Markus Bader, Vasiliki Koukoulioti
When Object-Subject Order is Preferred to Subject-Object Order: The Case of German Main and Relative Clauses
Abstract Overall, subject-before-object (SO) order is preferred in German to object-before-subject order (OS), as reflected in higher acceptability and higher frequency of the former in comparison to the latter. Certain conditions have been identified, however, where OS order is preferred to SO order. First, main clauses in which the object is related to the prior discourse by a partially-ordered set relation, and second, relative clauses with a personal pronoun as subject. In order to explore the circumstances under which OS is preferred to SO order, we present preliminary data from ongoing corpus studies investigating relative clauses and main clauses in which either the subject or the object occupies the prefield. The corpus data confirm prior findings from experimental studies and extend them in several ways. In particular, the corpus data reveal a close connection between referential form and word order, with demonstrative pronouns strongly favoring the use of OS order.
Keywords German syntax, word order, prefield, relative clauses, referential form, language production, topic