Grammatical processing and syntactic change
PI(s): Prof. Dr. Ulrike Demske & Dr. Claudia Felser
In this project we explore the dimensions of syntactic variability from a diachronic perspective. We adopt a multi-methodological approach which combines corpus study and psycholinguistic experimentation to investigate how constraints imposed by the language processing system might affect speakers’ choices of particular syntactic variants. The extraordinary abundance of syntactic variants in Early New High German, which gradually became more constrained during the emergence of present-day Standard German, provides a suitable empirical basis for this.
The project focuses on word order variation in German infinitival complementation, and in particular on the emergence of word order restrictions and the extent to which processing factors might have played a role in this development. Our diachronic corpus data confirm that word order variability declined over time, with discontinuously linearised infinitival complements only attested very rarely in synchronous corpora. Furthermore, our data show that infinitive-embedding verbs which freely allowed for different linearization patterns no longer do so in present-day German. This is likely to be the result of a process of specialisation of word order variants, partly driven by processing (dis-)advantages.
Our experimental findings show that, unlike what might be expected from the perspective of probabilistic approaches to linguistic variation, the acceptability of different word order variants cannot be fully predicted by their corpus frequencies. Despite being rarely attested, discontinuous infinitives are still considered acceptable by present-day German speakers, suggesting that they remain part of the grammar of Standard German as ‘latent’ constructions. We further found that the most frequent word order variant, and the one that speakers are also most likely to choose in production tasks, is the variant that is easiest to process. This indicates that word order variability is at least partly constrained by processing economy principles. The decrease in occurrence of computationally more costly variants in the history of German might reflect the growing influence of spoken German on the emerging standard language.
|Bosch, S., De Cesare, I., Felser, C. & Demske, U.||A multi-methodological approach to word order variation in German infinitival complementation.||2021||Featherston, S., Hörnig, R., Konietzko, A., & von Wietersheim, S. (eds.), Proceedings of Linguistic Evidence 2020. Tübingen: University of Tübingen.||Data||Peer-Reviewed||A02, C06|
|Demske, U.||Zur Grammatikalisierung von 'gehen' im Deutschen.||2020||Forum Japanisch-Germanistischer Sprachforschung, 2, 9-42.||Link||Paper||Peer-Reviewed||A02, C06|
|Bosch, S., De Cesare, I., Felser, C. & Demske, U.||A multi-methodological approach to word order variation in German infinitival complementation.||2020||Paper presented at the Linguistic Evidence 2020. Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany. 13 - 15 February.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|
|Bosch, S. & Felser, C.||The role of processing contraints on word order variation in German infinitival complementation.||2019||Paper presented at the 4th Conference on Experimental Approaches to Perception and Production of Language Variation (ExApp 2019), Münster, Germany. 26-28 September.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|
|De Cesare, I.||Textsorteneffekte auf die Stellung infiniter Komplemente im Frühneuhochdeutschen.||2019||Paper presented at the Workshop ''Syntax der frühen Neuzeit'', University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany. 10 - 12 October.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|
|De Cesare, I.||Word order variability and change in German infinitival complements.||2019||Paper presented at the 24th International Conference on Historical Linguistics (ICHL 24), The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. 01 - 05 July.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|
|De Cesare, I.||Grammatical processing and syntactic change: infinitival complements in German.||2018||Paper presented at the 3rd Summer School in Historical Syntax (SUM-UP 2018): Variation and its limits from a diachronic perspective, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany. 27 - 30 June.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|
|De Cesare, I. & Bosch, S.||Word order variation in German infinitival complements: Evidence from copus and experimental data.||2019||Paper presented at the Workshop ''Multimethodological approaches to synchronic and diachronic variation'', University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany. 25 - 26 October.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|
|Demske, U.||Zwischen Kohärenz und Inkohärenz: Wortstellung von Infinitivkomplementen.||2018||Invited talk at the Japanische Gesellschaft für Germanistik, Tokyo, Japan. 27 August.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|
|Demske, U. & De Cesare, I.||Grammatical processing and syntactic change: infinitival complements in German.||2018||Invited talk at the Lecture Series ''Linguistic Circle'', University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. 21 - 23 March.||Talk or Presentation||A02, C06|