S-Space Language Education Institute (언어교육원) Language Research (어학연구) Language Research (어학연구) Volume 52 Number 1/3 (2016)
The Semantics of Counterfactual wish
- Song, Mean-Young
- Issue Date
- Language Research, Vol.52 No.2, pp. 171-196
- counterfactual attitudes; de re; de se; modal base; ordering sources; propositional attitudes
- This paper aims at exploring the semantic analysis of counterfactual attitudes like wish in English. Counterfactual wish is rarely discussed in the literature because it is not a main topic in the semantics of propositional attitudes, nor does the standard semantic account of the de re attitudes suffice to provide the semantics of counterfactual wish since it poses a problem when dealing with counterfactual wish on the grounds that the property the attitude holder ascribes to the res cannot be true of the res in the actual world. There are two significant characteristics of counterfactual wish we should consider for its semantic analysis; one is that it is involved in the presupposition that the proposition expressed by the complement clause does not hold in the actual world, and the other is that it is interpreted differently, depending on whether the past tense or the past perfect occurs in the complement clauses. On the basis of them, this paper proposes an alternative approach to its semantics in which the presupposition is incorporated in the ordering source, and the embedded past tense is taken to be modal preterit, along the lines of Palmer (1986) and Schulz (2014). The presupposition plays the role of constituting a set of bouletic accessible worlds that are not compatible with the attitude holder’s beliefs. The modal preterit, on the other hand, functions to exclude the actual world and the speech time from the domain of quantification for counterfactual wish, and the perfect primarily serves to shift an interval backward from the speech time. In this way, we can capture the difference in semantic interpretation by making the possible worlds quantified over by wish-counterfactuals with the past tense different from those quantified over by wish-counterfactuals with the past perfect.