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.
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2009. XII, 369 pp., num. tables and graphs
Contents: The Beginnings. Towards a Historical Explanation of the Difference between English and High German Existential Constructions:
Word Order in the History of English - The Derivation of the English ETC - Word Order in the History of High German - The
Derivation of the High German Existential da-Construction - The Derivation of High German ‘es’-Constructions – ETCs
in Modern English: Syntactic Classification - Semantic Classification - Pragmatic Approach – The Modern High German Counterparts:
The Status of es in ModHG - Syntactic Approach to the High German Counterparts - Semantic and Pragmatic Approaches
to the ModHG Counterparts.