Chapter published in:Re-Assessing Modalising Expressions: Categories, co-text, and context
Edited by Pascal Hohaus and Rainer Schulze
[Studies in Language Companion Series 216] 2020
► pp. 141–172
Conditionals, modality, and Schrödinger’s cat
Conditionals as a family of linguistic qubits
An intriguing characteristic of conditionals is that they are modally dense constructions, without being modal markers themselves. This chapter will examine the modal nature of conditionals through the lens of construction grammar. It will be argued that the main utility of conditionals does not lie in pairing conditions with consequents, nor in establishing the factuality or actualisation of conditions and consequents, but in leaving issues of factuality or actualisation unresolved. The chapter proposes that conditional constructions are better regarded as environments of indeterminacy, in that they modalise what is communicated through them. More precisely it will be argued that conditionals can be usefully treated as the linguistic equivalent of quantum bits (qubits). The chapter will also discuss the characteristics that define the family of conditional constructions, and those differentiating between family members.
Keywords: conditionals, modality, corpus linguistics, construction grammar, qubits
Published online: 12 November 2020
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