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Semantics processing of conditional connectives: German wenn ‘if’ versus nur wenn ‘only if’

  • In this paper, the meaning and processing of the German conditional connectives (CCs) such as wenn ‘if’ and nur wenn ‘only if’ are investigated. In Experiment 1, participants read short scenarios containing a conditional sentence (i.e., If P, Q.) with wenn/nur wenn ‘if/only if’ and a confirmed or negated antecedent (i.e., P/not-P), and subsequently completed the final sentence about Q (with or without negation). In Experiment 2, participants rated the truth or falsity of the consequent Q after reading a conditional sentence with wenn or nur wenn and a confirmed or negated antecedent (i.e., If P, Q. P/not-P. // Therefore, Q?). Both experiments showed that neither wenn nor nur wenn were interpreted as biconditional CCs. Modus Ponens (If P, Q. P. // Therefore, Q) was validated for wenn, whereas it was not validated in the case of nur wenn. While Denial of the Antecedent (If P, Q. not-P. // Therefore, not-Q.) was validated in the case of nur wenn, it was not validated for wenn. The same method was used to test wenn vs. unter der Bedingung, dass ‘on condition that’ in Experiment 3, and wenn vs. vorausgesetzt, dass ‘provided that’ in Experiment 4. Experiment 5, using Affirmation of the Consequent (If P, Q. Q. // Therefore, P.) to test wenn vs. nur wenn replicated the results of Experiment 2. Taken together, the results show that in German, unter der Bedingung, dass is the most likely candidate of biconditional CCs whereas all others are not biconditional. The findings, in particular of nur wenn not being semantically biconditional, are discussed based on available formal analyses of conditionals.

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Author:Mingya LiuORCiDGND, Mathias BarthelORCiD
Parent Title (English):Journal of Psycholinguistic Research
Publisher:Springer Nature
Place of publication:Luxemburg
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2021
Date of Publication (online):2022/04/13
Publishing Institution:Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS)
Tag:German; affirmation of the consequent; biconditional; conditional connectives; denial of the antecedent; modus ponens
GND Keyword:Deutsch; Finalsatz; Konditional; Konditionalsatz; Negation; Semantik; wenn
First Page:1337
Last Page:1368
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Linguistics-Classification:Psycholinguistik / Kognitive Linguistik
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International