26 April 2006

If p then q

Ah, finally.

There are only four more days left of school, without counting the exam days. Since I do not have any exams in the finals week, I don't bother.

And yes, finally, my Semantics paper is crystallising. I started writing the Introduction this morning, and I have borrowed several books from the library for my References. So far, two pages.

I am writing on the temporal relations and Aktionsart variations in Tagalog conditionals. Simply said, I am investigating the different patterns of time relations that hold between the two clauses of the conditional construction. The conditional construction has two components, which can be analysed semantically and syntactically.

Syntactically, the conditional construction can be divided into the main clause and the dependent clause. The dependent clause, in English, is the clause that is marked with if. So in the sentence If it rains, I will stay at home, the first part is the dependent clause, while the second part is the main clause. It is called the main clause because it can stand alone, even without the existence of the first clause. While the dependent clause cannot be uttered by itself.

Semantically, the conditional construction is divided into the protasis and the apodosis. The protasis is the part that corresponds to p, while the apodosis is the part that corresponds to q. The protasis is the independent states of affairs, while the truth value of the apodosis depends on the protasis. In this way, one can see a mismatch of the dependency relations: in the syntax, the dependent clause is subordinate the main clause, but in semantics, the dependent clause which corresponds to the protasis is independent semantically, compared to the apodosis, which is the main clause.

Usually, most of the conditional constructions are such that p happens before q. This is because the truth value of q is dependent on p. In the example I gave above, the event of raining happens before the event of staying at home. That is just how human reasoning works. However, there are some circumstances in which the reverse holds. An example is If it amuses you, I will tell you a joke. Obviously, the event of being amused will only happen after the event of telling a joke. Another example is If the door is open, the prisoner must have escaped. This is an example of abductive reasoning, which is inference to the best explanation.

What I am trying to investigate is what are the factors that might influence the different patterns of temporal relations that one sees in these conditional constructions. If one varies the Aktionsart of the verbs, would the reversal of temporal order be felicitous or not? If one varies the tense and aspect of the verbs, would it still hold? These are the questions that I would be asking and answering for the remainder of the week.


  1. these are very interesting reads from you. only from a linguist! how in the world will i think in these lines, but you stirred my mind here.

    good one LIW!

  2. Hi!bloghopping from Ria`s site.

    informative and educational blog you have..

    carry on!