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Topics as Speech Acts: An Analysis of Conditionals
Christian Ebert, Cornelia Endriss, and Stefan Hinterwimmer
132-140 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


In this paper it is shown that syntactic similarities and differences between normal indicative conditionals and biscuit conditionals with fronted antecedents correspond to syntactic similarities and differences between two kinds of topic marking constructions: aboutness topic marking via German Left Dislocation, on the one hand, and the marking of frame setting topics via Hanging Topic Left Dislocation, on the other. From this it is concluded that the fronted antecedents of indicative conditionals are aboutness topics, while the fronted antecedents of biscuit conditionals are frame setting topics. The semantic and pragmatic contributions of the respective conditionals are derived by extending the approach in Endriss (to appear) on aboutness topicality in general and Endriss and Hinterwimmer (to appear) on GLD in particular and combining it with the approach to indicative conditionals of Schlenker (2004). It is argued that in GLD as well as in HTLD a separate speech act of topic establishment is combined with an act of assertion, the differences between the two constructions being due to the following fact: only in the case of GLD is it ensured that what is asserted is directly predicated of the respective topical referent. In the case of HTLD, in contrast, the two speech acts only need to stand in a relation of relevance to each other. The only thing that is special about the cases where if-clauses function as aboutness and frame setting topics is that the topical referents are possible worlds instead of individuals (cf. Bittner, 2001).

Published in

Proceedings of the 27th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Natasha Abner and Jason Bishop
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00