Resolving unexpected case concord in German A–N–N compounds

Abstract

German A(djective)–N(oun)–N(oun) compounds exhibit unexpected internal inflection. The main purpose of this paper is to account for the interesting fact that the adjective in German A–N–N compounds shows several options to inflect for case. It can either agree with the first noun, with the second noun, or with neither of them. A production-task experiment confirms the existence of all three patterns. This is an important result since from a theoretical perspective, agreement of the adjective with the second noun is unexpected because it seems to violate standard locality conditons. Our claim is that the semantic relation in A–N–N compounds is always represented correctly. As a consequence, the different observed inflection strategies are not due to different structures (contra Lawrenz in Deutsch als Fremdsprache 32(1):39–42, 1995). We rather argue that the observed diversity is a consequence of the order of syntactic operations that apply: In German A–N–N compounds, adjectival inflection depends on (i) the order of the operations Agree and Insertion and on (ii) the interaction of these operations with the Strict Cycle Condition and the Minimal Link Condition.

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Correspondence to Katja Barnickel.

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Barnickel, K., Guzmán Naranjo, M. Resolving unexpected case concord in German A–N–N compounds. J Comp German Linguistics 20, 83–138 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10828-017-9089-x

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Keywords

  • Compounds
  • Case concord
  • Bracketing paradox
  • Rule ordering
  • German
  • Adjectival inflection