Clause Structure and Utterance Meaning:

Word Order, Particles, Emphasis


Clause Structure and Utterance Meaning: Word Order, Particles, Emphasis is an DFG-funded research project at the University of Konstanz. It runs from April 2013 to September 2017.

The project aims at the development of an explicit syntactic account of illocutionary meaning, i.e. the meaning of utterances. Research will start from standard generalizations about the role of word order in clausal typing and will move from there to a thorough investigation of the functional architecture of the clause. Discourse particles as they are found in German, but also in weakly related languages such as Bangla, play a central role in the formation of utterance meaning. They turn basic sentence types such as questions into more fine-grained types such as rhetorical questions, surprise questions, disapproval questions etc. The working hypothesis is that they have shifted from heterogeneous sources (often adverbs) to the repertory of functional heads, and as such contribute in fundamental ways to the functional set-up of the clause.

Certain options of word order, sometimes in combination with discourse particles, yield an emphatic character (also called ‘mirativity’) that is typical for the expressive side of utterances and often endows them with an exclamative flavor. Both German and Bangla offer good reasons to assume that (at least certain forms of) emphatic marking is ‘hard-wired’ in grammar, and that it must be distinguished from information structure. Consideration of German and Bangla will help reorienting research on utterance structure from a restrictive focus on the so-called ‘left periphery’ to the entire clause including lower segments and, importantly, also the post-verbal space. Among the Indo-Aryan languages, Bangla is known for its rich particle vocabulary and is as such a top candidate for comparison with German. Although it is now the sixth largest language of the world in terms of the number of speakers, it is linguistically under-researched. An offshoot of the theoretical work on Bangla will be the development of a reference work and a data bank on Bangla particles which should be useful for a broader audience.

This site provides details on the project, the people involved, publications & talks, and events.