Lea M. Fricke, Swantje Tönnis
"Es ist dies" – A Special Use of German Prefield-es
Abstract We present a corpus study on a hitherto unstudied use of the German prefield-es in combination with a demonstrative subject dies and a copula verb ist, which we call Es ist dies-sentences. In such constructions, the prefield-es appears redundant as they contain a suitable and mostly preferred candidate to fill the prefield, the demonstrative pronoun dies. According to our corpus data, this construction is predominantly used in southern varieties of German (Swiss, Austrian and Bavarian German). In order to better understand the distribution of these constructions, we compared Es ist dies-sentences to a sample of unmarked Dies ist-sentences that mirrored the distribution of the prefield-es cases. We found two significant differences between the two samples with regard to a) the distance to the antecedent of dies and b) the content of the sentence. Based on our findings, we propose a modification of Speyer’s (2008, 2009) stochastic Optimality Theoretic (OT) model of prefield ranking.
Keywords Prefield-es, information structure, stochastic OT, southern varieties of German