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The Semantics of ‘unless’ Conditionals: Evidence from ‘unless’ and Disjunctive Inferences

  • Juan A. García-Madruga (a1), Nuria Carriedo (a1) and Sergio Moreno-Ríos (a2)


We report the results of an experiment investigating conditional inferences from conditional assertions such as ‘Juan won't go to León unless Nuria goes to Madrid’ and ‘Either Nuria goes to Madrid or Juan won't go to León’. This experiment addresses Dancygier's claims about the semantics of ‘unless’ by examining inferential endorsements of ‘not-A unless B’ and ‘Either B or not-A’ in the canonical order, presenting the categorical premise after the conditional assertions, and in the inverse order, presenting the categorical premise before the conditional assertions. The results of the experiment confirm that the representation of ‘unless’ includes two possibilities, although as Dancygier holds one of the possibilities may not be complete. The implications of the results are discussed in the context of the strategic nature of conditional reasoning and recent convergent theories of linguistic processing.

Se presentan los resultados de un experimento en el que se investigaron las inferencias realizadas a partir de enunciados condicionales como ‘Juan no irá a León a menos que Nuria vaya Madrid’ y ‘O Nuria va a Madrid o Juan no irá a León’. En este experimento se abordan las concepciones de Dancygier sobre la semántica de ‘a menos que’ mediante el estudio de las inferencias que se extraen de ‘no-A a menos que B’ y de ‘o B o no-A’, en el orden canónico, al presentar la premisa categórica después de la afirmación condicional; y en el orden inverso, presentando la premisa categórica antes que la afirmación condicional. Los resultados confirman que la representación de ‘a menos que’ incluye dos posibilidades aunque, como Dancygier sostiene, una de las posibilidades puede no ser completa. Las implicaciones de los resultados se discuten en el contexto de la naturaleza estratégica del razonamiento condicional y de las teorías convergentes recientes sobre el procesamiento lingüístico.


Corresponding author

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Juan. A. García Madruga. Departamento de Psicología Evolutiva y de la Educación, UNED – 28040, Madrid. (Spain). Phone: +34-913986259. Fax: +34-913987951. E-mail:


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The Semantics of ‘unless’ Conditionals: Evidence from ‘unless’ and Disjunctive Inferences

  • Juan A. García-Madruga (a1), Nuria Carriedo (a1) and Sergio Moreno-Ríos (a2)


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