Friedrich Ungerer - Current research

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Research in progress

Towards a concept-linking grammar of German.
Verb-second position and the competition between word order principles

Based on the concept-linking framework developed in Ungerer 2017 for English (NEW BOOK), the current project investigates to what extent this approach can be applied to German (the author's native language).

The focus is on explaining word order in German, especially the puzzling verb-second position (and also the deviations subsumed under the label of V3 structures). The claim is that these word order patterns can be explained if ­ in contrast to English ­ word order is not thought to be dominated by the requirements of verb-mediated constructions (i.e. the serialization of S, V and O), but by the need to signal the declarative and interrogative sentence mode reliably.

With regard to statements this means that the scope of declarative perspectivizing, which is assumed to be signalled by the sequence of a single non-verbal element and a verbal element, requires the verbıs second position, and that this principle is applied irrespective of whether it causes subject-verb inversion and thus disturbs the S-V-O serialization or not.

Viewing German word order from the angles of verb-mediated constructions, perspectivizing and attribution also promises new explanations for the final position of verbal elements in many clause patterns, the embedding of adverbials and adverbs in verbal braces, and the placement of the informational focus on the nominal element preceding the final verb element.

On a more general level, the study will also raise some doubts about the usefulness of Greenberg's word-order typology (SVO, SOV etc.) and will show the limitations of the topological view (Feldermodell) of German word order.

Apart from an intended publication of the findings in English, the project will hopefully result in a German-language publication with the provisional title Wortstellung im Deutschen aus der Sicht der konzeptverknüpfenden Grammatik.

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Last update: August 2017