The Impact of Grammar on the Construal of Discourse Alternatives in German and English
|(1)||A:||I’ve got three fruits|
|B:||[I] have three fruits too (E.03–04)3|
|(3)||John is sick. [Mary] is sick, too.|
|(4)||A:||oben rechts kommt bei mir ne gelbe teekanne|
|top right comes on mine (= on my picture) a yellow teapot|
|B:||ja, die hab [ich]auch (G.03–20)|
|yes, I have that too4|
|(5)||A:||so, I have toothpaste|
|B:||I’ve got toothpaste (E.09–10)|
- Do English speakers simply leave the relation unmarked as in (5) or do they prefer a different way of expressing a confirmation instead?
- Are there structural properties of the relevant utterances that make the integration of additive particles quasi obligatory in German and rather non-preferred in English?
- Does this follow from more general typological differences (SVO vs. V2) and their impact on the organisation of particular information units in discourse?
2. Materials and Methods
3. Results and Discussion
|(6)||ist der apfel [bei dir]auch oben rechts? (G.12–13)|
|“is the apple in yours also top right?”|
|(7)||okay, I have an orange in the top-left and a pear at the bottom (..) but I also have [an apple] (E.13–14)|
|(8)||links daneben könnte eine zitrone sein aber auch [eine limone], ziemlich rund, grünlich-gelb (G.18–19)|
|“left next to it could be a lemon but also a lime, rather round, greenish-yellow”|
|(9)||A:||and then to the right of the highlighter I’ve got sellotape|
|(10)||A:||next to my highlighter is a sellotape dispenser|
|B:||I have the same thing, okay (E.19–21)|
|(11)||A:||I have an orange in the top-left corner|
|B:||so do I (E.17–18)|
|(12)||A:||(der apfel ist) oben rechts zwischen der birne und der teekanne so|
|“the apple is top right between the pear and the teapot”|
|B:||alles klar, ist bei mir identisch (G.12–13)|
|“all right, it‘s identical in mine”|
|(13)||A:||dann ist da ein blaues logo oder sowas drauf (..) und weiße schrift die man aber nicht lesen kann|
|“then there is a blue logo or something (..) and a white writing that you cannot read, however”|
|B:||Ja, dito (G.16–17)|
|(14)||A:||links ganz oben hab ich ne orange|
|“left at the top I have an orange”|
|(15)||A:||I have a toothpaste right next to that|
|B:||[I] have a toothpaste there as well (E.17–18)|
|(16)||A:||(das abstreifding) ist rechts vorne|
|“the dispenser is front right”|
|B:||ja der ist rechts vorne (G.01–02)|
|“yes it is front right”|
|(17)||A:||in the top-right corner there’s a yellow teapot, like a plastic teapot|
|B:||Yeah I’ve got a teapot (E.22–23)|
|(18)||A:||da liegt bei mir ein tennisball.|
|“there is a tennis ball in mine”|
|B:||alles klar,||der||liegt||[bei mir]||auch||unten (G.08–09)|
|all right,||this-nom||lie-3sg||with me||also||below|
|“all right, it is at the bottom in mine too”|
|(19)||A:||daneben rechts ist bei mir ein tesafilmabroller|
|“next to it to the right is in mine a sellotape dispenser”|
|B:||[bei mir]auch. (G.16–17)|
|“in mine too”|
|(20)||B:||how many objects are in your picture?|
|B:||okay, there are twelve objects in mine (E.13–14)|
|(21)||A:||and then a tea candle (..) that hasn’t been used?|
|B:||No, [mine] hasn’t been used either (E.22–23)|
|(22)||B:||what colour is your teapot?|
|B:||yep, [mine] too (E.24–25)|
|(23)||A:||daneben kommt nochmal ein teelicht|
|“next to it comes a tea candle”|
|“I’ve got a tea candle too”|
|(24)||A:||bottom left I’ve got a coffee cup|
|B:||[I]’ve got a coffee cup as well (E.20-C)|
|(25)||A:||in the middle of that column is a plastic clear tape dispenser|
|B:||yeah I’ve got that (E.22–23)|
3.4. Polarity Questions
|(26)||Have [you] got a brown cardboard tube as well? (E.15–16)|
|(27)||Ist der apfel [bei dir]auch oben rechts? (G.12–13)|
|“Is the apple in yours also top right?”|
|(28)||A:||eine klopapierrolle rechts daneben|
|“a toilet roll to the right of it”|
|B:||ist da noch klopapier dran? (G.03–20)|
|“is there still loo paper left?”|
|(29)||ist die rolle bei dir voll? (G.01–02)|
|“is the roll in yours full?”|
4. Discussion and Conclusions
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
In the following I will use male pronouns for speaker A and female pronouns for speaker B.
Note that additive particles trigger presuppositions whereas restrictive focus particles are part of the assertion proper.
Individual dialogues from the picture description corpus are identified by capitals (E for English, G for German) and numbers indicating the speaker dyad (here: dyad with participants 03 and 04). Examples without such indications are not drawn from the corpus but made up for illustration purposes.
Interlinear glosses will be provided for later examples where word order matters.
The setup was thus different from the procedure known from map tasks, for example, where participants are assigned the role of a “giver” and a “follower” and keep them throughout the task (Anderson et al. 1991).
Some dyads started by negotiating where (on the picture) to start the description; in a few other cases one speaker first listed the twelve entities without specifying their location or properties, but this was always followed by a phase during which each entity was considered individually.
The prepositional phrases bei mir and bei dir literally translate as ‘with me’ and ‘with you’. Whereas they are highly frequent in the German data, there is only a single occurernce of this type in English. A informs B that there are twelve entities on his picture and B replies There are twelve objects in mine (E.13–14). We will therefore use in mine/in yours in the translations.
Confirming descriptions can be holistic (signalling approval concerning an entity, its properties and location) or restricted to only the entity (I’ve got a pear but it is somewhere else; There is a toilet role in the middle, but it is empty).
Speakers do say genau (‘exactly’). This adverb (like its English translation), does however not mark sameness, but rather the degree of sameness and was therefore disregarded.
There are two cases of inversion (“neither has mine”) with negative particles in English.
Note that elliptical cases were treated as exhibiting the wordorder predominant in the respective language. There were five elliptical utterances of the type ich auch (‘me too’) in German. They were added to the VS order that was attested with the 10 out of 11 verb-containing utterances. The single elliptical utterance (me too) in English was added to the SV pattern.
In German first move descriptions, the initial position is typically filled with a locative expression, whereas the NP referring to the newly introduced entity is placed post-verbally.
From the three possibilities to integrate an additive particle with the subject pronoun as its AC that were illustrated in example (2) in the introduction, only one was actually used for confirming the existence of an entity on the speaker’s picture, and it is the one with the word order that is impossible in English (OVS).
The choice between stressed and unstressed variants of German auch correlates with the particle’s position relative to its AC (Reimer and Dimroth 2021).
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Dimroth, C.; Starren, M. The Impact of Grammar on the Construal of Discourse Alternatives in German and English. Languages 2022, 7, 240. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7030240
Dimroth C, Starren M. The Impact of Grammar on the Construal of Discourse Alternatives in German and English. Languages. 2022; 7(3):240. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7030240Chicago/Turabian Style
Dimroth, Christine, and Marianne Starren. 2022. "The Impact of Grammar on the Construal of Discourse Alternatives in German and English" Languages 7, no. 3: 240. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7030240