Reverse sobel sequences and the dissimilarity of antecedent worlds

  • David Krassnig


We have conducted an acceptability judgement experiment to examine two hypotheses related to the felicity of reverse Sobel sequences (rSS). The first hypothesis was based upon Lewis’ (2018) relevance-based variably-strict semantics: If two rSS are identical except for their respective difference in dissimilarity between their antecedent worlds, then the rSS with a higher degree of dissimilarity should be, on average, more acceptable. Our results, however, seem to support this hypothesis only weakly and appear more contradictory than supportive to the model behind it: Any kind of clear-cut dissimilarity will render an rSS felicitous, so long as its conditionals are counterfactual by nature. The second hypothesis, that rSS whose domains of quantification are entirely disjoint should be just as acceptable as regular utterances, was quasi-confirmed. Whilst a significant difference to the control items was found, these rSS differ only minimally in average acceptability and are the highest rated rSS so far. We therefore explain the slight, statistically significant decrease in acceptability as a result of the markedness of rSS structures. Finally, we provide two analyses to account for the data gathered. First, one modification of Lewis’ (2018) account, where we argue that relevance may not increase closeness beyond the levels set forth by worlds similarity. Then, with the second account, we attempt to motivate the need for and the pragmatic contribution of contrastive stress with regards to rSS, using Ebert et al.’s (2008) assumption that antecedents represent their conditional’s aboutness topic – thereby deriving contrastive topic with regard to the two sets of antecedent worlds.
How to Cite
Krassnig, D. (2020). Reverse sobel sequences and the dissimilarity of antecedent worlds. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 24(1), 447-463.