Es-Clefts und det-Clefts : Zur Syntax, Semantik und Informationsstruktur von Spaltsätzen im Deutschen und Schwedischen.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This study investigates the syntax, semantics and information structure of it-cleft constructions in German and Swedish. The syntactic analysis is presented within a standard framework of generative theory.

In defining genuine cleft constructions, both the syntactic and the semantic structures of clefts are taken into consideration. Here, it proves essential to distinguish between different kinds of semantic predication. It is argued that there is a special type of predication in which a set is equalled with another set. This type is called “specification”. It-clefts are described as true specificational sentences which follow a strict syntactic order.

On examining the literature, four different syntactic approaches to it-clefts emerge: (i) extraposition, (ii) ergative, (iii) attribute and (iv) monoclausal movement analyses. These approaches are argued to be empirically and theoretically inadequate, the attempt to derive it-clefts from simple clauses particularly so.

After discussing the language-specific cleft options and the sentence structures of German and Swedish, specificational structures such as clefts are shown not only to be a semantic category of their own, but also to diverge in their syntax from other copular constructions. Contrary to current analyses, the existence of a special specificational copula is proposed. Its subject differs in many respects from a subject of a canonical copular construction.

As for the internal structure of clefts, a modification of the extraposition approach proves to be the empirically most adequate structural description. Here, the analyses differ slightly for German and Swedish, but in both languages the clausal constituent is located in the extraposition field, as shown by distributional and topological facts. In addition, the problem of connectivity, as observed in languages such as Swedish, can be solved without assuming movement of the clefted constituent.

Finally, the information structure of it-clefts is investigated. Clefts in German and Swedish are shown to display a wide variety of discourse functions, some of which as yet unmentioned in the literature. The classification of clefts thus proposed is made on the basis of their topic-comment and background-focus structures, respectively.


  • Stefan Huber
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature


  • generative grammar, German sentence structure, Swedish sentence structure, split CP, relative clauses, expletives, extraposition, connectivity, predication, specification, identification., topic-comment, projection of focus, background-focus, It-cleft constructions, copular constructions, pseudo-cleft constructions, German language and literatur, Tyska (språk och litteratur)
Original languageGerman
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2002 Oct 26
  • German
Print ISBNs91-22-01986-3
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2002-10-26 Time: 10:15 Place: Dept. of German, room 339B External reviewer(s) Name: Vikner, Sten Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Aarhus ---