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Essays on Semantic and Pragmatic Topics

Abstract

Sound change in the form of plosive mergers has been reported for a variety of languages and is the result of a reduction of phonetic distance between two (or more) sounds. The present study is concerned with the opposite development of phonetic differentiation in plosives (akin to a phonetic split), a less commonly reported phenomenon that is taking place in Austrian German at the moment. A previously small (or null) phonetic distinction between fortis and lenis plosives – a presumed near-merger – is gradually developing into a clear phonetic contrast in younger speakers. In the present study, voice onset time of word-initial plosives was measured in two generations of Austrian speakers (born in the middle and at the end of the 20th century), yielding an ongoing phonetic differentiation where the voice onset time of lenis consonants is shortened while, at the same time, that of fortis consonants is lengthened. These results present an insight into the recent diachronic development of Austrian German and the changes in plosive production that are currently taking place.

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Abstract

In the literature on relative clauses (e. g. : 4), it is occasionally observed that the German complex definite determiner d-jenige (roughly ‘the one’) must share company with a restrictive relative clause, in contrast to bare determiners der/die/das ( : 213–215; ; ). Previous works such as (: 378–379) and () treat the relative clause as a complement of D to account for its mandatory occurrence. While such syntactic analyses have intuitive appeal, they pose problems for a compositional semantic analysis.

The goal of this paper is twofold. First, we report on two rating studies providing empirical evidence for the obligatoriness of relative clauses in German DPs introduced by the complex determiner d-jenige. Secondly, following (, ), we provide an analysis of the phenomenon at the syntax-semantics interface that captures familiar ( ) as well as novel related observations. Particularly, the analysis accounts for the facts that postnominal modifiers can figure in d-jenige-DPs and that the element can have anaphoric demonstrative pronominal uses.

Abstract

There is a use of the German third person neuter pronoun es in the prefield, known as prefield-es, which is characterized by being neither referential, nor an argument of the verb. According to Speyer’s (, ) optimality theoretic prefield ranking, this should only occur if a sentence contains no alternative element eligible to be moved to the prefield. This paper investigates a so far unnoticed use of es in the prefield in combination with a demonstrative pronoun dies and a copula verb ist, which will be referred to as Es ist dies-sentence. This construction is an instance of prefield-es, but contravenes the expectations about the use of prefield-es postulated by Speyer, since Es ist dies-sentences do contain a suitable candidate to fill the prefield, the demonstrative pronoun dies. In a corpus study, Es ist dies-sentences are compared to a sample of Dies ist-sentences. According to the corpus data, Es ist dies occurs predominantly in southern dialects. Significant differences between the two samples concern 1) the distance to the antecedent of dies and 2) the type of content of the sentence. An online rating study, that compared acceptability judgments of Es ist dies-sentences between speakers from different regions, confirmed that Es ist dies-sentences are a phenomenon of southern dialects. In the light of these results, a modification of Speyer’s (, ) Stochastic OT model is proposed.