Inner-sentential propositional pro-forms: syntactic properties and interpretative effects

Organizer(s) Werner Frey, André Meinunger & Kerstin Schwabe
Workshop Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS)
Start of event 23.02.2011, 09.00 o'clock
End of event 25.02.2011, 15.00 o'clock
Venue Göttingen

Propositional pro-elements that relate to clauses within complex sentences as in the German examples i. to iii. (illustrated with a bare accusative pronoun ('es') in the a-, and with a prepositional pro-form in the b-examples) are a topic that arises in different languages and that holds a lot of open questions within nearly all domains of grammar.

i. a. Fred hat's /es akzeptiert,  [dass Maria nach Paris fährt].
       Fred has'it-CL/it accepted  [that Maria to Paris goes]

   b. Fred hat sich daRÜber/DRÜber gefreut, [dass Hans nach München kam].
       Fred has himself about-it be-glad [that Hans to Munich came]
       'Fred was glad that Hans came to Munich.'

ii. a. Fred hat das akzeptiert, [dass Maria nach Paris fährt].
        Fred has that accepted [that Maria to Paris goes]

   b. Das Problem von Fred soll DArin bestehen, [dass er immer träumt].
       The problem of Fred shall therein consist [that he always dreams]
       'Fred's problem is supposed to consist in his daydreaming.'

iii.a. Fred wird es bedauern, [wenn Maria nach Paris fährt].
       Fred will it regret [if Maria to Paris goes].
       'Fred will regret it if Maria goes to Paris.'

   b. Fred hat sich  nicht d(a)rüber gefreut, [als er die Stelle bekam].
       Fred has himself not about-it be-glad  [when he the job got]
       'Fred was not glad when he got the job.'

In the literature sometimes (Pütz 1986, Sudhoff 2003), but far from always, three types of pro-forms are distinguished: i. "Platzhalter" (place holders, correlates), which are phonologically reducible and which seem to replace their clausal correlate in the argument position, ii. "Bezugselemente" (relating elements), which are not reducible phonologically and which may form a constituent together with their clausal correlate, and iii. proper pro-forms, which can neither be regarded as place holders nor as relating elements (cf. for German, e.g. Breindl 1989, and for diachronical constellations Axel 2009).

The workshop aims to contribute to some of the most challenging issues arising in this area, some of them stemming from longstanding, yet not satisfyingly explained observations; for example: What are the syntactic relations between the pro-elements and their clausal correlates? Why are certain pro-elements obligatorily present in the IP-domain with the related clause moved to the front whereas other pro-elements are illegitimate (e.g. Fabricius-Hansen 1980 or Sternefeld 2006):

iv. a. Wenn Maria nicht nach Paris fährt, wird *(es) Fred sehr bedauern.
        When Maria not to Paris goes will it Fred very regret.
        'If Maria will not go to Paris, Fred will regret this very much.'

    b. Dass Maria nicht kommen kann, bedauert/sagt (*es) Fred.
        That Maria not come can regrets /says (*it) Fred.
        'Fred regrets/says that Maria cannot come.'

    c. *(Darüber), dass Hans kam, hat sich Fred (*darüber) gefreut.
         About-it that Hans came has himself Fred about-it be-glad.
         'That Hans came to Munich – Fred was very glad about this'.

Why can certain pro-elements be left behind under 'VP-topicalisation', but others cannot?

v. a. Interessiert, ob Max gewonnen hat, hat es mich sehr.
        Interested, if Max won has has it me very.
        'I was very keen on knowing whether Max had won.'

    b. *Behauptet, dass Max gewonnen hat, hat es Maria mehrmals.
        Claimed that Max won has, has it Maria several-times.
        'Maria claimed several times that Max had won.'

Why do pro-forms usually block extraction out of the associated clause? Which matrix predicates select which pro-forms, and why? What are the relevant contributions of the pro-forms to the semantics of the constructions (cf. Schwabe & Fittler 2009)? How do pro-forms contribute to information structural properties of the sentence? What is the reason for the difference between the accentuation patterns of class i and class ii pro-forms?

All these questions and related ones are addressed to researchers who are involved in this topic synchronically and diachronically. Being aware that there is also a vast research tradition of pronoun-clause linkage for other languages, we encourage prospective speakers to contribute to the workshop with respect to the issues raised above. We think of languages as close to German as Dutch (Bennis 1987) and English (cf. the classic Postal & Pullum 1988), but also as typologically different as Hungarian (cf., for example, the recent work by de Cuba & Ürögdi 2010).


Axel, K. (2009), "(Nicht-)kanonische Nebensätze im Deutschen: synchrone und diachrone Aspekte". Habilitationsschrift U Tübingen.
Bennis, H. (1987), Gaps and Dummies. Foris Publications: Dordrecht/Providence.
Breindl, E. (1989), "Präpositionalobjekte und Präpositionalobjektsätze im Deutschen". Tübingen: Niemeyer.
de Cuba, C. & B. Ürögdi (2010), "Clearing up the 'Facts' on Complementation". University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, Vol. 16.1.
Fabricius-Hansen, C. (1980), "Sogenannte ergänzende 'wenn'-Sätze. Ein Beispiel syntaktisch-semantischer Argumentation". In: Kopenhagener Beiträge zur germanistischen Linguistik, Sonderband 1. København.
Postal, P. M. and G. K. Pullum (1988), "Expletive noun phrases in subcategorized positions". Linguistic Inquiry 19, 635-670.
Pütz, H. (1986), "Über die Syntax der Pronominalform 'es' im modernen Deutsch." Tübingen: Narr.
Schwabe, K. & R. Fittler (2009), "Syntactic force of consistency conditions for German matrix predicates", In: Proceedings of The Tenth Symposium on Logic and Language. Balatonszemes, August 26-29.
Sternefeld, W. (2006), Syntax: eine morphologisch motivierte generative Beschreibung des Deutschen. Vol. I, Tübingen: Stauffenburg-Verlag.
Sudhoff, S. (2003), Argumentsätze und 'es'-Korrelate – zur syntaktischen Struktur von Nebensatzeinbettungen im Deutschen. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag: Berlin.


Katrin Axel-Tober (U Tübingen):
Correlation and clause integration in the history of German

Johan Brandtler & Valéria Molnár (Lund U):
Rethinking clausal asymmetries - The case of Swedish and Hungarian

Kálmán Dudás (ELTE, Budapest):
Lexical variation in a phase-based (v-related) account of morphological forms and pf-realisation of propositional pro

Werner Frey (ZAS Berlin):
On the ‘nominal’ character of clauses associated with a pronominal

Anastasia Gareyshina (MSU), Pavel Grashchenkov (IOS RSA), Ekaterina Lyutikova (MSU) & Sergei Tatevosov (MSU / MIT):
Sentential proforms and complementation in Ossetian

David Petersson (Lund U):
Embedded V2 in Swedish - Two main clauses and a cataphoric pronoun

Kerstin Schwabe (ZAS Berlin):
Sentential proforms and matrix predicates

Stefan Sudhoff (UiL-OTS, U Utrecht):
Correlates of object clauses in German and Dutch

Helena Trompelt, Katrin Axel-Tober & Anke Holler (U Tübingen, U Göttingen):
Correlative 'es' vs. 'das' in German: An experimental perspective

Ilse Zimmermann (U Potsdam):
Phonological, morphosyntactic and semantic properties of 'es'