Postmodifying verb-second clauses in spoken German

Regina Weinert

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This usage-based and corpus-based study examines the use of verb-second clauses as restrictive postmodifiers of noun phrases in spoken German (ich kenn leute die haben immer pech - ‘I know people they are always unlucky’) in relation to verb-final relative clauses. Previous accounts largely work with de-contextualised and constructed data and stop short of accounting for the discourse function of verb-second postmodifying structures. The ratio of verb-final relative clauses to postmodifying verb-second clauses does not indicate a shift towards main clause syntax. Rather, the verb-second clauses form part of a set of existential or presentational and specificational constructions which serve to highlight properties of entities and/or introduce discourse topics. Relative clauses can be used for such functions, but this is not as common. The syntactic and semantic features associated with postmodifying verb-second clauses can be seen as a direct result of their discourse function, which only a corpus analysis could reveal. The paper also comments on the wider related aspects of verb position, clause combining and pronoun use in spoken German from the perspective of a usage-based language model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-264
JournalFunctions of Language
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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