Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Eric Fuß (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt): The category of deadjectival nouns in German: Evidence from Relative Clause Formation

Brandt & Fuß (2014, 2015) argue that in German, the use of das ?that? vs. was ?what? as (neuter singular) relative pronouns is governed by categorial properties of the head of the relative clause: A d-form is inserted if the relative clause attaches to an element that carries a categorial feature characteristic of lexical nouns. Elsewhere, the relative operator is spelled-out by the underspecified wh-form was. Against this background, this paper focuses on pronoun choice in relative clauses modifying nominalized adjectives, which share formal properties with both adjectives and nouns in present-day German. Based on a corpus study conducted in the Deutsches Referenzkorpus (DeReKo) it is shown that different types of deadjectival nouns do not behave uniformly with respect to pronoun choice in attributive relative clauses. While nominalized positives (in the neuter gender) seem to allow both d- and wh-forms, but preferably combine with the regular relative pronoun das ?that?, superlatives strongly favor relativization by means of the corresponding wh-form was ?what?. The contrasts are taken to reflect structural differences in the internal make-up of the respective categories that give rise to different degrees of ?nouniness?.