Causal selection – the linguistic take

Elitzur Avraham Bar-Asher Siegal, Noa Bassel, York Hagmayer


Causal Selection is a widely discussed topic in philosophy and the cognitive sciences, concerned with characterizing the choice of "the cause" among the many individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions on which any effect depends on. In this paper, we argue for an additional selection process underlying causal statements: Causative-Construction Selection, which pertains to the choice of linguistic constructions used to express causal relations. By exploring this phenomenon, we aim to answer the following question: given that a speaker wishes to describe the relation between one of the conditions and the effect, which linguistic constructions are available? We take CC-selection to be more crucial than causal selection, since the latter is in fact restricted by the linguistic options resulting from the former. Based on a series of experiments, we demonstrate that factors taken previously as contributing to causal selection should, in fact, be considered as the parameters that license the various linguistic constructions under given circumstances, based on previous knowledge about the causal structure of the world (the causal model). These factors are therefore part of the meaning of the causative expressions.


Causation; Causal selection; Causative-construction selection; lexical semantics; causal reasoning

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