A Usage-based Account of Sequences of Oblique Attributive Adjectives in German: from “Cases of Doubt” to Probabilistic Certainty (2017 in prep.)

Roland Schäfer (2017 in preparation). A Usage-based Account of Sequences of Oblique Attributive Adjectives in German: from “Cases of Doubt” to Probabilistic Certainty.

Full dataset and scripts on GitHub. (To be released after paper has been accepted.)

In this paper, I provide a usage-based account of the inflection of sequences of oblique attributive adjectives in German, most notably in the masculine/neuter dative singular, where affixes alternate when there is no determiner.

  1. mit heiß-em (KONJ) lecker-en Kaffee
  2. mit heiß-em (KONJ) lecker-em Kaffee

For KONJ, there can be nothing, a comma, und (‘and’), or or (‘or’).

In a large corpus study and a sequence of experiments, I test factors influencing the choices and develop my own usage-based explanation in terms of syntactic Prototype Theory. Instead of the term Zweifelsfall (‘case of doubt’), which is popular in German grammar and linguistics to describe similar alternations, I propose the term probabilistische Gewissheit (‘probabilistic certainty’) as more adequate in the context of cognitively oriented, usage-based, and probabilistic grammar.

See also my talk Parallel- und Wechselflexion in obliken Adjektivreihen – Eine empirische Vervollständigung at IDS Mannheim on 31 May 2017.