Der-sætninger og bestemthedseffekten

Esben Holdt

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

The English language provides a variation on the straightforward declarative sentence by making use of the expletive word there. This can be seen in the following examples of which the first two originate from different English translations of the opening sentence of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Tinder Box: (A1) A soldier came marching along the high road. (A2) There came a soldier marching along the high road. (A3) The soldier came marching along the high road. (A4) *There came the soldier marching along the high road. The Danish language offers a similar variation with the expletive word der. From the perspective of a suitable, generative syntactic theory, these sentences can be construed as formed from ordinary, declarative sentences by a transformation rule inserting the expletive word. Far from all sentences in either language are grammatical in both forms, and on the grounds of formal semantics various theories have been suggested as possible explanations of this phenomenon. One line of research focuses mainly on the so-called pivotal noun phrase following the verb. Here it seems to be the case that definite noun phrases along with noun phrases that contain a certain class of determiners are barred from entering into the der/there-form of the sentence. In the literature this has therefore been dubbed the definiteness effect of which the above ungrammatical sentence (A4) is an example. From a relational and set theoretic approach to the understanding of the definiteness effect, Sanni Nimb has suggested a further investigation of the role played by the various sets involved in the semantic representation of der-sentences. Following this path of inquiry, Alessandro Zucchi has worked on English data drawing on various pragmatic notions for a complete theoretic explanation of the observed distribution of noun phrases in the there-sentences. Zucchi’s account, however, has been criticized by Edward Keenan who contrastingly purports to show that a wholly semantic theory can cover more data than what Zucchi is able to offer. Interestingly it turns out — and this is the main point of this master’s thesis — that Keenan’s explanation of the definiteness effect is in fact formally equivalent to ideas initially put forth by Nimb if one takes into consideration some hidden assumptions underlying Nimb’s work.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageDanish
Publication date2008
Number of pages91