Fachbereich Sprachwissenschaft

Universität Konstanz

Arbeitspapier 75

From Subordination to Coordination?
Verb-second position in German causal and concessive constructions

Susanne Günthner
Februar 1996


From Subordination to Coordination?
Verb-second position in German causal and concessive constructions




During the last few years various analyses of spoken colloquial German have discussed the apparently growing tendency of the use of main clause constructions (i.e. verb-second position) in causal and concessive clauses, and the reinterpretion of "subordinate conjunctions", such as WEIL, OBWOHL as "coordinate conjunctions".[2]

German, which has "verb-second" as its basic word order in independent sentences, requires final position of the finite verb in subordinate clauses. Thus, adverbial clauses introduced by "subordinate" conjunctions, such as WEIL ("because") and OBWOHL ("although") - according to German grammar - display "verb-final" ordering (e.g. "ich geh jetzt nach Hause, weil ich müde bin"; "ich esse kein Fleisch, obwohl ich's eigentlich gern mag"). German thus provides a clear signal for the grammatical incorporation of one clause into another.[3] However, during the last ten to fifteen years, in spoken colloquial German as well as in certain written genres that reproduce colloquial language (e.g., interviews, dialogues in advertisement), speakers are tending more and more to use main clause order (and thus "verb-second"-position)[4] in final adverbial clauses introduced by WEIL and OBWOHL.[5]

In this paper, based on German everyday interactions, I shall analyze the interactive functions of different word-order constructions ("verb-second position/main clause construction" versus "verb-final position/subordinate


clause construction") in final adverbial clauses introduced by WEIL and OBWOHL. I shall also demonstrate that speakers are starting to use the pronominal adverb WOBEI as a concessive conjunction displaying subordinate as well as main clause order. Furthermore, the relationship between syntactic means and discourse-pragmatic functions of clause integration will be investigated and the results will be discussed in connection with prevalent hypotheses concerning grammaticalization. I argue that the choice between the two word order patterns (main clause order - subordinate clause order) in present-day spoken German is not random or unpredictable[6]; instead, there is a close relationship between the choice of the particular word order and the discourse-pragmatic function of the clause.

The analysis is based on 37 everyday informal conversations among friends and family members (dinner table conversations, coffee chats, telephone interactions) collected from 1983 to 1995.[7] A discourse-based approach to word order is used to investigate the different uses of WEIL, OBWOHL and WOBEI in their natural environment; i.e. in communicative contexts. The analysis aims at contributing to the study of the "ecology of grammar" (Hopper/Thompson 1994:461); and thus, at investigating the life and work of grammatical constructions in their communicative contexts and the way these contexts in turn shape grammar.



2.1. Subordinate clause order in WEIL-clauses

The standard, unmarked word order for WEIL-clauses is verb-final position; and thus "integrative word order" (Känig/van der Auwera 1988), marking the WEIL-clause as a subordinate one.

In her analysis of the causal conjunction "because" Sweetser (1990) distinguishes among three different interpretations of "because": as a conjunction of content, of premises in the epistemic world, and of the speech acts performed via the utterance of the clauses in question.[8] This differentiation in the interpretation of clauses as operating in the "content", "epistemic" or "speech act" domain turns out to be relevant for word order choices in German WEIL- constructions.

The following segment is taken from a telephone conversation between Sonja and her friend Kaja, who has a sore shoulder. They are discussing which doctor Kaja should consult, when Sonja provides the following reason why Kaja should go to Dr. Kielmann:


138Sonja: 'hh auf der andern Seite wär der Kielmann vielleicht besser

139 weil der gleich en Räntgengerät da hat.

140Kaja: ja genau.

138Sonja: 'hh on the other hand Kielmann might be better

139 because he has an X-ray right there.

140Kaja: yes that's right.

The causal clause "weil der gleich en Räntgengerät da hat." (because he has an X-ray right there.) provides the reason for the main clause proposition "auf der andern Seite wär der Kielmann vielleicht besser " (on the other hand Kielmann might be better) and thus operates in the content domain. The two clauses (the main clause and the subordinate WEIL-clause) are closely connected by "real-world causality" (Sweetser 1990). The WEIL-clause is within the scope of the illocutionary force of the main clause.

Causality operating in the content domain also connects the two clauses in the following segment. Dora tells Leo about a conflict interaction she had on the phone when she was talking to an acquaintance (Thomas Vollenmaier):


14Dora: drei Dag später hats Telefon gklingelt,

15 i geh ran,

16 Thomas Vollenmaier.

17 [(...)] schon mal)=

18Leo: [(..)]

19Leo: = ja. ja.


20Dora: und des han- des war [arrowup]UN.glaub.lich. peinlich am Anfang.

21 (0.5)

22 weil der ANgfange hat


14Dora: three days later the phone rang

15 I answered it

16 Thomas Vollenmaier.

17 [(...)] already once=

18Leo: [(..)]

19Leo: = yeah yeah

20Dora: and it has- it was unbelievably embarrassing at the beginning

21 (0.5)

22 because he started with

23 ((sharp)) I left a message on your answering machine

Dora gives the reason for the embarrassing situation with the WEIL-clause (22-23). However, in contrast to the WEIL-construction in ARZTBESUCH, the initial main clause in ANRUFBEANTWORTER is not thematic, but carries new information. Yet, it still operates in the content domain and the WEIL-clause ties back to the scope of the main clause illocutionary force.

A closer look at the prosodic realization of the two causal constructions shows that in ARZTBESUCH, the initial main clause and the WEIL-clause are integrated into one intonation contour. The main clause "auf der andern Seite wär der Kielmann vielleicht besser" carries a rising intonation contour, signaling that the present utterance is still in progress. In ANRUFBEANTWORTER, however, the two clauses are prosodically non-integrated; both clauses display their own intonation contour.[9] The clause final intonation of the main clause marks it "as an independent assertion rather than as a presupposition" (Sweetser 1990:83).

In general, causal relations operating in the content domain, with the WEIL-clause tying back to the scope of the preceding clause's illocutionary force, are expressed by means of integrative word order. As ARZTBESUCH reveals, the syntactic integration can be emphasized by means of prosodic integration; however, prosodic integration is not a necessary prerequisite for subordinate word order in WEIL-clauses.[10] In my data prosodic integration is generally used in cases where the initial main clause is presupposed, but it is not necessarily used in cases where the initial clause carries new information.


2.2. Main clause order in WEIL-clauses

Now we shall consider WEIL-clauses which display main clause order with the finite verb in verb-second position; a word ordering which is considered to be "ungrammatical" by many reference grammars. Although WEIL-clauses can be in initial as well as in final position, main clause word order only appears in final WEIL-clauses.

2.2.1. Speech act domain

In the following segment, Ute utters the first part of an adjacency pair and asks Rita, "what in her opinion wouldn't be okay" (24). When no reply follows (there is a pause of O.5 sec.), Ute - by introducing a WEIL-clause - gives the reason for her question:


23Rita: s' macht mir echt NICHTS AUS.

24Ute: WAS WR denn deiner Meinung nach [arrowup]NICHT OKAY. (0.5)

25 ((zunehmend leiser))[arrowdown]<weil=du=hast=ja=vorhin=gesagt=

26 er=NERVT=dich=ganz=schän.>

23Rita: actually it doesn't bother me at all

24Ute: what in your opinion wouldn't be okay (0.5)

25 ((decreasing volume))[arrowdown]<because=you=just=said=that

26 he=really=gets= on=your=nerves>

The main clause (24) is not a statement but a question, and the WEIL-clause (25-26) connected to it, does not provide a reason in the content domain, but instead, gives a causal explanation of the speech act performed by the preceding clause. The reading is something like "I'm asking what in your opinion wouldn't be okay, because you just said that he really gets on your nerves". The WEIL-clause is outside the scope of the main clause illocutionary force. The two clauses connected by WEIL not only reveal different illocutionary forces (question and account) but also different intonation contours. This prosodic discontinuity is furthermore marked by the pause following the main clause and by differences in loudness and tempo between the two clauses.

In the next segment Udo, who is invited to dinner at Maria and Karl's house, requests whether they "by any chance" have the local political magazine "Blasrohr":


22Udo: ihr habt nich s- (.) zufällig s'Blasrohr. (-) oder?

23Maria: *he eh.*

24Udo: weil da is ja em Peter sein Flugartikel drin. (-) über? (-)

22Udo: you don't happen to have the Blasrohr here (-) do you

23Maria: *no*

24Udo: because Peter's article on flying is in it (-) about (-)


The pause in line 22 already indicates an upcoming disagreement. After Maria says "no", Udo provides the reason for his request and thus a causal connection on the speech act level: a common friend (Peter) has published an article in it. Here again, the speaker uses main clause order to introduce the reason why he performed a particular speech act.

Whenever WEIL-clauses provide the cause for the preceding speech act, speakers in my data use main clause order.[11] Both clauses have their own illocutionary force (e.g. interrogative and account; request and account) and are presented as independent assertions, whose content is non-presupposed.[12] The non-integrative word order in speech act qualifications is supported by prosodic means: The two clauses carry their own intonation contours and often the prosodic discontinuity between the clauses is further marked by means of pauses, differences in tempo and volume.

This type of causal constructions regularly occurs in contexts in which an expected recipient reaction (e.g. an answer to a question; or a reply to a request) does not follow, or when the response is rather hesitant and thus projecting possible disagreement. Speakers then provide causal accounts, which come close to what Ford (1993) calls "post-completion extensions". These WEIL-clauses arise from particular interactional circumstances: they are prompted by the presence of a possible dispreferred reaction and thus ward off and defeat doubts or disagreements in advance.[13]

2.2.2. Epistemic domain

There is a second type of causal relation which German speakers express in using WEIL with main clause order: causal connections in the epistemic domain.


12Anne: der hat sicher wieder gsoffen. (-)

13 weil (-) sie läuft total deprimiert durch die Gegend.

12Anne: he must have been drinking again. (-)

13 because (-) she walks around looking totally depressed

Anne's WEIL-clause (13) provides the basis for her conclusion that he must have been drinking again. The causality of this epistemic WEIL-construction is that between the premise (she walks around looking


totally depressed
) and the conclusion in the speaker's mind (he must have been drinking again).[14] The modal adverb "sicher" (line 12) functions as lexical indication for this epistemic reading.

In the following transcript Fritz, Gabi, and Rolf are talking about symbols and "indicators" of cultural assimilation. Gabi introduces "SCHWEINEFLEISCH" (pork) as an "indicator" for Moslems' assimilation to the West:


48Fritz: aber de- [des war (...............)]

49Gabi: [aber s'isch (-) Scheine-] SCHWEINEFLEISCH IST

50 glaub=auch=so en INDIKATOR.

51 weil (-) ich hatte auch en persischen Freund

52 (................) früher und da war [arrowup]IMMER der Indi[arrowup]kator

53 die fragen sich gegenseitig (-)

54 ißt du Flei- SCHWEINEFLEISCH.

48Fritz: but th- [that was (...............)]

49Gabi: [but it's (-) pork-] pork is

50 such an indicator I believe

51 because (-) I also had a Persian friend

52 (................) before and there was always the indicator

53 they asked each other (-)

54 do you eat mea- pork.

The causal clause "weil (-) ich hatte auch en persischen Freund..." (because (-) I also had a Persian friend) provides the premises and thus the background for the conclusion stated in the preceding clause "SCHWEINEFLEISCH IST glaub=auch=so en INDIKATOR." (pork is such an indicator I believe). The verb "glaub" (believe) in line 50 supports the epistemic reading. As in FRÜHSTÜCK, the non-integrative word-order is accompanied by prosodic non-integration.[15]

A characteristic feature that epistemic WEIL-clauses share with speech-act WEIL-clauses is that in both types of causal constructions, the WEIL-clause is "separately assertable"; i.e. it could occur as a separate assertion[16]; both clauses are rhematic; they both have their own illocutionary forces. The separate assertion of the two clauses in speech act and epistemic WEIL-constructions is not only revealed on the syntactic level by means of main clause order; but also on the prosodic level: The WEIL-clause is prosodically disconnected (by means of an own intonation contour, pauses and other prosodic contextualization cues indicating non-integration) from the preceding main clause and thus from the material it elaborates on. Syntactic and prosodic means of non-integration go hand-in-hand


with the discursive functions of these constructions: The first part of the construction is presented in such a way that it could actually stand by itself. An epistemic WEIL-clause is often added to this independently constructed main clause, in cases where an expected recipient response is noticeably missing; e.g. after affectively loaded evaluations; sensitive moral judgments or other kinds of strong assessments that are sensitive to disagreement. By introducing a causal clause, the speaker gives an account, presents an explanation, etc., and thus prophylactically counters possible doubts or disagreements.

2.2.3. WEIL-clauses that are not directly related to the preceding clauses

In the WEIL-constructions considered so far, word order functions as a cue to interpret the causal relationship as operating in the content or the speech act and epistemic domain. In these constructions the WEIL-clauses followed the main-clauses, which they operated on. However, there are also WEIL-clauses displaying main clause order, which differ from this kind of clause organization and reveal a much more complex structural organization. WEIL-clauses can operate on material which has not been explicitly stated; they can give explanations for larger sequential units or for just one particular item of the preceding clause. In these kinds of causal clause combinations, (which are difficult to attribute to a particular domain), the WEIL-clause is not directly connected to the preceding utterance and indicates this dissociation by means of syntactic and prosodic non-integration.

In the following transcript Urs talks about a common friend Anna, who refused to talk to her brother and sister (at a recent family meeting) and to be "forgiving" towards them:


55Urs: die war fand=ich sehr [arrowup]UNVERZEIHLICH. so.

56Dora: gegenüber dem BRUDER oder der SCHWESTER. oder?

57Urs: ne. gegenüber dem BRUDER isch ja OKAY. (0.5)

58 aber gegenüber der [arrowup]SCHWESTER.

59 (1.0)

60 weil die SCHWESTER hätte sich da irgendwie

61 ganz anders anstellen müssen (-)

62 nach ihrer Meinung.

63Marie: wa- WANN?

64Urs: WHRend der eh HochZEIT.

55Urs: I thought she was being very unforgiving

56Dora: towards her brother or sister you know

57Urs: no. towards her brother I can understand (0.5)

58 but towards her sister

59 (1.0)

60 because her sister should have behaved

61 very differently (-)

62 according to her

63Marie: wh- when?

64Urs: during the eh wedding


After Dora's question whether Anna's being unforgiving was directed towards the brother or the sister, Urs responds by providing his own perspective. According to his opinion Anna's being unforgiving towards her brother could be understood, but not towards her sister (57-58). When his evaluation receives no response (there is a pause of 1.0 sec.), he then adds a causal clause (60) to introduce Anna's perspective of the affair and her reason for being unforgiving towards her sister: the sister should have somehow behaved totally different (-) according to her. This reason is not semantically tied to the preceding utterance, but relates to a premise which is unexpressed but reconstructable from the context: Anna was unforgiving towards her sister.... The change of perspective between the WEIL-clause (Anna's reason for being "unforgiving") and the preceding utterance (Urs' evaluation), and thus the fact that the WEIL-clause does not provide a reason related to Urs' preceding evaluation, is indicated by syntactic non-integration. Loose linkage between WEIL-clauses and the preceding turns and thus "dissociation from an established schema"[17] tend to be iconically represented by means of syntactic and prosodic non-integration.[18]

In the next segment Sara asks her mother Ulla, whether she plans to go to Stuttgart for a shopping trip that day. In line 30 Ulla gives the reason for why she is considering to go: Because "DIE" (she) (line 30), i.e. Ulla's youngest daughter Lisa, wants to buy something. So Ulla asked her son (Rolf), if he has plans to drive to Stuttgart:


29Sara: fahret ihr nach [arrowup]STUTTGART heut?

30Ulla: ha i- weil doch DIE parTOUT was will.

31 no han i jetzt zum Rolf gsa: (.) i han gsa:

32 gell=heut=isch=langer=Samschdich. ihr=fahret=net=nach=Stu:gart?

33 no hot er gsa: eigentlich NET. (-)

34(to Lisa:) weil du hosch ja die [arrowup]GANZ Woch irgendwas.

35 ond dein Vater nehm i einfach net (immer gern) mittags in OH:spruch.

29Sara: are you driving to Stuttgart today

30Ulla: well I- because she absolutly wants to buy some things.

31 so I just said to Rolf (.) I said to him

32 today is one of those Saturdays when the shops are open longer

aren't you going to Stuttgart

33 then he said well no not really (-)

34(to Lisa:) because during the week you've got things to do

35 and I don't (always) like bothering your father in the afternoons

(Here, we are interested in the WEIL-construction in line 34 and not in the WEIL-clause in line 30, which on the content level provides the reason for


Ulla's shopping trip to Stuttgart). At first one might wonder what the WEIL-clause (line 34) connects to. Surely not to the preceding utterance, in which Ulla reconstructs her interaction with Rolf about whether he is going to drive to Stuttgart that day. Here again we have a case of "dissociation from schema instantiation" (Ono/Thompson in print). The WEIL-clause is not part of the schema instantiated in line 33, and thus is not part of the reported speech. Ulla not only switches back again from the reported world to the reporting world with this WEIL-clause, but she also introduces a change in participation framework: The addressee changes from Sara to Lisa. Thus, the WEIL-clause does not directly relate to the preceding clause itself, but to a proposition which remains implicit: "I'm considering going today - on a Saturday (because you (Lisa) are always busy during the week)".

In the next segment Mira is explaining to Geli the kind of work a common friend (Pia) is doing as a free lance publishing agent. Mira uses examples to demonstrate the kind of work she does:


40Mira: du has zum=Beispiel (-) hh' beim ABC Verlag publiZI[ERT,]

41Geli: [mhm]

42Mira: und willst wech[seln,]

43Geli: [mhm]

44Mira: o- ja (.) oder wenn du en andern Verlag WILLST

45 der mehr WERBung macht (.)

46 weil=ABC=Verlag=macht=überhaupt=keine (.)

47 ja eh DANN (-) zum Beispiel KANNste sie fragen.

40Mira: for example you've been publishing hh' with the ABC publishing [house,]

41Geli: [mhm]

42Mira: and you want to [change,]

43Geli: [mhm]

44Mira: o- well (.) or if you want a different publisher

45 who does more advertising (.)

46 because ABC publishing house doesn't advertise at all (.)

47 well then for example (-) you could ask her

Mira starts with a conditional construction "wenn du..." (44). After presenting the protasis, which presupposes that other publishing houses advertise more for their books than ABC, she interrupts her construction by adding a parenthetical causal clause which provides a reason for this implication: "weil=ABC=Verlag=macht=überhaupt=keine (.)" (because ABC publishing house doesn't advertise at all ). Thus, with the WEIL-clause Mira "jumps out" of the construction in progress, adds an explanation and then "jumps back" into her conditional construction.

Sometimes, however, speakers leave their original construction to add a WEIL-clause that provides some sort of explanation and then do not "jump back" into their original construction as in the next dialog. Here Clara, who is planning to travel to Thailand, asks her colleague Nora for information.



12Nora: hh' Chiang Rai isch schlimm was do: jetzt [arrowup]anfängt (.) du:

13 des- dieser brutale [arrowup]SEXtourismus hihhh'

14Clara: des (hasch mitkriegt?)


16 und zwar diese (-) Schwei((hi))ne von Typ((hi))en die da kommen (-)

17 weil ja: Bangkok isch ihne zu sehr aidsverseucht=

18Clara: =ahja.

19Nora: und jetzt kommen se dorthin.=

20Clara: =un- jetzt kommen se da[hin]

21Nora: [mhm].

12Nora: hh' Chiang Rai it's terrible what's starting to go on there

13 the- this brutal kind of sex tourism hihhh'

14Clara: you (saw this)

15Nora: it's totally unbelievable

16 well these (-) bru((hi))tes ((hi)) who go there (-)

17 because they think Bangkok is already too much infected with aids=

18Clara: =oh yeah

19Nora: and now they go there=

20Clara: =an- now they go th[ere]

21Nora: [mhm].

After the highly affective evaluation, Nora starts with a construction "und zwar diese (-) I-Schwei ((hi))ne von Typ((hi))en die da kommen" (well these (-) bru((hi))tes ((hi)) who go there (-) (16), stops, leaves the construction in progress and adds a WEIL-clause, which provides an epistemic reason for her conclusion that these tourists are "Schwei((hi))ne". The causal explanation may have been triggered by the fact that Nora presents a highly affect-loaded evaluation "AB.SO.LUT BRUTAL." (15) and refers to these tourists as "Schwei((hi))ne" - without receiving any response from her co-participant. Her giggling interspersed into the highly evaluative term indicates the sensitivity of this typification and thus invites her recipient to display co-alignment. However, when no response appears, Nora adds the account "weil ja: Bangkok isch ihne zu sehr aidsverseucht" (17) which had lead her to the morally loaded judgment. In contrast to VERLAGE, the speaker in this episode does not return to her original construction. Here again, the dissociation of the WEIL-clause from the preceding construction is indicated by means of syntactic and prosodic non-integration.

2.3. Collaborative production of Causal-Construction

So far, in this analysis we have only considered causal clauses, uttered by a single speaker. However, in everyday interactions causal constructions often appear as collaborative productions of different speakers.[19] At first, one might assume that such jointly produced


causal-constructions involving two different speakers and spreading over two turns demand for non-integrative word order. However, this is not the case: a second speaker joining a prior speaker's utterance by adding a WEIL-clause, usually marks this kind of collaboration by means of syntactic integration.[20]

(i) The display of congruent perspectives[21]

In the following segment Lena is complaining to Kai about her cousin's behavior. Kai signals co-alignment with Lena's indignation and formulates a hypothetical comparison between the cousin and the local baker (Lehmann):


107Kai: [arrowup]mein Gott[arrowdown]. da müßt de Bäcker LehMANN (-)

108 eh eh müßt- müßt en wa:hnsinnigen Auf- eh Terror machen,

109 wei:l irgenden anderer Bäcker ihm in sein Ge[arrowup]biet rein [(geht.)]

110Lena: [JA. NA[arrowup]TÜR]LICH.


112Kai: JA: also [des isch]

107Kai: my Gosh it would be like when the baker Lehmann (-)

108 eh eh starts raising an incredible terror

109 because some other baker enters his [territory]

110Lena: [yeah of] course

111 because he also bakes rolls

112Kai: yeah well [this is]

By presenting agreement tokens ("JA NA[arrowup]TÜRLICH") (110) and adding a causal clause, Lena not only displays her acceptance of Kai's hypothetical comparison but actively joins in extending his rhetorical format ("similitudo"). With her expansion of Kai's turn as well as the analogy, Lena is communicating her congruent perspective of the event.

The question arises why collaborative causal constructions display integrative word order. By adding a WEIL-clause to prior speaker's utterance, the information of the preceding clause is treated as "given" (thematic). This constellation of a thematic main clause and a rhematic WEIL-clause seems to make integrative word order necessary.[22] Furthermore, in using syntactic integration, the second speaker grammatically incorporates her utterance into the preceding turn and iconically marks her turn as a continuation of his. This strategy comes close to what Falk (1979) calls "conversational dueting": The second speaker takes over the turn of the prior speaker and continues in an unisono way, signaling that s/he is "in synchrony" with the prior speaker.


(ii) Supporting one's own argumentative line

Whereas in BÄCKER LEHMANN the second speaker had taken for the floor to produce an expansion of prior speaker's clause and thereby demonstrating concordance and agreement, in the following example - which is taken from an argumentative context - the second speaker ties her utterance to the prior one and continues by outlining reasons for the prior speaker's assertion which contradict his argumentative line. The transcript is taken from an argumentation between Doris and her Chinese colleagues (Yang and Tan) on women's rights in China and the West:

YANG 24a

67Doris: also [ich] VERSTEH eigentlich nich unbedingt

68Tan: [hm]

69Doris: WARUM du sagst eh in in Kina gibts kein Frauenproblem.

70 des Problem is eigentlich das gleiche bloß daß

71 (-) eh:m? daß es mehr verTUSCHT wird.

72Yang: * keine so stark wie hier*


67Doris: well [I]don't quite understand

68Tan: [hm]

69Doris: WHY you say that eh in in China there aren't any women's problems

70 the problem actually is the same it's just that

71 (-) eh:m? that it is hushed up much more.

72Yang: * not as bad as here*

73Doris: yes because women are more conscious here

In line 73 Doris latches her WEIL-clause back to Yang's assessment that "women's problems" in China are not as bad as in Germany. She thus takes his turn as premise to which she adds the agreement token "JA" plus a causal clause. The WEIL-clause provides an explanation that supports her own argumentative line but contradicts her opponent's line of arguing. Thus, in argumentative contexts, close linkage of a WEIL-clause to a preceding assessment can be used as an argumentative strategy to support one's own argumentative line and at the same time attack the oponent's line of argumentation.[23]

(iii) Understanding check[24]

Participants also use syntactically integrated WEIL-clauses to check their understanding of a prior speaker's turn.

Gabi had noticed a wood tick on her leg and had gone to a pharmacy to inquire about what to do. However, the pharmacists turned out to be "totally incompetent". In an affectively loaded way Gabi tells Ira on the phone about her interaction with the pharmacists:



11Gabi: und die ham mir wirklich nix anderes sagen kännen

12 als daß ich halt mal zum Schmidt gehn soll.

13Ira: und Schmidt, weil des DEIN Arzt isch [oder was.]

14Gabi: [JA:hh]

15Ira: 'hhhh hhh' SCHEI::::ßE.

11Gabi: and they really couldn't tell me anything else

12 besides that I should go to see Schmidt

13Ira: and to Schmidt, because he's your doctor [or what]

14Gabi: [yeah]

15Ira: 'hhhh hhh' shit

Ira's causal clause (14) connects back to Gabi's utterance and provides a "candidate" explanation for the preceding statement (Ford 1993:127). Also in cases of offering "candidate" explanations, the causal clause is closely linked to prior speaker's turn, taking prior speaker's assessment as given material to work on. This close linkage is iconically represented by means of syntactic integration.

(vi) Astonished questions

Closely connected to checks of understanding are WEIL-constructions, which are used to express astonished questions: The second speaker ties her WEIL-clause back to prior speaker's utterance and provides a "candidate explanation"; however, in contrast to a check for understanding, this type of candidate explanation communicates the speaker's surprise or astonishment. In the following segment Rolf tells Anna about the troubles he had had with a student who had cheated on an exam. After noticing that she was cheating, he had taken away her exam. The student then reported this to the dean, and a teacher's conference had been held.


44Rolf: und dann gabs ja ne große Lehrerkonferenz,

45 (eh) ne kleine Lehrerkonfe[renz]

46Anna: [wie?][arrowup]<weil DU des Manus[arrowup]KRIPT WEGNOMMEN hast.>

47Rolf: ja=ja. die hat in der- ich hab die AUFSICHT ghabt.

44Rolf: and then there was a big teacher's conference

45 (eh) a small teacher's confe[rence]

46Anna: [what?] because you took the exam away from her

47Rolf: yeah=yeah she had in the- I was the one supervising the exam


Anna's causal clause does not only provide a "candidate" explanation for Rolf's aßeßment that a conference was held, but at the same time it expreßwes her astonishment: The high global pitch, the local increase of volume and the rising-falling pitch movements function as prosodic means of contextualizing surprise and astonishment.

The analysis of "WEIL"-clauses in everyday interactions reveals that the two word order patterns (WEIL with main clause order and WEIL with subordinate clause order) function as resources, which speakers of colloquial everyday German use to communicate particular discourse-pragmatic meanings: In cases of close causal connections operating in the content domain and with a high degree of dependency between the main clause and the WEIL-clause, subordinate word order is used; in cases of relative independence between the two clauses; e.g. in epistemic and speech act causality as well as in cases in which the WEIL-clause the does not directly relate to the preceding clause, syntactic non-integration is used. Syntactic devices such as word order are highly iconic: pragmatic non-integration (i.e. both clauses have their own illocutionary forces) is communicated by means of syntactic non-integration; and close pragmatic integration (i.e. WEIL-clauses are within the scope of the main clause illocutionary force and the WEIL-clause provides a content level reason for the preceding clause) is communicated by means of grammatical incorporation.

Thus, in order to communicate particular discourse-pragmatic meanings in colloquial spoken German WEIL is reinterpreted as a coordinate conjunction displaying main clause syntax.[25] In such cases of reinterpretation, the WEIL-clause as well as the preceding one has its own illocutionary force. The WEIL-clause is subdued from the scope of the would-be main predication and independently expresses speaker's point of view (Lehmann (1991:526). (Thus, WEIL as a coordinate conjunction replaces the causal coordinate conjunction DENN. As pointed out in Günthner (1993a), DENN - as a causal conjunction - is only very seldomly used in colloquial language; in certain Southern German varieties DENN is used mainly as a modal particle.)

zum 3. Kapitel bis zum Ende


[1] I would like to thank Peter Auer and Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper. Thanks also to Allison Wetterlin for her help with the English.

[2] Cf. Gaumann (1982); Küper (1984; 1991); Günthner (1993a); Wegener (1993); Keller (1993).

[3] Cf. König/Van der Auwera (1988).

[4] Speakers of colloquial German also often display main clause syntax in adversative WÄHREND ("while") (e.g. "den Peter find ich okay, während den Paul, den find ich entsetzlich"; 'I find Peter okay; whereas Paul, I find him horrible') and conditional constructions (e.g. "wenn Paul anruft; ich bin im Garten"; 'if Paul calls, I am in the garden'). In this article, however, I shall only consider causal and concessive constructions.

[5] Actually, up to the 16th century both word order constructions were possible; however - due to the influence of Latin - around the 17th century verb-final position became the standardized norm in subordinate clauses (Arndt 1956). Cf. also Sandig (1973) for the historical development of subordinate clause order in German.

[6] Cf. Küper (1991) Günthner (1993a).

[7] The family data stems from middle-class families in Southern Germany (Baden-Württemberg); the participants of the "conversations among friends" are 25-45 year-old academics from different parts of Germany.

[8] Cf. Halliday/Hasan's (1976:240ff.) distinction between "external" and "internal" conjunctive relations.

[9] Thus, in WEIL-constructions with subordinate word order the main clause neither has to be always prosodically realized with rising intonation, nor does - as Wegener (1993) claims - the whole construction necessarily have to be uttered as one single intonational unit.

[10] Generally, when the initial clause is presented as presupposed, it has a rising intonation and the following WEIL-clause is prosodically integrated into one intonation contour embracing both the main and the subordinate clause. Cf. also Küper (1991). Sweetser (1990) uses the terms "commaless intonation" for prosodic integration and "comma intonation", when the "because"-clause is preceeded by a "clause-final intonation drop".

[11] In cases of speech act qualifications, a substitution of WEIL with the coordinate conjunction DENN is possible: "ihr habt nich s- (.) zufällig s'Blasrohr. (.) oder? denn da is ja em Urs sein Flugartikel drin".

[12] Cf. Foley/Van Valin's (1984:239) typology of clause combining; and also Lehmann (1988:193).

[13] Cf. Sacks (1987).

[14] For epistemic causal clauses cf. Sweetser (1990). Cf. also Küper's (1991) concept of epistemic causality, which is restricted to cases where the conjuncts (p and q) are reversed (q, because p). I shall adopt Sweetser's broader concept of epistemic causality. Cf. also Keller (1993) for the use of epistemic WEIL and Willems' (1994) critique of Keller.

[15] In contrast to syntactically integrated WEIL-clauses, WEIL-clauses with syntactic non-integration can display "main-clause phenomena" (Green 1976). Cf. Günthner (1993a).

[16] For the term "separate assertion" cf. Känig/van der Auwera (1988:111ff.).

[17] Cf. Ono/Thompson (1994).

[18] Küper (1991); Günthner (1993a).

[19] Cf. Ford (1993) for collaborative causal constructions in English conversations; and Ono/Thompson (1994) for different types of collaborative activities.

[20] There are no cases of syntactic non-integration in collaboratively produced WEIL-clauses in my data.

[21] Cf. also Ford (1993) for collaborative "display of agreement".

[22] Cf. Küper (1991); Günthner (1993a).

[23] Cf. Günthner (1993b).

[24] Cf. Ford (1993).

[25] WEIL with main clause syntax cannot be used in initial position (preceeding the main clause). This syntactic restriction is due to the fact that coordinate conjunction must go between what they coordinate. Cf. Günthner (1993a); Lehmann (1991).

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