Grammaticalization Paths of English and High German Existential Constructions

A Corpus-based Study

by Simone E. Pfenninger (Author)
©2009 Thesis XII, 370 Pages


Existential constructions are a fundamental feature of many Indo-European languages, and constructions with non-referential subjects have developed in all of the latter, albeit at different stages in their histories.
High German does not feature a prototypical existential construction that is equivalent in syntactic and pragmatic function and semantic meaning to the English existential there-construction. How did a prototypical existential structure originate in English? Why is it that High German has never developed such a construction? Has it ever shown a tendency towards developing one? How did two closely related languages such as English and High German come to differ so much with respect to these constructions?
By means of investigating a variety of historical and contemporary data this study shows that not only semantic, pragmatic and syntactic factors are involved, which decide the choice of a certain construction, but also very much the more general different linguistic development that the two languages underwent in the course of time.


XII, 370
ISBN (Softcover)
Ältere englische Sprachwissenschaft Historische Sprachwissenschaft Übersetzungswissenschaft
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2009. XII, 370 pp., num. tables and graphs

Biographical notes

Simone E. Pfenninger (Author)

The Author: Simone E. Pfenninger was born in Zurich in 1980. She studied English Literature and Linguistics, Geography and History at the University of Zurich and the Free University of Berlin. In 2007 she received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Zurich, where she has been working as a lecturer of English Linguistics besides teaching English at various highschools. She is currently working on her professorial dissertation in the field of second language acquisition.


Title: Grammaticalization Paths of English and High German Existential Constructions