Pragmatics is key: A multidimensional analysis of adnominal possession in Austria
2022-04-12, 11:30–12:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 2

In recent years, research has revealed the importance of considering several dimensions to account for adnominal possessive constructions (=APC) in German varieties. Kasper (2017), for instance, has demonstrated that in Hessian dialects syntactic as well as spatial and semantic factors are crucial for understanding the use of APC. Other studies, in turn, have focused either primarily on morphological factors (e.g. Nickel 2016) or on vertical variation (e.g. Kallenborn 2019). Remarkably, in this line of research, the impact of the pragmatic dimension is rarely considered (in contrast to other languages, cf. e.g. Willemse et al. 2009).
The aim of our talk is therefore twofold: first, by focusing on German in Austria, we consider a language area not yet sufficiently investigated with regard to adnominal possession; second, besides re-examining the well-known intra- and extra-linguistic factors that constrain APC, we will also be discussing the pivotal role of pragmatics. In particular, we will employ the concepts of ‘referential anchoring’ (Taylor 1996) and ‘accessibility’ (Vogels & Van Bergen 2013) to explain the variation of APC in Austria. As will be argued, these pragmatic concepts may also account for other syntactical and semantical constraints of adnominal possession (e.g. animacy).
To fulfil the above aims, we will draw on three types of data obtained by the Special Research Program “German in Austria” ( (1) To provide an overview of the horizontal variation of APC, we will investigate data from a comprehensive dialect survey with 163 speakers from 40 locations across Austria. The data comprises direct dialect recordings based on a traditional dialect questionnaire as well as a written questionnaire. (2) To examine the vertical variation of the dialect-standard-axis, we will draw on spoken data from “language production experiments” conducted in 13 locations with 147 speakers. These controlled data will give further insights into major intra- and extra-linguistic factors that determine APC in Austria. (3) To deepen our understanding of the importance of pragmatic factors, we will also examine more natural speech data. 30 recordings of a corpus comprising “conversations among friends” are going to be analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Ultimately, this methodological approach will allow for a better understanding of the factors determining adnominal possession in Austria.

Panel affiliation

Structures of Adnominal Possession in German Varieties – Factors of Variation and Change


Kallenborn, Tim (2019): Regionalsprachliche Syntax. Horizontal-vertikale Variation im Moselfränkischen. Stuttgart: Steiner.
Kasper, Simon (2017): Adnominale Possession. In SyHD-atlas. (15 March, 2017).
Nickel, Grit (2016): Dem Herrgott sei Scheenster. On dative-marked nominal possessive constructions in East Franconian. In Gabriele Diewald (ed.), Non-Central Usages of Datives, 85–112. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.
Taylor, John R. (1996): Possessives in English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Vogels, Jorrig & Geertje van Bergen (2013): Where to place inaccessible subjects in Dutch: The role of definiteness and animacy. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 13(2). 369–398.
Willemse, Peter, Kirstin Davidse & Liesbet Heyvaert (2009): English possessives as reference-point construction and their function in the discourse. In William B. McGregor (ed.), The Expression of Possession, 13–50. Berlin: De Gruyter.

I am a PhD student in Romance linguistics at the University of Vienna. Currently, I am mostly interested in morphology and its interfaces with syntax, phonology and semantics. In my dissertation, I am investigating morphosyntactic deficits in the verbal domain related to Italian speakers with Broca’s aphasia.
My research interests also include syntactic and morphological variation in German varieties. Prior to my current research goals, as a student assistant within the FWF Special Research Programme (SFB) ‘German in Austria. Variation – Contact – Perception', I also worked on adnominal possessive constructions in the context of my Master's thesis.