Causal semantics for implicative verbs
Prerna Nadathur
September 2022

Implicative verbs ("manage", "dare") are characterized by a pattern of complement inferences (Karttunen 1971). English "manage" entails its complement; the entailment reverses polarity with matrix negation, and is accompanied in both cases by a projective inference to the complement’s non-triviality (Coleman 1975; Karttunen & Peters 1979). I draw on data from Finnish and English to argue that the implicative inferential profile is derived from backgrounded relations of causal necessity and causal sufficiency (defined with respect to the structure of a formal causal model; Pearl 2000; Schulz 2011) which link the lexical content of an implicative verb to the realization of its complement. The proposal builds on Baglini & Francez’s (2016) causal analysis of "manage", but significantly revises the earlier proposal to offer a treatment which accounts not only for English "manage", but extends to the lexical semantics of the full implicative class, including 'polarity-reversing' verbs like "fail", lexically-specific verbs like "dare", and their Finnish counterparts. Unlike earlier analyses, the proposed causal semantics also provides a natural explanation of the commonalities between two-way entailing verbs like "manage" and a related class of weaker 'one-way' implicatives such as Finnish "jaksaa" ('have the strength'), which entail complement truth values under only one matrix polarity, but generate strong pragmatic implicatures in the two-way implicative pattern under the non-entailing polarity.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006510
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: submitted
keywords: implicatives, manage, finnish, causal dependence, causal models, causal necessity, causal sufficiency, semantics
previous versions: v1 [February 2022]
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