Contrasting contrastive approaches
  • ISSN 1387-6759
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9897
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The present paper contrasts verb-first (V1-) conditionals in written usage in present-day English and German. Based on the hypothesis that V1-protases originated in independent interrogatives and then grammaticalized as conditional subordinate clauses in an asynchronous fashion in both languages, we use data from the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Deutsches Referenzkorpus (DeReKo) to investigate the lexical overlap of V1-protases with interrogatives and their functional overlap with ‘if-/wenn’-conditionals. The results show, inter alia, that English V1-conditionals are highly divergent from polar interrogatives and occupy a functional niche with respect to ‘if-’conditionals, with their German counterparts showing more transitional characteristics in both respects; they also suggest a special role for V1-protases with ‘should/sollte’ in expressing a subtype of neutral, rather than tentative, conditionality. Finally, prospects are discussed for future research regarding possible synchronic (i.e. discourse-functional) and diachronic (i.e. systemic) motivations for the differences and similarities observed between V1-conditionals in the two present-day languages.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): conditionals; English/German; grammaticalization; interrogatives; verb-first
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