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Title: A Study of Word Order Variation in German, with Special Reference to Modifier Placement
Authors: Steinberger, Ralf Günter Wilhelm
Keywords: Indo-European Languages
Germanic Languages
German Language
German - Grammar
Issue Date: 1994
Publisher: University of Manchester
Abstract: This work discusses word order in written German at sentence level, and suggests how to deal with word order variation in Machine Translation. It specially refers to modifier placement, as modifiers are generally neglected in linguistic (word order) description. The order of phrases in free word order languages is not entirely free, as some variations can be ungrammatical, and further variations are less natural than others. The intuition of a German speaker on the adequate word order in a specific context is influenced by at least eleven factors. In this thesis, these are described independently, and their interaction is shown. The context plays a major role for the natural word order in a sentence, so that one can say that sentences are embedded in their context. After the linguistic description, the methods suggested in literature to model word order variation in Natural Language Processing are discussed, and a suggestion is made to overcome the problems linked to word order variation. For analysis, means are provided to recognise theme, rheme and focus of a given sentence. For synthesis, it is proposed to use a flexible canonical form which involves over eighty position classes, including places for the categories theme, rheme and focus. Depending on the analysis of thematic, rhematic and focused phrases in the source language of the translation, varying German sentences are generated to guarantee their appropriate embedding in the context. The appendix contains a list of adverbs including the syntactic features which are necessary for their automatic treatment.
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