Skip to main content

Inverse Case attraction: experimental evidence for a syntactically guided process

Abstract

In progressive Case attraction, the Case of a head nominal overwrites the Case of a following coindexed relative pronoun. The reverse process is called ‘inverse’ Case attraction. There, the morphologically overt Case of a relative pronoun overwrites the Case of a preceding head nominal. Inverse Case attraction has been attested in languages like Ancient Greek, Latin, and in the history of different Germanic languages. For modern standard German, its existence has in general been denied. We first discuss current analyses which have nevertheless identified inverse Case attraction in modern German on the basis of historical data and experimental judgement studies. We then present four behavioral experiments on the processing of German sentences. Effects of inverse Case attraction in the comprehension of German are revealed in self-paced reading times. They are fundamentally different in structures allowing attraction of dative Case than in structures allowing attraction of accusative Case, with much stronger effects for dative than for accusative Case. The results are interpreted in a theory of Case that draws a syntactic difference between structural and inherent (‘lexical’) Case rather than along the lines of the familiar Case hierarchy.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Alexiadou, Artemis, Paul Law, André Meinunger, and Chris Wilder. 2000. Introduction. In The syntax of relative clauses, ed. Artemis Alexiadou, Paul Law, André Meinunger, and Chris Wilder, 1–51. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins (= Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 32).

  2. Bader, Markus. 1996. Sprachverstehen. Opladen: Westdeutscher.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  3. Bader, Markus. 2012. The German bekommen passive: A case study on frequency and grammaticality. Linguistische Berichte 23: 249–281.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bader, Markus, and Josef Bayer. 2006. Case and linking in language comprehensionEvidence from German. Dordrecht: Springer (= Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics 34).

  5. Bader, Markus, Josef Bayer, Jens-Max Hopf, and Michael Meng. 1996. Case-Assignment in processing German verb-final clauses. In Proceeding of the NELS 26 Sentence Processing Workshop, 1–25 (= MIT Occasional Papers in Linguistics 9).

  6. Bader, Markus, and Jana Häussler. 2013. How much bekommen is there in the German bekommen passive? In Non-canonical passives, ed. Artemis Alexiadou and Florian Schäfer, 115–139. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins (= Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 205).

  7. Bader, Markus, and Michael Meng. 1999. Subject-object ambiguities in German embedded clauses: An across-the-board comparison. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 28: 121–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bader, Markus, Michael Meng, and Josef Bayer. 2000a. Case and reanalysis 1. Journal of Psycho-linguistic Research 29: 37–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bader, Markus, Michael Meng, Josef Bayer, and Jens-Max Hopf. 2000b. Syntaktische Funktionsambiguitäten im Deutschen—Ein Überblick. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 19: 34–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Barr, Dale J., Roger Levy, Christoph Scheepers, and Harry J. Tily. 2013. Random effects structure for confirmatory hypothesis testing: Keep it maximal. Journal of Memory and Language 68: 255–278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Bates, Douglas, Martin Mächler, Ben Bolker and Steve Walker. 2015. Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software 67(1): 1–48. https://www.jstatsoft.org/article/ view/v067i01.

  12. Bayer, Josef. 1984. Comp in Bavarian syntax. The Linguistic Review 3: 209–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Bayer, Josef, and Markus Bader. 2007. On the syntax of prepositional phrases. In Interface and interface conditions, ed. Andreas Späth, 157–179. Berlin: De Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bayer, Josef, Markus Bader, and Michael Meng. 2001. Morphological underspecification meets Oblique Case: Syntactic and processing effects in German. Lingua 111: 465–514.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Bayer, Josef, and Martin Salzmann. 2013. That-trace effects and resumption—How improper movement can be repaired. In Repairs. The added value of being wrong, ed. Patrick Brandt and Eric Fuß, 275–334. Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Behaghel, Otto. 1923–1932. Deutsche Syntax. vol. 4. Heidelberg: Winter.

  17. Béjar, Susana, and Milan Řezáč. 2009. Cyclic agree. Linguistic Inquiry 40: 35–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Bianchi, Valentina. 2002a. Headed relative clauses in Generative Grammar—Part 1. Glot International 6 (7): 197–204.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Bianchi, Valentina. 2002b. Headed relative clauses in Generative Grammar—Part II. Glot International 6 (8): 235–247.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Bianchi, Valentina, and Christiano Chesi. 2014. Subject islands, reconstruction, and the flow of the computation. Linguistic Inquiry 45 (4): 525–569.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Bittner, Maria, and Ken Hale. 1996. The structural determination of Case and agreement. Linguistic Inquiry 27: 1–68.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Bock, Kathryn, Kathleen M. Eberhard, and J. Cooper Cutting. 2004. Producing number agreement: How pronouns equal verbs. Journal of Memory and Language 51: 251–278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Bock, Kathryn, Kathleen M. Eberhard, J. Cooper Cutting, Antje S. Meyer, and Herbert Schriefers. 2001. Some attractions of verb agreement. Cognitive Psychology 43: 83–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Bornkessel, Ina, Brian McElree, Matthias Schlesewsky, and Angela D. Friederici. 2004. Multi-dimensional contributions to garden path strength: Dissociating phrase structure from case marking. Journal of Memory and Language 51: 495–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Caha, Pavel. 2009. The nanosyntax of case. Doctoral Dissertation. Tromsø.

  26. Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Cinque, Guglielmo. 2015. Three phenomena discriminating between “raising” and “matching” relative clauses. Semantics-Syntax Interface 2 (1): 1–27.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Czypionka, Anna. 2014. The interplay of object animacy and verb class in representation building. Doctoral Dissertation, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

  29. Czypionka, Anna, Katharina Spalek, Isabell Wartenburger, and Manfred Krifka. 2017. On the interplay of object animacy and verb type during sentence comprehension in German: ERP evidence from the processing of transitive dative and accusative constructions. Linguistics 55 (6): 1383–1433.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. De Vries, Marc. 2006. The syntax of appositive relativization: On specifying coordination, false free relatives, and promotion. Linguistic Inquiry 37: 229–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Eberhard, Kathleen M., Kathryn Bock, and J. Cooper Cutting. 2005. Making syntax of sense: Number agreement in sentence production. Psychological Review 112 (3): 531–559.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Fayol, Michel, Pierre Largy, and Patrick Lemaire. 1994. Cognitive overload and orthographic errors: When cognitive overload enhances subject-verb agreement errors: A study in French written language. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 47 (A): 437–464.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Fox, John and Sanford Weisberg. 2011. An R companion to applied regression. Thousand Oaks: Sage. http://socserv.socsci.mcmaster.ca/jfox/Books/Companion.

  34. Frazier, Lyn. 1987. Syntactic processing: Evidence from Dutch. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 5: 519–559.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Georgi, Doreen, and Martin Salzmann. 2014. Case attraction and matching in resumption in relatives. Evidence for top-down derivation. In Topics at InfL, ed. Anke Assmann, Sebastian Bank, Doreen Georgi, Timo Klein, Philipp Weisser and Eva Zimmermann, 347–395. Universität Leipzig (= Linguistische Arbeitsberichte 92).

  36. Georgi, Doreen, and Martin Salzmann. 2017. The matching effect in resumption: A local analysis based on Case attraction and top-down derivation. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 35 (1): 61–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Grimm, Jacob. 1866. Über einige Fälle der Attraction. In Abhandlungen zur Literatur und Grammatik, ed. I.I.I. Kleinere Schriften, 312–348. Berlin: Dümmler.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Groos, Anneke, and Henk van Riemsdijk. 1981. Matching effects in free relatives: A parameter of core grammar in theory of markedness in Generative Grammar. In Proceedings of the 1979 GLOW Conference, 171–216.

  39. Haider, Hubert. 1984. Mona Lisa lächelt stumm-Über das sogenannte deutsche “Rezipientenpassiv”. Linguistische Berichte 89: 32–42.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Haider, Hubert. 1985. The case of German. In Studies in German grammar, ed. Jindrich Toman, 65–101. Dordrecht: Foris.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  41. Harbert, Wayne. 2007. The Germanic languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Häussler, Jana. 2009. The emergence of attraction errors during sentence comprehension. Doctoral dissertation, University of Konstanz.

  43. Heck, Fabian. 2005. Gegen Kopfanhebung in deutschen Relativsätzen. Handout GGS. Universität Tübingen. http://home.uni-leipzig.de/heck/papiere/ggs05.pdf.

  44. Heister, Julian, Kai-Michael Würzner, Johannes Bubenzer, Emund Pohl, Thomas Hanneforth, Alexander Geyken, and Reinhold Kliegl. 2011. dlexDB—eine lexikalische Datenbank für die psychologische und linguistische Forschung. Psychologische Rundschau 32: 10–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Helgander, John. 1971. The relative clause in English and other Germanic languages. A historical and analytical survey. Doctoral Dissertation. Unversity of Gothenburg.

  46. Hemforth, Barbara, Lars Konieczny, and Gerhard Strube. 1993. Incremental syntax processing and parsing strategies. In Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci) 15, 539–545.

  47. Hopf, Jens-Max, Markus Bader, Michael Meng, and Josef Bayer. 2003. Is human sentence parsing serial or parallel?: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Cognitive Brain Research 15 (2): 165–177.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Hopf, Jens-Max, Josef Bayer, Markus Bader, and Michael Meng. 1998. Event-related brain potentials and case information in syntactic ambiguities. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 10: 264–280.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Kallulli, Dalina. 2013. (Non-)canonical passives and reflexives. Deponents and their like. In Non-canonical passives, ed. Artemis Alexiadou and Florian Schäfer, 337–358. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins (= Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 205).

  50. Kallulli, Dalina. 2016. Clitic doubling as differential object marking. Rivista di Grammatica Generativa: Research in Generative Grammar (RGG) 38: 161–171.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Keenan, Edward L., and Bernard Comrie. 1977. Noun phrase accessibility and Universal Grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 8 (1): 63–99.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Lamontagne, Greg, and Lisa Travis. 1987. The syntax of adjacency. In Proceedings of the Sixth West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 6), 173–186.

  53. Lenerz, Jürgen. 1984. Syntaktischer Wandel und Grammatiktheorie. Eine Untersuchung an Beispielen aus der Sprachgeschichte des Deutschen. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

    Google Scholar 

  54. McGinnis, Martha. 1996. Projection and position. In Proceedings of ConSole IV, 203–220.

  55. Meng, Michael, and Markus Bader. 2000. Ungrammaticality detection and garden-path strength: Evidence for serial parsing. Language and Cognitive Processes 15: 615–666.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Müller, Gereon. 1995. A-bar syntax. A study of movement types. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter (= Studies in Generative Grammar 42).

  57. Pesetsky, David, and Esther Torrego. 2007. The syntax of valuation and the interpretability of features. In Phrasal and clausal architecture: Syntactic derivation and interpretation, ed. Simin Karimi, Vida Samiian, and Wendy K. Wilkins, 262–294. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (=Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today, 101).

  58. Phillips, Colin. 2003. Linear order and constituency. Linguistic Inquiry 34: 37–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Pittner, Karin. 1995. The case of German relatives. The Linguistic Review 12: 197–231.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Pittner, Karin. 1996. Attraktion, Tilgung und Verbposition. Zur diachronen und dialektalen Variation beim Relativpronomen im Deutschen. In Language change and Generative Grammar, ed. Ellen Brandner and Gisella Ferraresi, 120–153. Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag (= Sonderheft Linguistische Berichte 7).

  61. R Development Core Team. 2005. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Rohde, Doug. 2003. Linger: A flexible platform for language processing experiments (Version 2.94). http://tedlab.mit.edu/Linger.

  63. Salzmann, Martin. 2006. Resumptive prolepsis. A study in indirect A’-dependencies. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Leiden. (= LOT Dissertation Series 136).

  64. Schlesewsky, Matthias, Stefan Frisch, and Ina Bornkessel. 2001. Das Problem mit syntaktischen Funktionsambiguitäten: Eine kritische Betrachtung zu einem Überblick von Bader/Meng/Bayer/Hopf. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 20: 251–265.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Schriefers, Herbert, Angela D. Friederici, and Katja Kuhn. 1995. The processing of locally ambiguous relative clauses in German. Journal of Memory and Language 34 (4): 499–520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Tremblay, Antoine, and Johannes Ransijn. 2015. Lmerconveniencefunctions: Model selection and post hoc analysis for (g)lmer models. https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=LMERConvenience Functions. R (package version 2.10).

  67. van Riemsdijk, Henk. 1989. Swiss relatives. In Sentential complementation and the lexicon, ed. Dany Jaspers, Wim Klooster, Yvan Putseys, and Pieter Seuren, 343–354. Dordrecht: Foris.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Vogel, Ralf, and Markus Steinbach. 1995. On the (absence of a) base position for dative objects in German. FAS Papers in Linguistics 4: 99–131.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Wagers, Matthew W., Ellen F. Lau, and Colin Phillips. 2009. Agreement attraction in comprehension: Representations and processes. Journal of Memory and Language 61 (2): 206–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Wickham, Hadley. 2007. Reshaping data with the reshape package. Journal of Statistical Software 21(12): 1–20. http://www.jstatsoft.org/v21/i12/paper.

  71. Wickham, Hadley. 2009. ggplot2: Elegant graphics for data analysis. New York: Springer. http://ggplot2.org.

  72. Wickham, Hadley. 2011. The split-apply-combine strategy for data analysis. Journal of Statistical Software 40(1): 1–29. http://www.jstatsoft.org/v40/i01/.

  73. Williams, Edwin. 1994. Thematic structure in syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Wood, Jim, Einar Freyr Sigurðsson, and Iris Edda Nowenstein. 2017. Inverse attraction in Icelandic relative clauses. In Syntactic variation in Insular Scandinavian, ed. Höskuldur Thráinsson, Caroline Heycock, Hjalmar P. Petersen, and Zakaris Svabo Hansen, 199–232. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. (=Studies in Germanic Linguistics 1).

  75. Woolford, Ellen. 2006. Lexical Case, inherent Case, and argument structure. Linguistic Inquiry 37 (1): 111–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge clarifying communications with Alex Grosu and Martin Salzmann and the assistance of Christina Gozebina, Marc Meisezahl and Thi Xuan Mai Truongh during data acquisition. The comments by three anonymous reviewers were highly relevant for the improvement of this article. Laura Dörre received funding via a Ph.D. Grant by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anna Czypionka.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Czypionka, A., Dörre, L. & Bayer, J. Inverse Case attraction: experimental evidence for a syntactically guided process. J Comp German Linguistics 21, 135–188 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10828-018-9099-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Case
  • Inverse Case attraction
  • Dative
  • German
  • Self-paced reading