Simple and Complex Sentences in a Contrastive Perspective:

German – Portuguese – Italian

Project description

The project investigates the syntax, information structure and semantics of simple and complex sentences of German compared with the Romance languages Portuguese and Italian. The following questions are in the focus of interest:
  • What types of sentences are there?
  • How are complex sentences made up?
  • What is the relation between sentence structure and sentence meaning?
  • How are sentences (and other linguistic expressions) customized for communicative purposes?
  • Which pragmatic functions can be assumed by sentences in conversation?
Some typological differences between the compared languages are relevant when studying these questions:
  • German sentences contain two positions for verbs, which enclose the so-called middle field. In typical main clauses the finite verb takes the position to the left of the middle field, in typical subordinate clauses it takes the position to its right. In Portuguese and Italian, main and subordinate clauses have identical structures. The verb takes a central position, directly adjacent to the subject.
  • A typical German sentence contains a finite verb form. Reduced clauses with infinite verb forms are rare and, formally as well as functionally, little diversified, but there are rich possibilities of building complex noun phrases. In Portuguese and Italian, reduced clauses with infinite verb forms (infinitivals, participials and gerund constructions) are used much more frequently and in greater variety. Finite subordinate clauses and complex nominals play a less important role than in German.
  • Information structure is encoded mainly by prosodic means (accent and intonation) in German. In Italian and Portuguese, syntactic encoding is more pervasive: cleft constructions in Portuguese, left dislocation constructions in Italian.
The grammatical systems of German, Portuguese and Italian are not radically different, but sentence structure has its own character in each language. In some respects, Portuguese is more similar to German, in others Italian.

Data, methods and objectives

The project is based on data from the IDS corpora and other comparable sources. The methods used are mainly descriptive, guided by traditional grammar. More recent theoretical and analytic instruments for the treatment of constituent structure, information structure, and sentence semantics are used when necessary. The results of the project will be published in a monograph.

Targeted users

The results of the project are of interest to linguists, grammarians and (university) teachers specialised in German and/or Romance languages, also to general readers interested in languages and linguistics. The project’s objectives include applications of at least some of the results for university teaching. Researchers in the fields of German and contrastive linguistics in Italy and the Portuguese-speaking countries are invited to interact with the project team. Cooperation
Supervision of dissertations and theses
Translation assistance and formatting by Martina Richter.
Project coordinator: Prof Dr Hardarik Blühdorn Student assistants: Carolina Iazzetta Alves
(07-12/2013) Martina Richter
(02/2014-08/2015) Canan Sertkaya
(11/2015-04/2017) Júlio Junqueira
(since 06/2017)