Edited by Annika Hübl and Markus Steinbach
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 247] 2018
► pp. 67–92
Texts as answers to questions
Information structure and its grammatical underpinnings in narratives and descriptions in German and English (topic and anaphoric linkage)
Text production requires the speaker to plan and formulate a coherent text in which information at the micro structural level is embedded and licensed by structures established at the macro structural level. The present paper addresses questions concerning the principles the speaker can rely on when solving a complex task of this kind. We assume that texts are organised around an initialising question, the quaestio, which introduces a space of alternatives which the speaker has to specify. The constraints set up by the quaestio leave the speaker with a range of options which in turn are constrained by language-specific principles partly rooted in the grammatical structure of the respective language. This claim is substantiated by a cross-linguistic study of English and German oral narratives. The analyses focus on grammatical features relating to the syntactic subject and word order constraints and aim to show how grammatical features which operate at the micro-structural level shape information organisation in macro-structural terms. The study also includes a comparison with object descriptions in English and German. They serve in illustrating the role of the underlying quaestio as well as grammatical categories, in this case the syntactic subject, which drives conceptualisation with transformations across the domains of space and entities when providing anaphoric linkage.