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Academic Paper

Title: Syntaxe de l'adverbe de phrase et structure prédicative de la proposition allemande : Eléments pour une description fonctionnelle
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Author: Pierre-Yves Modicom
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Institution: Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3
Linguistic Field: Linguistic Theories; Semantics; Syntax
Subject Language: German
Abstract: The syntax of higher-order adverbials (modal and argumentative adverbials, among others) raises several challenges for the topological model of German sentence structure when it comes to its semantic and/or information structural interpretation. It is often assumed that, when used in post-verbal position, in the so-called middle field of the sentence, or in a subordinate clause, they mark the border between a topical or thematic field (defined as « what the proposition is about ») and the comment or rheme (« what is said about the topic/theme »). More specifically, researchers such as FOURQUET and ZEMB have given a predicational reading of this theme-rheme opposition; the placement of higher-order adverbials and/or sentence negation is supposed to be the index of the border between the main predicate (corresponding to the « right middle field ») and its domain of validity (« left middle field »). Yet, on the basis of authentic data, it appears that the crucial requirement for this claim, namely that there is one and only one slot for such « phematic » adverbials in each proposition, does not fit with reality. More specifically, higher-order adverbials can be realized inside the allegedly thematic part of the middle field. The article proposes to use a framework derived from DIK's Functional Grammar to solve this problem. According to this approach, the proposition is generated through a succession of predications corresponding to a precise number of representational levels. I argue that constituent order in German exhibits some regularities corresponding to this view. Once this finite series of predications is taken for granted, ZEMB's model can be reformulated in such a way that there is a slot for higher-order adverbials at each predicational level. This claim matches the semantic intuitions of both FOURQUET and ZEMB, and the data observed in corpora. Finally, I propose that higher-order adverbials be treated as commending both the domain and the predicate of the predication which they specify (hence the order adverbial-domain-predicate), whereas the negator nicht is associated only with the predicate, yielding the order identified by ZEMB: domain-negation-predicate.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: ELIS - Echanges de linguistique en Sorbonne, Université Paris Sorbonne, 2016, 4 (1), pp.23-59. 〈〉
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