From epistemic modality to concessivity: alternatives and pragmatic reasoning per absurdum
Laura Baranzini, Alda Mari
August 2019

There is an unnoticed parallelism between what has been called the concessive future in the literature on some Romance languages, and what has been labeled ‘speech act modality’ (He may be a university professor, but he sure is dumb; Sweetser, 1990: 70) in the literature on English modals. In these parallel literatures, the idea is advanced that the future tense and the English modals may/might are concessive in that they ‘concede’ to the addressee that p is true and they thus convey ‘distancing’. Establishing a connection with irrelevance conditionals, we propose a different unified view of these phenomena cross-linguistically, which grounds in the existential epistemic modal semantics of both the future tense in Ital- ian and the epistemic modal in English (and French peut-être) their capacity of enhancing a concessive interpretation in discourse and in particular in an adversative construction. We capitalize on their alternative semantics, as well as on the interaction between the alternatives and the adversative, and propose an account in which distancing is the prag- matic counterpart of the dismissal of a premise that leads to an inconsistency in a pragmatic reasoning per absurdum. We will spell out a variety of pragmatic effects, which have been previously gathered under the label ‘distancing’ and which correspond, in our analysis, to different strategies to repair the absurdum.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004724
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Journal of Pragmatics
keywords: concessivity, epistemic modality, future, speech-act modality, irrelevance conditionals, reasoning per absurdum., semantics
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