The relationship between case, word order, and referential scales in German diasystems

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The relationship between case, word order, and referential scales in German diasystems
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  I would like to present some of the methods and preliminary results of an ongoing research project in Marburg which deals with the relationship between case, word order and referential scales in German diasystems. You can find some information about the so-called L!"! project in the appendi# of the handout. 1  In the first part of the presentation I will briefly outline the linguistic problem we are dealing with and the research $uestions related to that problem.In the second and third parts I will present a corpus linguistic study and a neurolinguistic study which we are combining to tackle our research $uestions. I will focus mainly on the corpus study and gi%e a brief characteri&ation of the neurolinguistic study. 'fter ha%ing presented the results of each I will attempt a unification of the data in the final part of the presentation. 2  ' central $uestion in linguistics is how the structure of linguistic utterances is related to their meaning. "hen we look at German diasystems (that is historical stages and recent dialects of German (we find different degrees of formal underspecification due to morphological syncretism and relati%e word order freedom.In e#ample )*+ from tandard German we find three s case-marked by their articles /der0, /dem0 and /das0. 1he green articles represent distinct, i.e. unambiguous case forms in the masculine gender, namely nominati%e and dati%e, respecti%ely. 1he red one, /das0 is a syncretic form representing nominati%e and accusati%e in the neuter gender. 3  1his table gi%es an impression of the occurrence of syncretic forms with the definite article in German diasystems for the e#ample /2er 3unge hat dem Mann das 4uch gegeben0 5the boy ga%e the man the book6.In older stages, i.e. ld 7igh German, Middle 7igh German, and !arly ew 7igh German, there are rather few syncretic forms. In the e#ample, the accusati%e singular neuter form /das0 is the same as the nominati%e singular neuter. 1hus, the  /das 4uch0 could be either nominati%e or accusati%e, although the syntactic conte#t clearly disambiguates it.7igh 'lemannic is a recent 7igh German dialect and in some way a historical successor of the older stages. 7ere we find more syncretic forms because there is a nominati%e-accusati%e syncretism in all genders. orthern Low a#on is a recent Low German dialect but with another genetic affiliation than the older 7igh and Middle German systems. In parts of this dialect there are no case distinctions left within the masculine, feminine, and neuter genders, respecti%ely. 4  4ut therearenot onlydifferent degreesofmorphologicalsyncretism, these asystemsareaso presumetoa%ea reat%eyreewororer. !acotes canoccupythepositionprecedingthefinite %erb.1hatmeanswecanmo%ethedirectobjecttothefront. 1he combinationofwidespreadcasesyncretismandrelati%elyfreewordorder potentiallyposesa problem8 In 7igh 'lemannic, wecannotdistinguishthesubjectanddirectobjectbyform. In orthern Low a#on, wecannote%endistinguishbetweensubject, directobjectandindirectobjectanymore. 4yanalogy, imaginethatin !nglish /1he bookga%etheboytheman0 couldha%esi#different meaningsbecauseeach couldha%eeachofthethreesyntacticfunctions.'s a conse$uence, a recipientmaynot beabletodecode/whodidwhattowhom0 on thebasisoftheform oftheutteranceanymore. 1hereisnoproblemaslongasthereisoneambiguousform togetherwithtwounambiguousformsasin thee#amplesfromtheolderstages. o the$uestionis8 "ho doeswhattowhomandhowdoesthehearerknow9 5
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