derived from the same ingredients as the meaning of only-if-not-conditionals: a negative conditional (where conditionals are understood as restrictors on quantifier domains as in the Kratzer-Lewis tradition) and an exhaustifier that, like only, negates all of the focus alternatives for a modal claim built by substitution of the element marked with focus with other elements of the same semantic type (but unlike only also asserts its prejacent). I propose that the two constructions are similar in the following sense. First, in both cases a negative conditional and the exhaustifier are separated syntactically. Secondly, focus alternatives are constructed in the same way: a set of focus alternatives for a proposition denoted by an if-clause (or a complement of unless) includes any other possible proposition. I suggest that this way of constructing alternatives resolves a long-standing puzzle about only with conditionals: it allows us to derive the right interpretation for only with conditionals in a compositional manner without making any special assumptions about the nature of the covert modal.


How to Cite

Vostrikova, E. (2019). On the similarity between unless and only-if-not. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 21(2), 1271–1288. Retrieved from https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/sub/index.php/sub/article/view/198