Fake Perfect in X-marked Conditionals

Katrin Schulz


The topic of this paper is a problem concerning the interpretation of tense in conditionals: Fake Tense. Fake Tense refers to the observation that in English subjunctive conditionals the Simple Past, and sometimes also the Past Perfect, appear not to be interpreted as semantic past tense or past perfect. We will focus in particular on the function of the perfect in conditionals with fake past perfect. Two different lines of approach to fake tense can be distinguished in the literature: past-as-modal approaches (PaM) claim that the past tense markers receive in these contexts a modal interpretation; past-as-past approaches (PaP) propose that the past still receives a temporal interpretation, though it contributes in an unexpected way to the meaning of the sentences. We will first spell out a PaM approach based on a idea in Schulz (2014) and then argue that this approach is not convincing. This will be partly done based on two empirical studies concerning the form of generic counterfactuals/counterpossibles. We will then propose a PaP approach to fake perfect. This approach will build on an interventionist account of counterfactuals using causal structural models  (Pearl 2000, 2013).

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/salt.v27i0.4149