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Variation Across Newspapers in Early Modern German: The Placement of Adverbial Clauses


  • Ulrike Demske Universit├Ąt Potsdam



Variation, syntactic complexity, adverbial clauses, register, newspapers, Early Modern German, standardization


Situational characteristics suggest that early newspapers share linguistic features with chancery language, motivated by the frequent affiliation of news correspondents to imperial and city chanceries. The widespread oral reception of early newspapers, on the other hand, predicts the occurrence of linguistic features associated with registers close to spoken language. Previous findings support the latter assumption, namely that, from a syntactic point of view, newspaper language patterns with less complex language varieties. The current paper challenges this view, operationalizing syntactic features in a quantitative manner. Measures of syntactic complexity include the placement of adverbial clauses and sentence length. It will be shown that early newspapers do not allow a uniform assessment in terms of their syntactic complexity, when they emerge as a new register in the seventeenth century: some news segments display a quite simple syntax, whereas others are of high syntactic complexity. By the end of the eighteenth century, the growing conventionalization of the new register as well as the impact of standardization processes render newspapers much more balanced in terms of syntactic complexity.







Special Issue: Morphosyntactic Variation in Early Modern West Germanic