0.1 Research Background
This research focuses on the construction of counterfactuality inEnglish conditionals and the motivations of the interpretation ofcounterfactuality. The author chooses the topic of this thesis due to thefollowing reasons:First, cognitive linguists hold that language is systematicallygrounded in human cognition and that linguistic meaning is themanifestation of conceptual structure. What's more, they believe thatwords and other linguistic units are only 'prompts' for the construction ofmeaning. According to this view, meaning is constructed at theconceptual level: meaning construction is equated with conceptualization,a dynamic process whereby linguistic units serve as prompts for an arrayof conceptual operations and the recruitment of background knowledge.Counterfactual thinking is an important cognitive way of human beings toreason about the results of the alternative situations which are assumed tobe contrary to the fact. For example, if your car breaks down and you arelate, you might think that you would have been on time if you had had thecar serviced or if you had taken the bus. It is very pervasive in people'sdaily life. The result of our conceptualization of counterfactual thinking isto emerge the meaning of counterfactuality. According to ConceptualBlending Theory, the detailed process of diis conceptualization is to lookfor the mappings from the partial aspects of the real input space onto thecounterfactual space.
0.2 Research Questions
The research mainly concerns the construction of counterfactualityand the motivations for such interpretation of counterfactuality in Englishconditionals. It will specifically answer the following questions.
1. How many types of counterfactuality are there in Englishconditionals?
2. Are different types of counterfactuality expressed in differentforms of English conditionals?
3. How each type of counterfactuality in English conditionals isconstructed? What are their pragmatic functions in context?
Chapter 1 Literature Review
1.1 Previous Studies of Counterfactuality in English Conditionals
Previous studies of counterfactuality in English conditionals mainlyfall into two types: philosophical point of view and linguistic point ofview. Before linguistics formally became a scientific discipline, themeanings of words and sentences were studied by philosophers. As aresult, the philosophical point of view on meaning imposes greatinfluence on the linguistic point of view. In this section, we first make areview of philosophical studies of counterfactuality. Different scholarsrespectively have their own perspectives and emphases, and we can findtheir research achievements in academic works. Philosophers have long been fascinated by counterfactuals. NelsonGoodman's Problem of Counterfactual Conditionals (1947) might be theearliest work of counterfactual conditionals. In his work, Goodmanargues that "the analysis of counterfactual conditionals is no fussy littlegrammatical exercise. Indeed, if we lacked the means for interpretingcounterfactual conditionals we could hardly claim to have any adequatephilosophy of science." His study on counterfactual conditionals is on thebasis of analytic philosophy. Nelson Goodman pointed out that theproblem of counterfactuals is equally a problem of factual conditionals,for any counterfactual can be transposed into a conditional with a trueantecedent and consequent. He proposes that a counterfactual is true if acertain connection obtains between the antecedent and consequent. Forhim, there are two major problems of counterfactual conditionals.
1.2 Comments on the Previous Studies of Counterfactualityin English Conditionals
From the literature review in the previous section，we can see that sofar a lot of researches have been done on counterfactuals both at homeand abroad; and that prominent achievements have been made in theprevious studies. However, at the same time we can also find that t