Verb-erst-Deklarativsätze. Grammatik und Pragmatik

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to describe and explain independent declarative clauses in German which have the finite verb in absolute clause-initial position. They are called verb-first declarative clauses.

It is shown that this type of clause can be found in a variety of Germanic languages. There is evidence suggesting that this is a very old type with roots in ancient Indo-European. It has thus existed for a very long period of time, always forming a marked alternative to the unmarked clause type (e.g. verb-second or verb-final clauses).

Regarding the syntactic structure of the verb-first declarative clause in German, several proposals are discussed all of which assume the existence of an empty syntactic position in front of the finite verb. These proposals are rejected because of empirical counterevidence and theoretical shortcomings and instead, a clause structure is proposed within the framework of generative grammar which does not assume any position before the finite verb in verb-first declarative clauses.

The thesis goes on to deal with the relation between syntactic structure and information structure. The lack of a pre-verbal position results in a clause which is unpartitioned at the level of topic-comment structure while other levels of information structure, namely theme-rheme structure and focus-background structure, are shown to be irrelevant to the explanation of this type in German. The verb-first declarative clause is further compared to other clause types which exhibit no topic-comment structure; the so-called thetic clause and the verb-second clause with an expletive 'es' in initial position. In spite of the similarity these three types exhibit at the level of topic-comment structure, there are important functional differences between them.

As for the functional aspects of the verb-first declarative clause, five different pragmatic functions are described and discussed in which this type can occur in present-day German. These are the narrative function, the enumerating function, the function of deontic modality, the function of causality and the exclamative function. Each functional type is derived from the interaction of syntax and information structure ­ which leads to a special sort of highlighting of the finite verb common to all functional types ­ with specific lexical filling. For several functional types, the verb type is the only important aspect of lexical filling. One functional type requires the obligatory presence of the modal particle 'doch'. For another type, there are additional requirements as to propositional content and intonation. It is also shown that overlap is, to a limited extent, possible in the domain of functional types; in such cases, the co- or context can help to disambiguate the verb-first declarative clause functionally.

Finally, some restrictions at the illocutionary level are discussed. It has been proposed that verb-first declarative clauses in German cannot be used as performatives. Although exceptions do exist, this prediction is confirmed in principle. It is explained against the background of the above-mentioned system of functional types. This system also explains why certain verb-first declarative clauses cannot be used as answers to questions while other types are possible in these contexts.

Details

Authors
  • Olaf Önnerfors
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature

Keywords

  • German language and literatur, Germanic languages, performative use, German, declarative clause, clause-initial position of the finite verb, syntax, topic-comment structure, information structure, theticity, narrativity, enumeration, deontic modality, exclamation, causality, Tyska (språk och litteratur)
Original languageGerman
QualificationDoctor
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1997 Mar 22
Publisher
  • Almqvist & Wiksell International
Print ISBNs91-22-01741-0
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1997-03-22 Time: 10:15 Place: Room 339B, German Department, Lund University External reviewer(s) Name: Reis, Marga Title: Prof. Affiliation: Deutsches Seminar, Universität Tübingen, Germany ---