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Syntax-discourse properties of prefield constituents in L2 German expository writing

Zurück zum Heft: Linguistische Berichte Heft 267
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This article investigates word order phenomena in nonnative German writing (L1 French, B1-B2 CEFR level). As a morphologically rich language, German allows for word order flexibility to adjust sentence production to discourse context. It follows from this that the sentence-initial position of V2 declaratives, also known as prefield, preferably accommodates constituents that establish a relation to preceding discourse. Drawing on the assumed challenge for learners to deal with constituent ordering at the crossroads between syntax and discourse, the paper presents an analysis of sentence prefields in L1 and L2 writing. Constituent types in prefields indicate that learners have trouble departing from default subject-object/agent-patient orders. At the same time, information structure criteria point to problems of thematic progression in L2 texts.