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Does “Cornelias Vater hat schon in Mainz auf Cornelia gewartet” mean that the father was already waiting or that he has already waited?

  • It simply tells you that an action "already" started at a given time. Normally there is something different leading to "schon" like *Cornelia fuhr mit dem Zug" which the "schon" can refer to. Also the action is not finished if used in present (unless it directly says that it stopped/ended) – Dirk Reichel Apr 17 '16 at 14:24
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The scope of schon can be influenced by where exactly you put it.

Cornelias Vater hat schon in Mainz auf Cornelia gewartet (und nicht erst in Mannheim).

is more likely to mean that there were several possible places where C.'s father might have awaited her (perhaps she's arriving on a train from far away, and he chose one of the earlier stops). schon would then be scoped to in Mainz.

Cornelias Vater hat in Mainz schon auf Cornelia gewartet (bevor sie ankam).

usually just means that C.'s father was at the meeting place before she arrived. schon would then be scoped to the verb (or to the entire verb phrase, theoreticians don't completely agree).

It might also imply that he has several daughters that he has to ferry somewhere (e.g. a tennis tournament), and he picked up and transported Cornelia before her younger sister (schon is scoped to "Cornelia"):

Cornelias Vater hat in Mainz schon auf Cornelia gewartet (und dann mußte er noch nach Wuppertal weiterfahren, um Carola einzusammeln).

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Cornelias Vater hat schon in Mainz auf Cornelia gewartet.

Both of your interpretations are possible. Just going by content, I find the first one more plausible. However, for the first meaning and without putting extra emphasis on Mainz, the following word order would be more natural:

Cornelias Vater hat in Mainz schon auf Cornelia gewartet.

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It’s hopefully clear from the context or intonation, because otherwise it’s ambiguous. Different word orders suggest different primary meanings, though.

Cornelias Vater hat in Mainz schon auf Cornelia gewartet.

Rather neutral location information, schon emphasizes either the temporal aspect or the person. He’s already been there when Cornelia (and not someone else) arrived in Mainz.

Cornelias Vater hat schon auf Cornelia in Mainz gewartet.

… but now she’s arriving elsewhere unplanned and he has to fetch her up there or he’s now waiting for Manuela, her sister.

Cornelias Vater hat schon in Mainz auf Cornelia gewartet.

The location is stressed, because either he already waited in Mainz for her where she’s now arriving at or he is currently waiting somewhere else for her but once had also waited in Mainz.

Cornelias Vater hat auf Cornelia schon in Mainz gewartet.

Basically the same.

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