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The chapters collected in the volume Passives Cross-Linguistically provide analyses of passive constructions across different languages and populations from the interface perspectives between syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The contributions are, in principle, all based on the background of generative grammatical theory. In addition to the theoretical contributions of the first part of this volume, all solidly built on rich empirical bases, some experimental works are presented, which explore passives from a psycholinguistic perspective based on theoretical insights. The languages/language families covered in the contributions include South Asian languages (Odia/Indo-Aryan and Telugu/Dravidian, but also Kharia/Austro-Asiatic), Japanese, Arabic, English, German, Modern Greek, and several modern Romance varieties (Catalan, Romanian, and especially southern Italian dialects) as well as Vedic Sanskrit and Ancient Greek.
A text usually provides more information than a random sequence of clauses: It combines sentence-level information to larger units which are glued together by coherence relations that may induce a hierarchical discourse structure. Since linguists have begun to investigate texts as more complex units of linguistic communication, it has been controversially discussed what the appropriate level of analysis of discourse structure ought to be and what the criteria to identify (minimal) discourse units are. Linguistic structure–and more precisely, the extraction and integration of syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic information–is shown to be at the center of text processing and discourse comprehension. However, its role in the establishment of basic building blocks for a coherent discourse is still a subject of debate. This collection addresses these issues using various methodological approaches. It presents current results in theoretical, diachronic, experimental as well as computational research on structuring information in discourse.
These lectures deal with the role of cognitive modelling in language-based meaning construction. To make meaning people use a small set of principles which they apply to different types of conceptual characterizations. This yields predictable meaning effects, which, when stably associated with specific grammatical patterns, result in constructions or fixed form-meaning parings. This means that constructional meaning can be described on the basis of the same principles that people use to make inferences. This way of looking at pragmatics and grammar through cognition allows us to relate a broad range of pragmatic and grammatical phenomena, among them argument-structure characterizations, implicational, illocutionary, and discourse structure, and such figures of speech as metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole, and irony.

Abstract

This chapter explores V2 transgressions (Catasso, 2015), i.e. patterns in V2 languages in which the finite verb is linearly preceded by two constituents, focussing on examples with an adverbial clause as the initial constituent. In the literature, V2 transgressions have usually been seen as compatible with maintaining the V2 generalization on the assumption that the initial constituent which leads to the V3 order is ‘extra cyclic’ (Zwart, 2005)/‘main clause external’ (Broekhuis and Corver, 2016, pp. 1679–1733) and is merged at the discourse level, i.e. outside the narrow syntax. This contribution focusses on V2 transgressions which are unacceptable for speakers of standard Dutch but which have been reported as acceptable for speakers of the West Flemish dialect: while all varieties of Dutch allow for a regular V2 configuration in which a central adverbial clause is immediately followed by the finite verb, only West Flemish speakers accept a V2 transgression in which an initial central adverbial clause combines with a non-inverted V2 sentence. This non-inverted V3 pattern raises the question how what would be—by hypothesis—a clause-external constituent can interact with the clausal narrow syntax. The chapter will argue that the observed microvariation follows from a difference in the derivation of subject-initial V2 sentences.

In: Information Structuring in Discourse

Abstract

Pronouns can refer to discourse entities that were introduced in the same or in a previous discourse unit; for successful pronoun resolution, the antecedent must be accessible. Focusing a potential antecedent seems to boost its accessibility when the pronoun appears in a subsequent discourse unit but lowers its accessibility when the pronoun is in the same discourse unit (‘anti-focus’ effect). The current study investigates the time course of antecedent accessibility within the discourse unit using an eye-movement monitoring experiment and an offline judgement task. Participants read short German texts in which a potential antecedent appeared within the same discourse unit as the pronoun and was either (i) not in focus, (ii) in cleft focus, or (iii) focused via a particle. While there was an online reading-time advantage for pronouns when the antecedent was clefted, the judgement data showed lower acceptability ratings for clefted antecedents, i.e. an anti-focus effect. We propose that clefting provides an initial retrieval advantage for an antecedent, and that the anti-focus effect emerges during later processing stages and perhaps only when participants engage in explicit reasoning. One important implication is that it is not always possible to equate easier antecedent retrieval with greater antecedent accessibility.

In: Information Structuring in Discourse

Abstract

Two sentence completion studies investigated how discourse relations affect the interpretation and production of German p(ersonal) and d(emonstrative) pronouns. The first experiment presented short contexts with a subject-experiencer predicate followed by a continuation prompt including a pronoun and either a causal or a consequential discourse marker. For the p-pronoun, participants’ continuations reveal a preference for referring to the stimulus/object of the preceding sentence with a causal relation but to the experiencer/subject with a consequential relation. Thus, the p-pronoun’s interpretation was guided by the semantic bias created by the coherence relation and not by structural biases. The d-pronoun’s preferred antecedent was the stimulus/object for both discourse relations, but the preference was weaker with a consequence relation. Thus, the d-pronoun shows a similar semantic bias as the p-pronoun, but this bias was counteracted by a structural object preference. The second experiment presented the same contexts together with a blank prompt preceded by a question asking for a cause or a consequence. Most continuations contained a reference to the stimulus after a cause question and to the experiencer after a consequence question. This supports the close link between pronoun interpretation and production proposed by Kehler et al. (2008).

In: Information Structuring in Discourse

Abstract

In this paper, we survey mood and verb placement in (Old High and Modern) German and Italian relative clauses in a comparative perspective (cf. Haegeman, this volume, for verb alternation between V2 and V3 orders in matrix clauses). First, we show that the factors determining verb placement in Modern German relatives are analogous to those determining mood alternations in the Romance languages, in which the use of the indicative or of the subjunctive in the relative clause is connected with a different interpretation of its head noun. In Modern German, the interpretation of the head noun is reflected through verb placement: while verb-final relatives allow for a de re and a de dicto interpretation of the head noun, V2 relatives only allow for a de re interpretation. Second, given that Old High German relative clauses both displayed mood and verb placement alternations, we investigate the interaction between the two types of alternations and their development. We show that mood alternations in Old High German have the same functions as mood alternations in Italian and that, in the course of time, German has lost this type of alternations in favor of alternations in the placement of the verb.

In: Information Structuring in Discourse

Abstract

The topic position in a sentence is reserved for familiar and/or referential arguments (Kuno, 1972; Reinhart, 1981; Portner & Yabushita, 2001). Thus, the typical topic is a definite expression such as a pronoun, a proper name or a definite noun phrase. However, indefinites can appear in topic position if they are referential, i.e. specific or generic. Following Prince (1981c) we argue that indefinite noun phrases can also be topics if they are weakly familiar, i.e. discourse-linked. We assume that there are (at least) two different ways to link an indefinite to the previous discourse: (i) partitive indefinites are linked to the discourse by a contextually established membership relation (Prince, 1981c; Enç, 1991); (ii) inferable indefinites (Prince, 1981b, 1992) are linked via the concepts associated with the descriptive part of the indefinite and the anchor expression. We present the results of acceptability rating studies that support the following claims: (i) indefinites as topics are in general acceptable, but less so than indefinites in non-topic position; (ii) indefinites in topic position are better rated if they are discourse-linked; (iii) inferable indefinites make better topics in comparison to partitive indefinites.

In: Information Structuring in Discourse

Abstract

Schlenker (2013) and Poschmann (2018) present a set of puzzling observations suggesting that projection from non-restrictive (appositive) relative clauses (NRC) depends on the coherence relation by which the NRC is connected to its host clause. Their data suggest that while NRC s expressing a subordinating coherence relation generally project globally, NRC s establishing a coordinating relation to their host clause can get local readings. However, the conditions that license such local readings are poorly understood. The main goal of this paper is to find the generalization that best describes the projection pattern of NRC s, and to move towards a better theoretical understanding of this phenomenon. In particular, we argue that it is not coordination/subordination, but rather Sanders et al.’s (1992) source of coherence—the opposition between speaker-oriented and non-speaker-oriented coherence relations—that has a direct link to NRC scope. If an NRC is connected to its host clause by a non-speaker-oriented coherence relation it can be interpreted locally, even if the relation is subordinating, and if the NRC is speaker-oriented it is interpreted globally, even if its relation to the host clause is coordinating.

In: Information Structuring in Discourse