Existential constructions are a fundamental feature of many Indo-European
languages, and constructions with non-referential subjects have developed
in all of the latter, albeit at different stages in their histories.
High German does not feature a prototypical existential construction that
is equivalent in syntactic and pragmatic function and semantic meaning to
the English existential there-construction. How did a prototypical
existential structure originate in English? Why is it that High German has
never developed such a construction? Has it ever shown a tendency towards
developing one? How did two closely related languages such as English and
High German come to differ so much with respect to these constructions?
By means of investigating a variety of historical and contemporary data
this study shows that not only semantic, pragmatic and syntactic factors
are involved, which decide the choice of a certain construction, but also
very much the more general different linguistic development that the two
languages underwent in the course of time.
The Beginnings. Towards a Historical Explanation of the Difference between
English and High German Existential Constructions: Word Order in the
History of English - The Derivation of the English ETC - Word Order in the
History of High German - The Derivation of the High German Existential
da-Construction - The Derivation of High German 'es'-Constructions - ETCs
in Modern English: Syntactic Classification - Semantic Classification -
Pragmatic Approach - The Modern High German Counterparts: The Status of es
in ModHG - Syntactic Approach to the High German Counterparts - Semantic
and Pragmatic Approaches to the ModHG Counterparts.