Meaning-preserving contraposition of conditionals

Journal of Pragmatics 1 (152):46-60 (2019)
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Abstract

It is argued that contraposition is valid for a class of natural language conditionals, if some modifications are allowed to preserve the meaning of the original conditional. In many cases, implicit temporal indices must be considered, making a change in verb tense necessary. A suitable contrapositive for implicative counterfactual conditionals can also usually be found. In some cases, the addition of certain words is necessary to preserve meaning that is present in the original sentence and would be lost or changed in the contrapositive without them. A distinction is made between adding new meaning and adding new words to preserve existing meaning. For concessive conditionals and relevance conditionals, however, no valid contrapositive can be found. They do not belong to the class of contraposable conditionals, which can be independently defined. Difficult cases are also discussed in which the contradictory of the consequent semantically entails the truth of the antecedent. In such cases the content of the antecedent is implicit in the meaning of the consequent. Contraposition becomes possible if what is implicit in the original consequent is made explicit in the contrapositive antecedent.

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