Magdalena Kaufmann | Linguistics Vanguard

Magdalena Kaufmann‘s paper with John Whitman, “Conditional conjunctions informed by Japanese and Korean” has just appeared online ahead of print in Linguistics Vanguard. Congratulations Magda and John!

Abstract: Many languages assign additional conditional interpretations to apparently regular sentential conjunctions (conditional conjunctions, CCs). Following previous ideas (Kaufmann, Magdalena. 2018. Topics in conditional conjunctions. Invited talk at NELS, vol. 49. Cornell University; Starr, Will. 2018. Conjoining imperatives and declaratives. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21. 1159–1176), we provide additional support for the hypothesis that CCs involve topicalized first conjuncts. We argue that Japanese and Korean, which appear to lack CCs, in fact mark them quite transparently. Both languages combine sentential conjunctions with topic markers: Japanese -te=wa (standardly considered one of the language’s conditional connectives) and Korean -ko=nun (occurring naturally, not discussed in the literature). We show that Japanese conditional =to fits into the pattern of CCs as well: it is derived by topicalization of conjunctive =to. Conjunctive =to is normally restricted to NPs, but it can coordinate finite clauses so long as the finite verb does not precede =to (Koizumi, Masatoshi. 2000. String vacuous overt verb raising. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 9(3). 227–285). We argue that this requirement can be met in a topicalized clause carrying default tense; the resultant configuration is the conditional connective =to. Semantically, CCs are known to be more restricted than if-conditionals in not readily realizing epistemic conditionals. The elements -te=wa,=to, and -ko=nun are all subject to exactly this restriction, which we refine to exclude only non-predictive epistemics. Following the transparent structure in Japanese and Korean, we interpret CCs by predicating the regular conjunction distributively of the set of (contextually salient and epistemically accessible) situations described by the topicalized first conjunct. We argue that apparent cases of focus on or within the first conjunct of CCs constitute contrastive topics or corrections.