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Among the non-standard counterfactuals is a "rhetorical counterfactual" found in the old Japanese literature, which has a different interpretation from the standard counterfactuals. The rhetorical counterfactual was defined as a group of counterfactuals which suggest or assert the strong denial of the consequent by the speaker. The purpose of this study was to investigate the semantics of rhetorical counterfactual conditionals; especially what elicits the rhetorical interpretation. The thesis examined 1)the syntactic and semantic properties of -koso -e construction where the rhetorical counterfactual was found, referring to the descriptive old Japanese grammar, and 2) the logical relation between the antecedent and the consequent of rhetorical counterfactual by applying the definition of necessary/sufficient conditions as defined in logic. It was found that the rhetorical counterfactual is located where 1) the emphatic construction -koso -e is applied to the conditional sentence, and 2) the antecedent of rhetorical counterfactual is a necessary condition. It was concluded that the rhetorical counterfactual of the form "-koso -e" is truth-functionally closest to English counterfactual of the form "only if, would". Another factor that is crucial to the rhetorical reading is the impossibility (unimaginability) of the antecedent. The antecedent is not just false but impossible (unimaginable) proposition. The unimaginable proposition was defined as an accessible proposition such that the speaker believes there is no possible world at which it is true. To conclude, the rhetorical counterfactual is a marked interpretation of the counterfactual of the form "only if, would", which becomes available when the speaker chooses to use unimaginable proposition as its antecedent.
- Linguistics