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Determiner omission in German prepositional phrases

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2018

Sprachwissenschaftliches Institut – Ruhr-Universität Bochum
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In this paper, we present an analysis of so-called determinerless PPs in German, i.e. prepositional phrases that allow singular count nouns to occur without an accompanying determiner, despite other rules in the grammar requiring the presence of the determiner. The analysis is based on annotated corpus data, which are fed into a statistical classifier (applying logistic regression). Superficially, the syntax of bare prepositional phrases is difficult to capture, and intuitions cannot be easily elicited. The analysis is based on data sets for two pairs of German prepositions: mit ‘with’ and ohne ‘without’, and über ‘over, above’ and unter ‘under, below’. The results of the classifiers applied to annotated data indicate which syntactic, morphological and semantic features are responsible for determiner omission. We are able to detect common properties of all four prepositions, as well as preposition-specific, and idiosyncratic properties. The apparently unsystematic conditions for determiner omission can be discerned by tracing the interaction of these properties.

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The research reported herein would not have been possible without the members and affiliates of the ‘PNC Project’, to which I am grateful: Daniel Abbassi, Katharina Börner, Monika Duzy, Ron Hoffmann, Halima Husic, Katja Keßelmeier, Antje Müller, Johanna Poppek, Claudia Roch, Nino Simunic, Tobias Stadtfeld, Jan Strunk, and Vanessa Weidmann. Parts of this paper have been presented at Brandeis University, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta (Edmonton), Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Universität Leipzig, Stanford University, Universiteit Utrecht, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim. I would like to thank the audiences for their comments. In addition, I would like to thank three anonymous Journal of Linguistics referees for their comments and suggestions. I am indebted to Katharina Börner and Anneli von Könemann for their assistance with the manuscript. Finally, I would like to thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for their support under grant KI-759/5.


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