Project A6 (Müller)

A constraint-based analysis of information structure in German, Spanish and French


For the next funding period, three areas of work are planned which together constitute a continuation of the work carried out thus far in that they pursue in more depth questions which have arisen in the course of the current funding period.

The first area concerns the architecture of grammatical theory. Questions which will be addressed here concern the interfaces between information structure and other components of the grammar; the possibility and the necessity of encoding information-structural characteristics at the level of complex syntactic structures; and the possibility of modeling phenomena related to frequency in a constraint-based grammar.

The topic of the second planned area is non-canonical alignment between information-structural status and grammatical functions. This issue will be investigated contrastively on the basis of existential/presentational constructions in German, French and Spanish. One question concerns the distribution of different types of NP in the pivot position of existential constructions. Further, the nature of restrictions on the subject and, as far as they are allowed, on objects of thetic utterances (containing either an expletive es or showing subject inversion) will be explored. In this connection, the question of the possible complexity of thetic utterances will also be addressed.

The third area concerns the nature of the interaction of frequency and/or collocation effects with information structure. By examining the linearisation of the complements of ditransitive verbs we will investigate whether or not factors such as frequency of the involved lexemes, collocational strength amongst involved lexemes, and the expectedness of a described situation affect linearisation, and how this may interact with information-structurally driven (and other) effects on linearisation.

The studies will be conducted on naturally-occurring data. In total five corpus studies are planned; four of these will be conducted for all three languages in parallel and one will contrast just Spanish and German. In addition, a reading-time experiment (self-paced, moving window) is planned. The results will be formalised in HPSG and will be incorporated into a modular, multilingual grammar fragment in which different languages share a common core of constraints.

Website of project A6 hosted by Freie Universität Berlin link

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