March 12, 2004

If You Want To Get To Sugar Hill in Harlem

[UPDATE: I'm planning to blog more on this subject: one, two, three new posts.]

Kai von Fintel blogs a draft paper (by himself and Sabine Iatridou) on anankastic conditionals. These are conditionals of the form "If you want A, you must/ought to do B," where B is the means to attaining A. So in the following pair:

(1) If you want to go to Paris in August, you must book a flight

(2) If you want to go to Paris in August, you must see a psychiatrist

(1) is anankastic but (2) is not. (1) can be paraphrased:

(3) If you do not book a flight, you will not [be able to] go to Paris in August.

(2) cannot be paraphrased:

(4) If you do not see a psychiatrist, you will not [be able to] go to Paris in August;

rather it has the more straightforwardly conditional interpretation, "If you have this desire, you must do this thing" (in this case, because the desire indicates ill-health).

von Fintel and Iatridou come up with several anankastic conditionals that do not involve "want." I think I can come up with one that's not even conditional:

(5) Utah students with ambitions in politics should run for student government.

You may think that (5) has the anankastic reading that running for student government would be facilitate careers in politics. Actually, I intend a non-anankastic reading; such students should run for student government because it'll cure those ambitions, if it's not already too late.

Anyway, Kai and Sabine's paper is interesting, and I hope to blog a lot about it in coming days.

Posted by Matt Weiner at March 12, 2004 01:33 PM