The syntax and pragmatics of fronting in Germanic

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Across the Germanic language family, we find a type of movement traditionally termed topicalization, which may be realized in Germanic languages which possess the so-called Verb-Second (V2) constraint, as well as those without it. I will henceforward call this phenomenon fronting to avoid theoretical assumptions. This dissertation is concerned with a detailed comparative study of the syntactic and pragmatic properties of fronting across the Germanic family. Expanding on a proposal sketched for German in Frey (2004a, 2006a,b), I pursue the hypothesis that the apparent diversity of pragmatic properties associated with fronting has a relatively simple source: fronting occurs as the result of not one, but two possible types of movement, which I will follow Frey in terming Formal Movement (FM) and True A-Bar Movement (TAB). While TAB is associated with a contrastive interpretation, and may target any element in the clause, FM has no pragmatic effect and targets only the nearest available constituent. Under this analysis, the apparently divergent categories of fronted elements are split down the middle, and we may proceed to explore the properties associated with each type individually. In this dissertation, I demonstrate that Frey’s analysis may be extended to a cross- Germanic account of object fronting. I will show that TAB remains a constant across the Germanic language family, but only V2 languages have FM as an option, because FM is a phenomenon inherently linked to the V2 requirement, existing solely to fill Spec,CP as a last resort due to what has been described as an EPP feature on C. Ultimately, the result is a unified account of fronting across the Germanic language family, supported by both diachronic and synchronic evidence from English, Icelandic, German and Dutch.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Kroch, Anthony S., Supervisor, External person
Award date3 Dec 2012
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2013

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