V1 Declaratives in Spoken Swedish : Syntax, Information Structure, and Prosodic Pattern

University dissertation from Institutionen för nordiska språk, Helgonabacken 14, SE-223 62 Lund

Abstract: The topic of the present thesis is V1 declaratives in spoken Swedish. Such constructions constitute an interesting object for research due to the fact that Swedish is a V2 language where V1 word order is grammaticalized for yes/no questions. Hitherto we have lacked a thorough study of the phenomenon. Therefore this thesis aims at investigating V1 declaratives in spoken Swedish from different points of view, such as their syntactic and information structural characteristics and contextual constraints, as well as whether there are prosodic cues which may disambiguate a declarative interpretation from an interrogative interpretation of a V1 clause. A perception experiment has been carried out testing the role of two variables hypothesized to be of importance for the disambiguation: focal accent position (utterance initial vs. utterance final position) and F0 slope (presence vs. absence of downstepping). The interaction between syntax, information structure, and prosody is thus of prime interest for the discussion. The study is based on 200 V1 declaratives collected from various text types where the speakers are of different age, sex, and dialect. Two categories of V1 declaratives are distinguished. The first category has an obligatory element absent (a referential argument or a non-referential subject) which is claimed to be phonetically non-realized in the position before the verb. The second category has all the obligatory elements present, but there are reasons to believe that this type has a phonetically non-realized connective adverb (a frame topic) in front of the finite verb. The results of the investigation clearly reveals that V1 declaratives in spoken Swedish should not be considered speech errors, but constitute a communicative resource that is the result of the interplay between grammar, information structure and context. An important property of the general patterns discerned is that the two V1 categories differ from a V2 sentence only in the non-realization of phonological features in the initial position.

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