Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Robin Hörnig (SFB Tübingen): Constituent Order of German Spatial Sentences: Information Structure and Processing

We will present experimental evidence from our work on the constitutent order of German spatial relational sentences which originated in studies of a simple reasoning task, the three-term problem. It turned out that constituent order, combined with a manipulation of givenness, dramatically affects the comprehensibility of spatial-relational sentences. We will report on an attempt to experimentally dissociate pure processing effects from an influence of the discourse function of spatial sentences with a marked word order, namely, presentation constructions. We will then extend these findings to the elicitation of presuppositions with respect to the extralinguistic context, both in comprehension and in production. These investigations support the idea that the word order variants of spatial sentences distribute in an almost complentary fashion, fulfilling different discourse functions.