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Conditionals and mental space set-up

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Abstract

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 &amp; Sweetser, 2005; Declerck &amp; 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 <i>wenn</i> &#8216;if&#8217;-initial conditionals. The findings raise doubts about the hypothesized correlation of the construction&#8217;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 <i>if</i>-clause (<i>P</i>) is the sole space where the apodosis (<i>Q</i>) holds and that in all other spaces, ~ <i>Q</i> would take <i>Q</i>&#8217;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.

References

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