Nominal Modification

The Research Training Group on Nominal Modification at the Goethe University Frankfurt

Home » Colloquium: Astrid Gößwein

Colloquium: Astrid Gößwein

On Tuesday, February 5th at 4pm in SH 3.104, Astrid Gößwein will give a talk in the GK colloquium.

 Extended nominal modifiers – participle constructions in German and English

Extended prenominal modifiers in German have notable sentential properties, especially when the adjectival element is a participle.
(1)  die  das Sofa    zerstörende Katze  (hat vermutlich    Hunger)
      the  the  couch destroying    cat      (has presumably hunger)
‘The cat destroying the couch is presumably hungry.’

(2)  die Katze, die  das Sofa   zerstört,…
the cat      that the  couch destroys
‘the cat that destroys the couch…’

The alternation of prenominal modifiers and relative clauses (cf. (2)) is especially interesting from a processing perspective, because both constructions have a different position, which could have an effect on memory load. Furthermore, they also differ in terms of finiteness and the existence of an overt subject. The comparison with other languages is one possibility to learn more about the processing of this construction in German. In English, an (at least superficially) similar construction to (1) is a reduced relative clause with a present participle. Contrary to German, modifiers that are extended by arguments occur postnominally. In this case, there is no difference in the position of a reduced or full relative clause. An eye-tracking experiment on the construction in English was conducted: participle constructions of different length and the corresponding relative clauses were compared. This will be followed by a future experiment on German. 

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