On the Left Periphery of German Finite Sentences

Frank Richter and Manfred Sailer

In: W. Detmar Meurers, Tibor Kiss (eds): Constraint-Based Approaches to Germanic Syntax. CSLI Publications. pp. 257-300

In this paper, we discuss a new analysis of the left periphery of German finite sentences. Our HPSG analysis builds on empirical generalizations previously formulated in the topological fields model of German sentence structure. Its main idea is to lexicalize the left periphery or, in other words, to explain the topological makeup of the left periphery of finite sentences in terms of certain properties of a class of lexical elements. A key characteristic of these lexical elements is that exactly one of them must introduce each finite sentence. The main arguments favoring our new perspective are drawn from well known but puzzling facts about the distribution of inflectional morphemes at the left periphery of finite sentences in a number of Germanic languages, and from observations that reveal clear differences between finite verbs in sentence initial and in sentence final position. We show that a lexical theory of the elements at the left periphery of finite sentences allows natural empirical generalizations that nonlexical or phrase structure-based accounts have not been able to provide.
The syntactic analysis is complemented by a concrete proposal of how to provide logical forms for the syntactic structures. As semantic representation language, we employ a higher order type-theoretic language, Ty2, which is widely accepted as a standard in natural language semantics, and exploit techniques first pioneered by theories of underspecified semantics for the formulation of semantic composition rules that derive the meaning of each phrase from the meaning of its daughters.

Bibtex entry:

	author = {Frank Richter and Manfred Sailer},
	title = {{On the Left Periphery of German Finite Sentences}},
	booktitle = {Constraint-Based Approaches to Germanic Syntax},
	editor = {Meurers, W. Detmar and Tibor Kiss},
	year = {2001},
	pages = {257--300},
	publisher = {CSLI Publications}

Frank Richter
Last modified: Fri Jun 8 17:21:31 MEST 2001