Quirky Vorfeld Phenomena

Empirically-Driven Approaches to Theoretical Challenges

Workshop held as part of the annual conference of the German Society for Linguistics (DGfS), Berlin, 23-26 February 2010


This theme-session will specifically address lesser-studied phenomena involving the position preceding the finite verb in German main clause declaratives (the Vorfeld) whilst aiming explicitly to draw in the formal analysis on findings made available by corpus linguistics and/or psycholinguistics. This is motivated by the fact that various studies have shown that a reliance on introspective data has led to generalizations being missed or to false assumptions being made.

The findings of several recent works have led to a call for revision, or even rejection, of some standard assumption(s) of theoretical significance for the analysis of the Vorfeld. For instance, it was long assumed that the Vorfeld could house precisely one constituent. Recent corpus-based work has, however, shown that multiple-occupancy of the Vorfeld is not so uncommon as previously assumed (Mller 2003). The exact conditions in which such constructions are licensed still remain to be explicitly formulated though. In a similar vein, Meinunger (2007) shows that the long-adopted assumption that the German object pronoun es cannot occur in the Vorfeld is not empirically tenable. Again, the precise licensing conditions are all but clear. Taking a further example; although it has long been known that a subject and non-finite verb may co-occur in the Vorfeld, a detailed account of the semantic and informational-structural properties of this construction is still required. Another area of interest is less well-documented information structural constellations involving the Vorfeld. For instance, it is often assumed that the Vorfeld corresponds to some information structural category (Topic, Focus, Contrast etc.) yet Fanselow & Lenertov (to appear) introduce novel data suggesting that the relationship between syntax and information-structure is in need of refinement.

In addition to contributions considering data from verb-second languages, we also welcome proposals addressing related phenomena in other language groups (e.g. the pre-clitic position in Slavic, V2-similar effects in Romance etc.). The theme-session aims to attract researchers working in the fields of corpus linguistics, psycholinguistics as well as researchers in theoretical linguistics with a strong empirical component.


The workshop will take place in room 1.404
(Dorotheenstr. 24, righthand building #1).
14.00-14.30  Felix Bildhauer & Philippa Cook
14.30-15.00   Roland Schfer (FU Berlin)
On exceptional Vorfeldbesetzung
15.00-15.30  Ellen Brandner (Konstanz) & Martina Penke (Gent)
Evidence from agrammatism for a non-uniform Left Periphery in German
15.30-16.00  Sren Schalowski, Ulrike Freywald & Heike Wiese (Potsdam)
The Vorfeld in Kiez-Deutsch
16.00-16.30  Coffee Break
16.30-17.00  Stefanie Dipper (Bochum) & Heike Zinsmeister (Konstanz)
Corpus-based investigatons of the German Vorfeld
17.00-18.00  Hilde Sollid (Troms) & Kristin M. Eide (Trondheim)
Norwegian is a V-3 language (60 min)
18.00-18.30  Andreas Pankau (Utrecht)
Wh-copying in German and its theoretical implications
9.30-10.00   Katerina Stathi (FU Berlin)
Doppelte Vorfeldbesetzung bei zweiteiligen VP-Idiomen des Deutschen: eine korpusbasierte Analyse
cancelled / entfllt
10.00-11.00  Arne Zeschel (Sonderburg)
Idiomaticity and multiple fronting in German (60 min)
11.00-11.30  Coffee Break
11.30-12.00  Geert Stuyckens (Leuven)
The two Vorfelder of SGF-Coordination in German. A construction-grammar inspired corpus-based analysis
12.00-12.30  Vera Lee-Schoenfeld (Swarthmore College)
"VP"-fronting: A matter of syntax?
12.30-13.00  Philippa Cook & Felix Bildhauer
Discussion & Summary


Felix Bildhauer and Philippa Cook,
German Grammar, Institute for German and Dutch Philology, FB Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften, Freie Universitt Berlin.