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Relating agent prominence to discourse prominence: DO-clefts in German

  • The article investigates the hypothesis that prominence phenomena on different levels of linguistic structure are systematically related to each other. More specifically, it is hypothesized that prominence relations in morphosyntax reflect, and contribute to, prominence management in discourse. This hypothesis is empirically based on the phenomenon of agentivity clines, i.e. the observation that the relevance of agentivity features such as volition or sentience is variable across different constructions. While some constructions, including German DO-clefts, show a strong preference for highly agentive verbs, other constructions, including German basic active constructions, have no particular requirements regarding the agentivity of the verb, except that at least one agentivity feature should be present. Our hypothesis predicts that this variable relevance of agentivity features is related to the discourse constraints on the felicitous use of a given construction, which in turn, of course, requires an explicit statement of such constraints. We propose an original account of the discourse constraints on DO-clefts in German using the ‘Question Under Discussion’ framework. Here, we hypothesize that DO-clefts render prominent one implicit question from a set of alternative questions available at a particular point in the developing discourse. This then yields a prominent question-answer pair that changes the thematic structure of the discourse. We conclude with some observations on the possibility of relating morphosyntactic prominence (high agentivity) to discourse prominence (making a Question Under Discussion prominent by way of clefting).

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Author:Beatrice PrimusORCiDGND, Franziska KretzschmarORCiDGND, Klaus von HeusingerORCiDGND, Nikolaus P. HimmelmannORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Linguistics
Publisher:de Gruyter
Place of publication:Berlin/Boston
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2022
Date of Publication (online):2022/11/16
Publishing Institution:Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS)
Tag:DO-cleft; WH-cleft; agentivity; linguistic prominence; question under discussion
GND Keyword:Deutsch; Diskurs; Diskursanalyse; Korpus <Linguistik>; Morphosyntax; Spaltsatz; Thematische Relation; tun
First Page:1811
Last Page:1853
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 430 Deutsch / 430 Deutsch
Open Access?:ja
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Program areas:G1: Beschreibung und Erschließung Grammatischen Wissens
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International