We are happy to announce a talk by Frank Sode (University of Frankfurt) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place online. If you want to participate, please register via email to s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de.

Title: Desire reports and conditionals

Date: November 18

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Heim (1992) proposes a semantics for desire reports which “sees a hidden conditional in every desire report.” Since Heim’s proposal doesn’t share many of the short-comings of a Hintikka-semantics for desire reports, it has subsequently been adopted by many authors. Interestingly, the idea of hidden conditionals – “[a]n important feature of this analysis” (Heim, 1992) – has been marginalized, e.g., Portner & Rubinstein (2020); Giannakidou & Mari (2021), or explicitly rejected, e.g., Levinson (2003); Villalta (2008); Lassiter (2011, 2017), in subsequent work.

The connection between desire reports and conditionals has recently received new attention: von Fintel & Iatridou (2017, 2020) observe that in many languages the morphology that is used to mark a conditional as counterfactual features prominently in reports of “unattainable wishes” (von Fintel & Iatridou, 2020). What is puzzling about this “X-marking” (von Fintel & Iatridou, 2020) in desire reports is that the X-marking is only used to mark the object of desire as counterfactual but not the wish itself.

In this talk I will review the data from von Fintel & Iatridou (2017, 2020) and present new data that suggest that the conspiracy between desire reports and conditionals is much broader than von Fintel & Iatridou (2017, 2020) assume and goes beyond X-marking. I will argue that a central notion that may help to make sense of the data is the notion of “complement fulfilling conditionals” introduced by Williams (1974) and discussed in detail in Pesetsky (1991). The connection back to Heim (1992) is that the most promissing way to make sense of “complement fulfilling conditionals” from a semantic point of view is on a Neo-Heimian analysis.