Mingya Liu, "Conditionals - many things at once"

Mingya Liu, "Conditionals - many things at once"

5. Dez 2023

Mingya Liu

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik

Conditionals - many things at once

Abstract: In this talk I will present formal and experimental work on the meaning and use of conditionals focusing on two case studies. The first study (Liu, Rotter & Giannakidou, 2021) deals with bias, i.e., reduced or higher speaker commitment towards a proposition p. Following Giannakidou & Mari (2021), we assume “nonveridical equilibrium” (implying that p and ¬p as equal possibilities) to be the default for epistemic modals, questions and conditionals. We argue that the equilibrium of conditionals, as that of questions, can be manipulated to produce bias, relying on experimental work in German on various modal elements (e.g., adverbs wirklich ‘really’, modal verbs sollte ‘should’ and conditional connectives wenn/falls ‘if’) in conditionals. The second study (Rotter & Liu, accepted) deals with counterfactual conditionals and emotions. We report two experiments conducted in Germany and the UK in January and February 2021, when both countries were in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Using a Covid-19-themed sentence completion task (e.g., If the pandemic had not happened, I would have/the people would have…), we tested the direction of counterfactual thoughts in relation to egocentric (self-focused) vs. non-egocentric (other-focused) perspective-taking. Results show emotions as expressed in counterfactual language are perspective dependent.


  • Liu, Mingya, Rotter, Stephanie & Giannakidou, Anastasia. (2021) Bias and modality in conditionals: experimental evidence and theoretical implications. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 50, 1369–1399. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-021-09813-z
  • Rotter, Stephanie and Liu, Mingya. (2023/accepted). Counterfactual language, emotion and perspective: a sentence-completion study during the Covid-19 pandemic. Linguistics Vanguard.
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