Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

18.1: Introduction

  • Page ID
    138724
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    In this chapter we explore the meaning of the conjunction because by asking what contribution it makes to the meaning of a sentence. Because is used to connect two propositions, so its contribution to the meaning of the sentence will be found in the semantic relationship between those two propositions.

    We begin in §18.2 by comparing reason clauses introduced by because with time clauses introduced by when. Time clauses function as adverbial modifiers, but we will argue that because has a different function: it combines two propositions into a new proposition which asserts that a causal relationship exists. An important piece of evidence for this analysis comes from certain scope ambiguities which arise in because clauses but not in time clauses.

    Conjunctions are often polysemous,1 and various authors have noted that because can be used in more than one way. We examine the various uses of because in §18.3, but we will argue that because is not polysemous. Rather, it has just one sense which can be used in different domains, or dimensions, of meaning: truth-conditional vs. use-conditional. The term pragmatic ambiguity has been proposed to describe such cases, and this term seems appropriate based on the evidence presented below.

    In §18.4 we will see that the various uses of because correlate with different syntactic structures. We will propose diagnostic tests for distinguishing co-ordinate from subordinate because clauses. We argue that all of the semantic functions of because are possible in the co-ordinate structure, but only one function is possible in the subordinate structure. In §18.5 we show that a similar situation holds in German, where the difference between co-ordinate and subordinate structures is clearly marked.


    1 Aikhenvald (2009).


    This page titled 18.1: Introduction is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Paul Kroeger (Language Library Press) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

    • Was this article helpful?