I'd like to thank those of you who responded to my query - with extra thanks to those who provided comments. I have attached a summary of the responses.
Costas Gabrielatos Lancaster University, http://www.ling.lancs.ac.uk/profiles/305/
A few days ago I sent out a query asking for introspective judgements on the function of two sentences (no context or co-text was given). The query was sent to a number of lists - respondents were predominantly professionals in (applied) linguistics and language education.
The two sentences were:
(1) If they want others to do it, I'll advise against their having children. (2) If they want others to do it, I'd advise against their having children.
Respondents were asked to choose one of the following options:
A. Both sentences function as advice
B. Only sentence (1) functions as advice
C. Only sentence (2) functions as advice
D. Neither sentence functions as advice
E. I cannot tell out of context
I also asked respondents whether they considered themselves to be native speakers (NS) or non-native speakers (NNS) of English.
Reason for the query
I wanted to have 'second opinions' on the interpretation of these sentences given in Athanasiadou & Dirven (1996: 641-642). Sentence (2) is an attested example from the Bank of English corpus; sentence (1) is constructed by the authors to be contrasted with (2). No co-text or contextual information is provided in the paper. The authors argue that in (2) "the speaker pronounces his or her conditional negative advice", whereas in (1) "no act of advising is performed, but only a prediction that such an act will take place" (p. 642). As both authors are, strictly speaking, non-native speakers of English, and as it not improbable that they would have consulted native speakers, I decided to also check for any similarities/differences between NS and NNS respondents. I need to clarify that my interest does not directly lie in the function of the sentences; rather, I'm interested in the implications of their perceived function for the typology presented by the authors.
Breakdown of responses, and some observations
In total, I received 163 responses (115 NS and 48 NNS). Some respondents thought that the sentences made no sense or were ill-formed. Although these responses could be conflated with 'E', I decided to treat them separately (for consistency, they're listed as response 'F'). As the NS-NNS distinction is not universally accepted, the following table also presents the breakdown in terms of all respondents.
Response All-% NS-% NNS-% A [both] 15.9% 15.6% 16.7% B [only (1)] 4.9% 2.6% 10.4% C [only (2)] 41.1% 40.9% 41.7% D [neither] 22.1% 21.7% 22.9% E [cannot tell] 12.9% 15.7% 6.3% F [do not make sense] 3.1% 3.5% 2.1%
Although option C (only sentence (2) functions as advice) was the top choice (41.1% overall, 40.9% of NS, 41.7% of NNS), no clear consensus seems to emerge from the responses. However, except for options E and B, NS and NNS responses are very similar (although, for B, the number of responses is too low for any comparisons to be made).
It is also interesting to look at the perceived function of each sentence individually, irrespective of the perceived function of the other sentence (by collating responses 'A' with responses 'B' and 'C' respectively). Overall, from those who chose option A-D, about one in five think (1) functions as advice, slightly above half think (2) functions as advice, and about one in five think neither does. Again, there is no clear consensus.
All-% NS-% NNS-% (1) is advice [A+B] 20.9% 18.9% 25.0% (2) is advice [A+C] 57.1% 58.6% 53.9% None is advice [D] 22.1% 22.5% 21.1%
Finally, in addition to those who responded 'E', the majority of those who chose A-D also commented on the difficulty of deciding on the function of the sentences out of context.
Athanasiadou, A. & Dirven, R. (1996). Typology of if-clauses. In E.H. Casad (ed.) Cognitive Linguistics in the Redwoods: The expansion of a new paradigm in linguistics. Cognitive Linguistics Research 6 (pp. 609-654). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.