Discourse anaphoric otherwise: Information structure & modal subordination
Josh Phillips, Hadas Kotek
September 2020

This paper provides a formal semantic/pragmatic analysis of the interpretation and meaning contribution of the English discourse anaphor otherwise. Otherwise is modeled as a discourse move (in the sense of Roberts 2012) which encodes an instruction to consider the complement of a set of worlds computed based on the clause preceding otherwise. Following Webber et al. (2001) and other authors, we take as key the observation that the identity of the antecedent to otherwise cannot be determined by the syntax alone. Instead, we argue that the antecedent is accommodated from the pronounced utterance preceding otherwise and can be furnished by any of the propositions (sc. sets of worlds) that serve to restrict the context set of this utterance, deploying Roberts’s modal subordination framework in order to account for this. We appeal to information structural notions, and in particular to the current Question under Discussion, in determining the nature of the antecedent. We propose a dynamic semantic/pragmatic analysis of otherwise in order to model both its flexible distribution, including a previously unnoticed new reading, as well as previously unobserved limitations on its use.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004800
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: manuscript (comments welcome!)
keywords: pragmatics, conditionals, modality, dynamic semantics, information structure, modal subordination, discourse anaphor, question under discussion, otherwise, semantics
previous versions: v1 [September 2019]
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