We are happy to announce a talk by Sebastian Walter (GU) at the Semantics Colloquium.

Please register beforehand (s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de) to receive the access data to zoom on Thursday shortly before the talk starts.

Title: Asymmetric mood marking in German conditionals

Date: February 11

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Research on conditionals has focused on conditionals with so-called symmetric mood marking (cf. (1)), meaning that they are marked either with indicative mood or subjunctive mood in the antecedent as well as in the consequent.

(1) a. Wenn Emma am Marathon teilgenommen hat (ind), hat (ind) sie gewonnen.

          ‘If Emma participated in the marathon, she won.’

     b. Wenn Birgit bei dem neuen Italiener essen gewesen wäre (subj), hätte (subj) sie sich eine Pizza bestellt.

         ‘If Birgit had been at the new Italian restaurant, she would have ordered a pizza.’

However, in German there are also conditionals with so-called asymmetric mood marking, as in (2):

(2) a. Wenn Julian sich einen Hund kauft (ind), würde (subj) Markus ihn häufiger besuchen.

          ‘If Julian buys a dog, Markus would visit him more often.’

      b. Wenn Martin eine gute Note in der Klausur hätte (subj), geht (ind) seine Mutter mit ihm ins Kino.

          ‘If Marvin had got a good grade in the exam, his mother takes him to the movies.’

In this talk, I will first give a short introduction into Kratzer’s (1977) theory of modality. I will then proceed with introducing the use conditions of conditionals that are put forth in Kratzer (1979). Afterwards, I will present findings from a corpus study to give a first overview on the data one finds for German conditionals with asymmetric mood marking. In the following part, I will present the findings of an experimental study that aimed to investigate the acceptability and the use conditions of conditionals with asymmetric mood marking. The data obtained from the corpus study and the experimental study suggest that asymmetric mood marking is acceptable in German in certain contexts. Furthermore, the results of the experimental study show that asymmetric mood marking as in (2a), i.e., with indicative marking in the antecedent and subjunctive marking in the consequent, seems to be more acceptable than their counterparts in (2b). 

In a next step, I will argue that the data can be explained in Kratzer’s (1978/1979) framework under the assumption that the modal occurring in the conditional’s consequent, which can either be realized overtly or covertly (cf. Kratzer, 1978/1979), is able to modify the conditional’s consequent thereby triggering subjunctive mood marking in the consequent while the antecedent is marked with indicative mood.