Das Deutsche als adverbiale Sprache: Zum gewichtigen semantischen Beitrag von Adverbialen zur deutschen Satzkonstruktion

Author

Summary, in English

This master’s thesis deals with the distinct semantic weight carried by adverbials in German sentence constructions, where they can take on functions normally performed by verbs in other languages like English. While German mostly offers the same grammatical possibilities as English does to express certain types of semantic content verbally, the two languages differ when it comes to the preferences displayed by language users, with German native speakers tending to prefer adverbial constructions over verbal constructions. This phenomenon has been widely known in the field of translation studies for a long time and is also regularly highlighted in German translator training programmes, but it has so far not been investigated in detail in the field of contrastive linguistics. The current master’s thesis starts out by trying to establish which kinds of adverbials have the potential in German to convey semantic content usually expressed by verbal structures in English. This is done by analysing recommended translations from course books used in translator training and experience from translation practice. The analysis shows that only certain types of non-obligatory adverbials (adjuncts) have such “verbal” potential, namely aspectual time adverbials, adverbials of manner, adverbials of circumstance and sentence adverbials. An in-depth theoretical discussion and syntactic tests and qualitative analyses performed on sample sentences reveal that, while alternative verbal constructions are possible in German sentences, such constructions may come with cognitive drawbacks arising from the fixed positions of verbs in German declarative sentences (V2, OV, verbal “frame” or “brace”). Whereas semantic content packaged into a series of catenative verbs in English is not necessarily separated when extra information is added, the verbs keep moving further apart from each other in German as a result of an ever-growing middle field. The preference of German for using adverbial constructions may thus be explained by the fact that adverbials, unlike verbs, are more flexible in their positioning and can also be placed close to the verb specified by them, as required. The quantitative part of the present study demonstrates the specific “adverbial” character of German by means of investigations carried out in a number of bilingual text corpora. Here, frequency counts in German texts have revealed a notably higher occurrence of three of the four established types of adverbials with “verbal” potential as compared to English texts with comparable content. The results of the quantitative study provide convincing support for the hypothesis proposed in this thesis, according to which certain types of adverbials should occur more frequently in German than in English texts, the only exception being sentence adverbials, for which the hypothesis could be neither confirmed nor falsified. Future studies conducted on larger text corpora may be able to produce greater clarity in this latter respect.

Topic

  • Languages and Literatures

Keywords

  • adjuncts
  • adverbials
  • cognitive semantics
  • construction grammar
  • contrastive analysis
  • corpus linguistics
  • English
  • German
  • information structure
  • packaging of semantic content
  • pragmatics
  • translation studies
  • language user preferences

Supervisor

  • Valéria Molnár