Article published in:Contexts and Constructions
Edited by Alexander Bergs and Gabriele Diewald
[Constructional Approaches to Language 9] 2009
► pp. 193–212
Conditionals and mental space set-up
Evidence from German word order
Recent studies of conditionals in English have cited putative evidence from German word order in support of the functional distinction between content and speech-act conditionals (Dancygier & Sweetser, 2005; Declerck & Reed, 2001) while counterexamples have largely been ignored. The present study takes a closer look at the syntactic marker in question, namely integrative and non-integrative word order in wenn ‘if’-initial conditionals. The findings raise doubts about the hypothesized correlation of the construction’s syntactic form and the cognitive domain in which it is interpreted. In this paper I explore how clausal integration interacts with mental space construction in conditional speech acts and show that integration does not mark content or predictive conditionality. Rather, clausal integration signals that the if-clause (P) is the sole space where the apodosis (Q) holds and that in all other spaces, ~ Q would take Q’s place. From the perspective of Construction Grammar (CG), the form-function mapping of syntactic integration and contrastivity observed in the German data provides a window on functional distinctions which may exist but are not formally marked in other languages.
Published online: 17 December 2009