Annotations: 1478 instances of wh-clefts in English and German (Europarl corpus)

Gast, Volker GND; Wiechmann, Daniel GND

These annotations were created for a contrastive study of wh-cleft sentences in English and German. The study has been published as: Gast, V. & D. Wiechmann (2012). 'W(h)-Clefts im Deutschen und Englischen. Eine quantitative Untersuchung auf Grundlage des Europarl-Korpus'. In Gunkel, L. & G. Zifonun (eds.): Jahrbuch des IDS 2011, 333-362. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton. It compares the distributions of wh-clefts in English and German on the basis of data from the Europarl corpus. A general tendency for English to use cleft sentences more frequently than German is related to the more rigid word order of English. The observed distributional asymmetries are regarded as emerging from different possibilities of meeting specific structural conditions. Four motivations for the use of cleft sentences are identified: (i) linear synchronization of information structure and syntax, (ii) structural separation of Quaestio and Responsio, (iii) separation of propositional content and utterance comment, and (iv) the heaviness principle. While all of these factors seem to favour the use of cleft sentences in English, German cleft sentences are mostly motivated by factor (ii), as the other conditions can also be met without forming a cleft sentence, due to the relatively free word order of German, e.g. in canonical verb-second sentences.


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