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Conference Information

Full Title: Historical Syntax of German - Typological Perspectives

Location: Bamberg, Germany
Start Date: 17-May-2013 - 18-May-2013
Contact: Gisella Ferraresi, Patrizia Noel
Meeting Email: click here to access email
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Meeting Description: The syntax of German is not simply a continuation of Proto-Indo-European syntax; it rather emerged with features characteristically different from Proto-Indo-European. Among its many characteristics is the specific development of the complementizer system (Axel 2009) as well as radical changes of word order (Vennemann 2003), but also the maintenance of the Germanic reflexive pronouns (Harbert 2007). This workshop aims at identifying, categorizing and modelling peculiarities of historical German syntax and integrating the results into current typological research. One possible method is the genetical comparison of a small enough fragment of syntax in the sense of Longobardi (2003). We will also focus on theories on the status of syntactic deviances from Proto-Indo-European, such as the emergence of the unmarked, syntactic word order. In particular, we want to discuss the following questions:

- Which characteristics of historical German syntax are language-specific, which are universally preferred?
- Which aspects of historical German syntax result from language contact? Which methods are applied in order to make language contact plausible as an influencing factor?
- How is the emergence of periphrastic constructions correlated to other typological features? Should this be considered as a morphological or a syntactical innovation?
- Can we describe syntactic change as monodimensional, or do we have to include subsystem interactions (Noel 2008)?

Moreover, we want to discuss the findings in the light of the recent discussion on syntactic reconstruction (Ferraresi/Goldbach 2008). In particular, we want to deal with the question of what it is we reconstruct in syntactic reconstruction: sentence structure, phonological realizations, or constructions (Eythórsson / Barðdal 2005).


Axel, Katrin (2009) Die Entstehung des dass-Satzes - ein neues Szenario. In: Koordination und Subordination im Deutschen, Veronika Ehrich, Chirstian Fortmann, Ingo Reich, Marga Reis (eds.) Linguistische Berichte Sonderheft 16. Hamburg: Buske, 21-41.

Eythórsson, Thórhallur / Jóhanna Barðdal (2005) Oblique Subjects: A Common Germanic Inheritance. Language 81(4): 824-881.

Ferraresi, Gisella / Maria Goldbach (2008) (eds.), Principles of Syntactic Reconstruction. Amsterdam/Philadelphai: John Benjamins Publishing.

Longobardi, Giuseppe (2003) Methods in Parametric Linguistics and Cognitive History. Linguistic Variation Yearbook 3, 101-138.

Wayne, Harbert (2007) The Germanic Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Noel, Patrizia (2008) Jespersen’s Cycle and the issue of prosodic ‘weakness’. In: Artemis Alexiadou, Jorge Hankamer, Thomas McFadden, Justin Nuger, Florian Schäfer (eds.), Advances in Comparative Germanic Syntax. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 197-218.

Vennemann, Theo (2003) Syntax und Sprachkontakt: Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der indogermanischen Sprachen des Nordwestens. In: Alfred Bammesberger and Theo Vennemann (eds.), Languages in prehistoric Europe. Heidelberg: Winter, 333-364.

Plenary Speakers:

Giuseppe Longobardi (University of Trieste / University of York)
Theo Vennemann (University of Munich)

Organizing committee: Gisella Ferraresi / Patrizia Noel

Linguistic Subfield: Historical Linguistics; Typology
Subject Language: German
LL Issue: 24.510

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