Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
MESSERSCHMIDT, Johanna J.E. and MESSERSCHMIDT, Hans J.. Conditional constructions with "indien" (if), as used in scientific journals (Part 1: Basic constructions). Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.2, pp. 124-141. ISSN 2224-7912.
The Afrikaans subordinate conjunction "indien" (if) is used to introduce a conditional or hypothetical clause or phrase. It is used in a more formal style than "as" (if), another Afrikaans subordinate conjunction with similar meaning. Examples of constructions with "indien" in written language are taken from papers published in accredited scientific journals where Afrikaans is used in a higher function and the papers have been refereed and presumably language edited. Relationships between form and meaning are investigated, keeping in mind that syntactic and semantic categories do not have sharp boundaries. Following Construction Grammar, we accept that not only words and morphemes, but also grammatical constructions on the level of syntax are coupled with semantic and pragmatic aspects of meaning. The role of the conjunction is described using the Mental Spaces Theory of Dancygier and Sweetser. Ten accredited South African scientifi c journals from 2001 onwards were used. This corpus contained 1159 papers and 2009 sentences containing "indien" were identified. The analysis is qualitative, concentrating on the different functions of the conditional, rather than on the frequency of its occurrence. Conditional constructions using "indien" can be divided into two broad classes, i.e. those starting with the subordinate clause, followed by the main clause and those that do not have this order. In the latter constructions the subordinate clause either follows the main clause or is incorporated in it. In this paper (part 1 of a two-part analysis) only those constructions where the conditional clause (the protasis, sometimes designated as p) precedes the main clause (the apodosis, sometimes designated as q) are analysed. The constructions with the reverse order will be discussed in part 2. The order (p,q) is described in the literature as the "natural", "normal" or "prototypical" form. We prefer the term "basic", because the terms mentioned above imply certain usage frequencies. A construction is termed basic if: (1) both the subordinate clause and the main clause are complete sentences; (2) the conjunction "indien" is explicitly stated; (3) the clause order is (p,q), i.e. the subordinate clause precedes the main clause and (4) the clauses are bound hypotactically. Conditional constructions can be further classified according to several parameters. Among these are the probability of the state of affairs in the protasis, syntactic pattern and tenses, the type of mental space being built and the binding between the protasis and apodosis. This paper uses the probability of the state of affairs in the protasis, ranging from factuality to non-factuality. Using the parameter, "indien" mentioned above, constructions are classified as: • Reports on state of affairs in the past This type of construction is nearest to the factual pole of the continuum. The verbs of both clauses are in the past tense and reference is made to the results of a research process that is already completed. Similarities with the narrative use of the temporal conjunction "wanneer" (when) are noted. • Assertions in present tense form In this wide category several sub-categories are distinguished: These sub-categories share the same verb tense pattern, i.e. present - present. Despite the verb tenses the events are not necessarily linked to the present. A generic time is expressed. The subcategories include Definitions; Advice, regulations and prescriptions; Possibilities; Explanations and inferences in an epistemic space; Logical consequences; and Scientific communications. Rare cases of an exception to the verb pattern were noted with inferences in an epistemic space where the combination present - past was noted for back reasoning. This type of conditional is not included in the calculus of Xrakovskij. • Predictive statements In this category the subordinate clause with "indien" constructs a mental space in which a prediction is made, expressed by the main clause. The state of affairs in both clauses is further from factuality. Not only has the state of affairs in the apodosis not yet materialised, but neither has the state of affairs in the protasis. The verb pattern is present - future, where a present form stands for a future event, a situation which is known as "tense backshifting". The sub-categories include Predictions and Suggestions, plans and intentions. • Hypothetical statements Different degrees of improbability can be expressed in the protasis and apodosis. Several examples are given ranging from plausible to downright false. Combinations of past tense verb forms are used in both clauses with "sou" (would), the past tense of "sal" (will), figuring most prominently. A different type of usage is found when "indien" is used with questions and commands in the apodosis. There is a correlate "dan" (then) that is often used with "indien". "Dan" is mostly used as an anaphoric adverb to refer back to the protasis. Usage of "dan" improves readability and refocuses the reader on the protasis in the case of complex sentences. The paper concludes that the probability of the state of affairs in the protasis is an effective parameter for the classification of "indien" constructions. Through the usage of examples from actual published papers unexpected constructions were discovered that are not covered in the calculus of Xrakovskij and not often found in the examples of other authors.
Keywords : indien (if); conditional construction; basic indien constructions; scientific language; Mental Spaces Theory; mental space; protasis-apodosis order; probabilistic continuum.