Journal of Semantics 9 (4):307-331 (1992)

The traditional view on simple sentences in subjunctive mood regards them as a kind of counterfactual conditional with a missing antecedent. This paper discusses the nature of these unexpressed antecedents by relating such sentences to corresponding sentences in indicative mood and full counterfactual conditionals. Usually it is assumed that context is the main source for retrieving these unexpressed conditions. It is shown here that they can also be considered as presupposition-like entities induced by the semantic content of the simple subjunctive sentence itself. Subjunctive sentences also raise problems for standard assumptions of how the meanings of expressions contribute to sentence meaning. For in simple subjunctive sentences sentential constituents can play a different role from that in indicative sentences: in subjunctives they must be interpreted as contributing to the unexpressed antecedent of the underlying conditional rather than to the consequent. Finally, a representation for simple subjunctive sentences as conditionals in Discourse Representation Theory is proposed together with a mechanism for deriving the antecedents of these conditionals from the content of the sentence. The mechanism accounts for the different roles of the constituents in simple indicative and subjunctive sentences without requiring special syntactic-semantic rules
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DOI 10.1093/jos/9.4.307
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