Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.649876
Title: Discourse deixis and null anaphora in German
Author: Eckert, Miriam
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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Abstract:
The main aim of this thesis is to provide insight into the interaction of the syntactic and pragmatic properties of German, particularly with respect to the issue of configurationality. This language is particularly difficult to classify as it displays both subject-object asymmetries (a feature of "configurational" languages), but also has a topic position (a feature of "discourse-configurational" languages). In order to avoid the difficulties with subtle acceptability judgements from informants, the study presented here is based on a frequency analysis of word order variation in spoken language corpora. In the first part, I concentrate on the initial problem in German main clauses, which is traditionally referred to as the topic position, and using a task-oriented corpus provide the statistics for the following: - The frequency of the different grammatical functions in initial position, in order to determine the relative frequency of the canonical SVO word order. - The frequency of the different NP-forms (null anaphora, pronouns, demonstratives, definite and indefinite NPs) in initial position, which are each associated with a particular cognitive status, thus giving insight into the precise nature of the initial position. These analyses show that the canonical word order occurs in less than 50% of the utterances and that the initial position is most frequently filled with null topics, pronouns and demonstratives, i.e. NP-forms associated with the most salient, "topiclike" entities in the discourse model. Furthermore, the placing of certain adverbials in initial position is frequently employed to signal the beginning of a new subsection ("transaction") of the dialogue. These results indicate that German is to be placed at the discourse-configurational end of the configurationality scale. The second part of the thesis examines a specific aspect of the initial position in greater detail, namely the observed correlation between initial position, null topics and discourse-deictic reference to events and propositions. A study of the referents of null topics in the corpus shows that null topics are mainly discourse-deictic, ie have no NP-antecedents but refer to preceding sections of the text. This conflicts with the standard assumption that discourse-deictic reference involves topic shift rather than reference to a continuing topic. In addition, a study of discourse-deictic reference in general in the corpus shows that there is a strong preference for establishing it in initial position, regardless of whether this is done by null anaphora, pronouns or demonstratives. The results also show that null topics and demonstratives are used far more frequently for establishing discourse-deictic reference than pronouns. This argues against traditional hierarchies of NP-forms and cognitive status which group null anaphora and pronouns together. A comparative study of discourse deixis in an English corpus of similar sort shows that in this configurational language the frequency of anaphora forms is in line with the predictions made by the hierarchies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.649876  DOI: Not available
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