Language change and language variation in relative clause formation: evidence from (Early) New High German
2022-04-14, 09:00–09:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 4

Relative constructions have always been of interest in general linguistics, comparative linguistics or dialectology, both from a theoretical and typological perspective (cf. e.g. Brandner/Bräuning 2013; Fleischer 2005, 2017; Lehmann 1984; Murelli 2011). There has been, however, no study so far which takes a closer look at relative constructions (more precisely: restrictive relative clauses) in Early New High German (and beyond) and is, at the same time, based on a solid empirical basis. Needless to say, such a study would be very useful in order to better understanding the mechanisms of language change as regards relative pronouns and relative particles in (Early) New High German; and, going a step further, it would help to shed new light on relative clause formation in today’s dialects, too.
For this reason, we would like to discuss the following questions in our talk: (1) How can the relationship between relative pronouns and relative particles in (Early) New High German be described (e.g. in terms of the universal principles in relative clause formation, see Keenan/Comrie 1977)? Is there a functional split between the two constructions or rather free variation/concurrence? (2) When (and where) evolves wo into a relative particle? (3) What does the variation (regional and/or stylistic) found in Early New High German tell us about the variation found in today’s dialects in terms of continuity and change?
The analysis is based upon a broad data corpus that covers a period from 1350 to 1800 and consists of different text genres (closer to conceptual orality or literacy). Each text passage consists of approximately 2.000 words; furthermore the texts stem from different regions/dialects (Bavarian/East Upper German; Swabian and Alemannic/West Upper German; Ripuarian/West Central German; Saxonian/East Middle German). The data is taken from the BonnC (Bonner Frühneuhochdeutschkorpus) and the GerManC Corpus. In terms of methodology, the corpus can be (partly) automatically searched, each proof, however, has to be analyzed manually.
Preliminary results show that, in the period from 1350 to 1600, the relative particles wo and so coexist, whereby their use is functionally clearly separated. Zero markers exist, too, but are quite rare. From 1600/1650 on we state an increase of wo and a decrease of so which might be explained by the expansion of wo into the functional domain of so (cf. Brandner/Bräunung 2013). As regards the proportional frequency of relative particles to relative pronouns, it is quite surprising that there is only a small decrease of relative particles (mainly taking place in the Central German regions, and to a lesser extent in the Upper German region): in other words, both relative particles and relative pronouns compete against each other in the period from1650 to 1800. Finally, as there are only small differences relating to text genre, we conclude that regional variation is stronger than text genre variation (but see Kempf 2016: 106 who states that text genre variation is stronger than regional variation concerning inflected adjectives).


Corpora and online sources
BonnC (Bonner Frühneuhochdeutschkorpus ):
Fleischer, Jürg (2017): Relativsatz-Einleitung. In: Fleischer, Jürg/Lenz, Alexandra N./Weiß, Helmut (2017): SyHD-atlas. Konzipiert von Ludwig M. Breuer. Unter Mitarbeit von Katrin Kuhmichel, Stephanie Leser-Cronau, Johanna Schwalm und Thomas Strobel. Marburg/Wien/Frankfurt am Main:
GerManC Corpus:

Brandner, Ellen/Bräuning, Iris (2013): Relative wo in Alemannic: only a complementizer? Linguistische Berichte 234, 131–169.
Fleischer, Jürg (2005): Relativsätze in den Dialekten des Deutschen: Vergleich und Typologie. Linguistik online 24, 171–186.
Keenan, Edward L./Comrie, Bernard (1977): Noun phrase accessibility and universal grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 8, 63–99.
Kempf, Luise (2016): Adjektivsuffixe in Konkurrenz. Wortbildungswandel vom Frühneuhochdeutschen zum Neuhochdeutschen. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Lehmann, Christian (1984): Der Relativsatz. Tübingen: Narr.
Murelli, Adriano (2011) : Relative Constructions in European Non-Standard Varieties. Berlin: De Gruyter.