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Title: Form and interpretation of the German discourse particles ja, doch and wohl
Authors: Bárány, András
Keywords: Indo-European Languages
Germanic Languages
German Language
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Universitaet Wien
Abstract: This thesis is, first and foremost, not an exhaustive analysis of German discourse particles. It covers only three of many more discourse particles, namely the very common particles ja, doch and wohl. Second, this thesis mainly focuses on certain aspects of these particles, ignoring many others, e.g. the combination of discourse particles. Its aim is merely to give an overview of maybe the most striking characteristics of the particles mentioned and to try and show why the analysis of their meaning and function has been problematic. The first chapter of this thesis tries to give an overview of the relevant discourse par-ticles in German sentences, giving examples illustrating their possible occurrences and their interaction with clauses. It is a surface-syntactic overview and a short account of the characteristics peculiar to discourse particles. This chapter also addresses various points that have been discussed in earlier literature on discourse particles, like their interaction with the topic-focus structure and the position of their generation. Chapter 2 is a review of some of the literature on the syntax of German discourse parti-cles. The main points that are addressed in that chapter are the phrasal status of discourse particles, the specifics of their positions in the clause and finally the location of their gen-eration, referring strongly to recent developments in the study of this area. The meaning of the particles ja, doch and wohl is discussed in chapter 3. Again, I review earlier work, as I try to point out some problems with the semantic and pragmatic anal-ysis of German discourse particles. In this chapter, each particle is discussed separately, allowing for a detailed account of each particle's meaning. Chapter 4 proposes the possibility of a tentative unified pragmatic analysis of discourse particles. It elaborates on their function of modifying propositions in the context or com-mon ground, the set of propositions taken for granted by the participants of a conver-sation. This idea is taken on by several authors whose approaches are reflected in that chapter. I include some of my own ideas to expand their original proposals, suggesting that discourse particles might be analysed as operators on the common ground.
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