“If”, “Unless”, and Quantification

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

17 Scopus citations


Higginbotham (1986) argues that conditionals embedded under quantifiers (as in ‘no student will succeed if they goof off') constitute a counterexample to the thesis that natural language is semantically compositional. More recently, Higginbotham (2003) and von Fintel and Iatridou (2002) have suggested that compositionality can be upheld, but only if we assume the validity of the principle of Conditional Excluded Middle. I argue that these authors' proposals deliver unsatisfactory results for conditionals that, at least intuitively, do not appear to obey Conditional Excluded Middle. Further, there is no natural way to extend their accounts to conditionals containing ‘unless'. I propose instead an account that takes both ‘if' and ‘unless' statements to restrict the quantifiers in whose scope they occur, while also contributing a covert modal element to the semantics. In providing this account, I also offer a semantics for unquantified statements containing ‘unless'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStudies in Linguistics and Philosophy
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in Linguistics and Philosophy
ISSN (Print)0924-4662
ISSN (Electronic)2215-034X

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy


  • compositionality
  • Conditionals
  • modality
  • quantification
  • ‘unless'


Dive into the research topics of '“If”, “Unless”, and Quantification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this