Fristående konditionalsatser: syntaktisk emancipation och

Free-standing conditionals in Swedish conversation
Jan Lindström & Camilla Lindholm
Scandinavian languages, University of Helsinki
A look at conversational Swedish reveals that there are uses of conditional clauses
that diverge from the (written) grammatical standard. A standard conditional clause is
a dependent adverbial clause that can precede or follow a matrix clause, like in
Om du skulle sitta där så är det bekvämare ’If you should sit there, it is more
comfortable’. In our data from conversational language there is a variety of uses
where the conditional clause is very loosely attached to another clause or it can appear
to be a functional unit of its own, like in the example below, line 3:
01 A:
02 B:
03 A:
05 B:
hö:rdu du:: vet du Beda¿
att om du skulle sitta dä:r.
de e bättre st[olar där¿
[a:h (.) jaså::
look, you know Beda¿
if you could sit there.
it’s better chairs there¿
oh (.) right
Conditional clauses of this kind seem to exist without a logically suitable consequent
clause. In the above example we have an offer expressed with a conditional followed
by a freely added motivation (line 4) rather than a structurally tied consequent. From
the point of sequential interaction these kinds of conditional clauses constitute fullfledged actions and as such they form prosodically completed units, as above.
Although uses of this kind are not rare in spoken language they are not well registered
in grammatical tradition. They differ clearly from desiderative sentences that have
been usually identified in grammars (Om bara ambulansen ville komma nu. ’’If only
the ambulance would come now’); however, our example above has presumably a
connection to suppositive sentences (Tänk om någon hade sett mig den gången.
‘Suppose if somebody would have seen me that time’) (Swedish Academy Grammar,
(4:765, 770).
We will discuss the use and functions of syntactically free-standing conditional
clauses from the point of interaction. The most common functions we have observed
have to do with actions like requesting, offering and orienting to a topic or a phase in
a conversation. Moreover, this kind of conditional use seems to be typical of certain
activity types, like doctor–patient interaction.
The data for our study is from Swedish conversations that have been recorded in
Sweden and Finland, in everyday as well as institutional settings. We have also
observed the existence of free-standing conditionals in other languages, like Finnish,
Italian and Japanese.