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Pronominal inflection and NP ellipsis in German

Abstract

Indefinite and possessive pronouns in German such as ein-es ‘one’ and mein-er ‘mine’ bear strong inflectional endings unlike their determiner counterparts. Following Saab and Lipták (Stud Linguist 70(1):66–108, 2016), I argue that this difference in inflection is due to NP ellipsis, which creates a ‘stranded’ affix that subsequently docks onto the determiner. Assuming that adjectives are reattached by Local Dislocation allows us to account for the descriptive observation that the determiner and pronominal paradigms differ only in the same three exceptional cases where determiners do not bear overt inflection. Furthermore, I discuss how this approach can extend to similar data from Afrikaans, Dutch and English, as well as to split topicalization constructions in German. This analysis provides further support for Saab and Lipták’s proposal that inflection emerges as a direct result of ellipsis, rather than constituting part of the licensing conditions on ellipsis.

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Acknowledgements

For helpful feedback, I would like to thank audiences at Generative Grammatik des Südens 2017 at Leipzig University and the 31st Comparative Germanic Syntax Workshop (CGSW) in Stellenbosch, South Africa. I am particularly grateful to three anonymous reviewers, as well as Jim Wood, Susi Wurmbrand and Carole Boster, for useful and challenging comments that led to considerable improvement and expansion of this paper. Further thanks also go to Katja Barnickel, Johannes Hein and Martin Salzmann for discussion of the German data.

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Murphy, A. Pronominal inflection and NP ellipsis in German. J Comp German Linguistics 21, 327–379 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10828-018-9102-z

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Keywords

  • Inflection
  • Ellipsis
  • Distributed morphology
  • German