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Interpretation of Leftward-Moved Constituents: Processing Topicalizations in German

Markus Bader1 / Lyn Frazier2



Correspondence address: Dr. Markus Bader, Fachbereich Sprachwissenschaft, Universität Konstanz, Fach D 191, Universitätsstr. 10, D-78457 Konstanz, Germany. E-mail: .

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 43, Issue 1, Pages 49–87, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.2005.43.1.49, July 2005

Publication History

5 February 2003
18 November 2003
Published Online:


Five experiments were conducted on German topicalization sentences to explore their interpretation and the relation between the syntactic representation and the discourse representation of the sentence. It is proposed that a DP is rapidly instantiated as a discourse entity in the discourse representation whereas a NP is simply treated as a property. If the postulated discourse entity corresponding to the DP in SpecCP of a topicalized sentence must be retracted due to the occurrence of a later determiner (in split-topicalization) or due to the need to scope under a subsequent quantifier, the sentence should be difficult to process. These predictions were con-firmed in two difficulty judgment experiments and in an experiment where participants selected the first interpretation assigned to a scopally ambiguous sentence involving an adverbial quantifier. However, in a separate experiment, where scope ambiguities involving determiner quantifiers were tested, the preference for the discourse instantiated DP to take wide scope disappeared.

Another difficulty judgment experiment revealed substantial difficulty for sentences containing “mixed chains” where a DP moves and then a NP moves out of the moved DP. This difficulty was not observed in corresponding sentences containing essentially the same lexical content in the same positions but without the movement responsible for creating the mixed chain.

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