In this paper, we propose a new distinction between expressive and non-expressive particle verbs in German. The basic observation for our proposal is that these two classes behave differently in the domain of particle fronting. In order to explain this difference, we will show that certain particle verbs are extreme degree expressions and that, therefore, a possible contrast across degrees makes fronting acceptable, even when the particle in isolation is non-contrastable. Our claims are supported by a rating study probing German native speakers’ intuitions about the likelihood of the occurrence of an utterance, without relying on acceptability judgments. We connect these new findings to other forms of non-information-structural fronting patterns that endow utterances with an emphatic flavor.
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