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The Information Status of English If-clauses in Natural Discourse

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Authors
Lee, Chang-Bong
Issue Date
2001-09
Publisher
서울대학교 언어교육원
Citation
어학연구, Vol.37 No.3, pp. 483-505
Abstract
This paper aims to understand the discourse function of conditionals
by analyzing the information structure of conditional sentences in
natural discourse under the framework of the so-called GIVEN-NEW
taxonomy as presented in Prince (1992). In doing so, we argue against
Haiman's (1978) claim and present sufficient evidence to show that
conditionals are not simply topics (GIVEN information). The analysis of
information status of English if-clauses in natural discourse shows that
conditionals should be viewed as carrying the NEW or INFERRABLE
information as well as the GIVEN information (in the sense defined in
Prince (1992)). We observe that there exist various kinds of INFERRABLE
information established between the if-clause and some entity evoked in
the preceding context due to a logical reasoning or through the bridge
of conversational implicature. Along with these findings, we turn our
attention to whether the information status of the conditional clause is
related to the speaker's choice of clause order in English conditionals.
We observe that the speaker's choice of clause order in English
conditionals is closely related to the information status of the conditional
antecedent in a local discourse context. The choice of clause order in
conditionals is determined by what kind of inferential role they have in
a local discourse structure. In particular, the speaker is motivated to shift
the if-clause to the final position when something in the main clause
makes an inferential link with the preceding context as carrying the
discourse-old or INFERRABLE information. We further note that this
motivation stems from a more general discourse principle of making the
transition of discourse flow smooth by putting something GIVEN or
INFERRABLE prior to introducing something NEW.
ISSN
0254-4474
Language
English
URI
http://hdl.handle.net/10371/86157
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Language Education Institute (언어교육원)Language Research (어학연구)Language Research (어학연구) Volume 37 Number 1/4 (2001)
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