AG 8: Grammatik im Spannungsfeld von Gradienz und Frequenz
Raum IG 457 (Erdgeschoss)
Donnerstag, 08.03.2012, 11.30 bis 12.00 Uhr
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University of Gothenburg
Lexical cohesion and direct object fronting in spoken Dutch
The directly preverbal position in Dutch main clauses, the Vorfeld, can host a wide variety of material, making it a major source of word order variation in Dutch. Bouma (2008) identifies factors that gradually influence Vorfeld placement, including grammatical function, complexity and definiteness. A special case is formed by personal pronouns, which occur in the Vorfeld remarkably less often than expected on the basis of their high definiteness. Bouma (2008) explains this by appealing to the low information content of personal pronouns, a property supposedly not consistent with Vorfeld placement (cf. Gundel‘s 1988 first-things- first hypothesis).
In this talk, I present an investigation of the relation between informativity and Vorfeld placement in the case of non-pronominal constituents. I propose to measure information content of a constituent through its lexical cohesion, where incohesion corresponds to informativity. Lexical cohesion can be measured as the average collocation strength of lexical material with its context, here: the rest of the sentence (Hearst 1997). Indeed, for a selection of non-pronominal direct objects taken from the Spoken Dutch Corpus (CGN), we find a small but clear and consistent negative correlation between lexical cohesion and Vorfeld placement. A (multilevel) logistic regression confirms the statistical significance of this trend in the presence of known control factors.
These results thus lend further support for a first-things-first-like hypothesis for the Dutch Vorfeld for direct objects. If time permits, I will discuss further extensions of this line of research to other positions in the sentence and to constituents with other grammatical functions.
Bouma, Gerlof J. (2008): Starting a sentence in Dutch. A corpus study of subject- and objectfronting. Groningen, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, PhD Dissertation.
Gundel, Jeanette (1988): Universals of topic-comment structure. In Hammond, M.; Moravczik, E. & Wirth, J. (Hg.), Studies in syntactic typology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 209–239.
Hearst, Marti A. (1997): TextTiling. Segmenting text into multi-paragraph subtopic passages. In: Computational Linguistics 23(1), 33–64.