K äppi -- end piece of bread ?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 27 03:09:11 UTC 2009

At 8:07 PM -0400 4/26/09, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>At 4/26/2009 06:34 PM, Chris Waigl wrote:
>>Uh, the other way round. Given that German *does* have case endings,
>>word order is more liberal than in English: "the woman gets the /
>Makes more sense.  But what would be the
>inflection (the accusative) in "the Söhnche[n] gets the Frau"?
I think Chris's point, at least as I interpret
it, is more that it's because of its case markers
(specifically for the masculine, which does
distinguish "der Mann" (nom.) from "den Mann"
(acc.)) that German allows more freedom of word
order than English, allowing in particular OVS
order--even in cases like this one, where neither
the subject nor object is masculine (and where
thus there's no way to tell *from the inflection*
who did what to whom, given the conflation of
nom. and acc. in both feminine ("die Frau") and
neuter ("das Söhnchen").  Of course in this case,
and others where scrambling is likely to occur,
you can tell who did what to whom--or more often
to what--based on the nature of the predicate.
So I'd predict it's less likely to occur in, say
"die Frau sieht das Mädchen" (to mean "the girl
sees the woman" rather than vice versa) than in
cases involving verbs meaning 'get' and objects
denoting ends of bread.

Of course English has an advantage in another
area, by virtue of having lost its V2-hood, so we
can say "The end of bread the woman gets" (in
certain circumstances), and we can infer it's OSV
rather than SOV, while German can't get that at
all--in main clauses.  So one language's freedom
is another's enslavement.


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