18.1 Topological Fields

There is a long tradition in German linguistics to describe German word order in the theory of topological fields [Herling 1821, Erdmann 1886, Bierwisch 1963, Höhle 1995]. The word order constraints that we are going to present includes a formalization of parts of this theory.

Classically, three topological types of German sentences are distinguished depending on the position of the main verb: verb-two type, verb-one type, and verb-last type.

verb-two:

(denn) damit hat keiner gerechnet

der Professor hatte dem Studenten vor einigen Monaten versprochen das Gutachten bald zu schreiben

verb-one:

regnet es?

(aber) würde jemand den Hund füttern morgen abend

verb-last:

(daß) es regnet

das Gutachten bald zu schreiben

The theory of topological fields predicts that the words a sentences can be partitioned into several fields depending on the type of sentence (Vorfeld, Mittelfeld, etc) such that certain field constraints are satisfied.

In this script, we will only consider verb-two sentences, i.e. no relative sentences and no questions. This topological type is described by the following scheme:

KOORD

Vorfeld

FINIT

Mittelfeld

Verbkomplex

Nachfeld

denn

damit

hat

keiner

gerechnet

der Professor

hatte

dem Studenten vor einigen Monaten

versprochen

das Gutachten bald zu schreiben

The topological fields for German impose the following field constraints for verb-two type sentences, which in fact are quite typical and natural:


Denys Duchier, Claire Gardent and Joachim Niehren
Version 1.2.4 (20020829)