Rhetorical interpretation of counterfactuals

Kyoko Sano


This article examines what I call a “rhetorical” interpretation of counterfactual conditionals. The standard interpretation of counterfactual conditionals implies that “there is a possibility that such and such proposition would/might be true.  The rhetorical reading of counterfactual conditionals implies that “such and such proposition would NEVER be true.” The subjunctive conditional with a rhetorical interpretation will be called “rhetorical counterfactual.” The examples of rhetorical counterfactuals are found in the emphatic construction (“koso –e construction”) in Early Japanese. I argue that rhetorical counterfactuals are best represented by the semantics of the logical connective only-if, and that the rhetorical reading results from the rhetorical implication that the antecedent is not going to be true with respect to what the speaker considers “conceivable.” 


counterfactuals; rhetorical; only-if

Full Text:


Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria