The Clause-initial Position in L2 German Declaratives: Transfer of Information Structure

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This article investigates the information structure of verb-second (V2) declaratives in Swedish, German, and nonnative German. Even though almost any type of element can occur in the so-called prefield, the clause-initial preverbal position of V2 declaratives, we have found language-specific patterns in native-speaker corpora: The frequencies of prefield constituent types differ substantially between German and Swedish, and Swedish postpones new (rhematic) information and instead fills the prefield with given (thematic) elements and elements of no or low informational value (e.g., expletives) to a far greater extent than German. We compare Swedish learners of German to native controls matched for age and genre (Bohnacker, 2005, 2006; Rosen, 2006). These learners master the syntactic properties of V2 but start their sentences in nonnative ways. They over-apply the Swedish principle of rheme later in their second language German, indicating first language (L1) transfer at the interface of syntax and information structure, especially for structures that are frequent in the L1.


  • Ute Bohnacker
  • Christina Rosen
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-538
JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Swedish (015011001)