Dissertation · Jos Tellings


My dissertation "Counterfactuality in discourse" (UCLA, June 2016) investigates the effect of discourse on counterfactual inferences in conditionals. I provide novel data that illustrate the focus-sensitivity of counterfactual inferences: in combination with certain focus particles, and when pronounced with certain intonation contours, counterfactual conditionals do not trigger some counterfactual inferences that would otherwise arise. In the analysis I propose, the link between the topic-focus structure of conditionals and the generation of counterfactual inferences lies in the pragmatic phenomenon of conditional perfection (the strengthening of conditionals into biconditionals). The dissertation thus reveals surprising links between three areas in the study of conditionals: (1) the semantics of counterfactual inferences; (2) the pragmatics of conditionals; and (3) topic, intonation and focus particles.