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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: September 2009

7 - Clause order and space building: if, because, unless, and except if


“I couldn't possibly guarantee your safety, or the safety of the school. Unless …”

“Unless what?” Morrell said sharply when I didn't finish the sentence.

“Unless I get Baladine to come to me first.”

(SP. HT.454)


We have seen that conditionals of even the most standard form are capable of setting up a varied array of mental spaces, and carrying out a broad range of communicative functions. If can introduce patterns of reasoning at different levels (e.g., predictive, epistemic, or metalinguistic); it can build epistemically distanced or non-distanced or neutral spaces; and those spaces can then be referred to deictically. A broad range of verb forms can be used, giving more specific meanings to conditional space structures. However, there are further features of specific set-up that need to be explored. Primary among these is the interaction between clause order and conditional interpretation, which is one of the central themes of this chapter.

The rest of this book extends our analysis of conditional constructions in two directions. First, we will complete our survey of the effects of linguistic form on conditional space building. And second, we will examine how dedicated “conditional” constructions (such as if-conditionals) differ from, and how they are similar to, other constructions which can express conditionality. We are here equally interested in overarching generalizations about formal expressions of conditionality, and in revealing the motivations for functional overlap and non-overlap between forms which share some functional territory.

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Mental Spaces in Grammar
  • Online ISBN: 9780511486760
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