HKUEMS :: Event Details

Philosophy seminar: Thursday, 17 May, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
posted by Department of Philosophy for HKU and Public
Event Type: Public Lecture/Forum/Seminar/Workshop/Conference/Symposium
Event Nature: Culture and Arts

Event Details

As Ifs

Justin Bledin
Johns Hopkins University

As if is a very productive construction. In "manner uses" like (1) and (2), an as if-phrase adjoins a verb phrase containing a dynamic verb V to report/command etc. the manner of V-ing:
(1) Pedro danced as if he were possessed by demons.
(2) Kiss me as if it were the last time. (from Casablanca)
As if-phrases can also serve as the non-optional complement of be and the perceptual verbs seem, appear, look, sound, feel, smell, and taste (Landau's 2011 ``perceptual source verbs"):
(3) It's as if I've known you all my life.
(4) John {seems/appears} as if he's mad at me.
(5) It tastes as if there were an angel peeing on my tongue. (Dutch compliment to the chef)
Furthermore, as if can stand on its own in root "exclamatory uses", and in such cases an as if-phrase conveys the negation of the embedded clause:
(6) As if I have time to answer all these emails! (conveys: I don't have time to answer all these emails)
(7) A: Who is the prime minister of Canada? B: As if I {know/care}. (conveys: I don't {know/care})
Finally, at the limits of isolation, there are "Clueless uses", named after the 1995 romcom with this famous Valley Girl expression of disgust:
(8) (Gross guy making an advance) Cher: Ugh, as if!

In the first part of the talk, I develop a uniform semantics for as if that accounts for both the manner uses and perceptual reports. The full story involves a compositional treatment in a von Stechow & Beck (2015)-style event semantic LF architecture, but I'll just sketch and motivate the basic semantics in a non-technical manner. In the second part of the talk, I'll then argue that exclamatory and Clueless as ifs convey the negations of their complements through a scalar implicature, building on recent work of Goodhue (2017).

Date/Time17/05/2018 16:00-17:30
VenueRoom 1027, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

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Contact Information

Should you have any enquiries, please feel free to contact Dr Jennifer Nado by email at or by phone at 39172796 or by fax at 25598452.