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Forms and functions of m/ftying+ NP in German talk-in-interaction

The German preposition mit ‘with’ has a wide range of functions, especially if it is not part of a fixed verb-particle combination such as abrechnen mit ‘to settle up with’. Its canonical non-attributive instances are usually classified as comita- tive (Ich ging mit meiner Nachbarin ins Kino ‘I went to the cinema (together) with my neighbor’), temporal (Mit 18 Jahren begann ich zu studieren ‘At the age of 18 I started to study’), instrumental (Ich zerstorte die Wand mit einem Hammer ‘I smashed the wall with a hammer’) and modal (Du solltest die Entscheidung mit Sorgfalt treffen ‘You should make the decision with care’). Furthermore, mit can signal relationships such as “affiliation/part-whole” (Er fiel mit dem Gesicht auf den Boden ‘He fell to the floor on his face’) or “identification” (Mit dem Oetker-Konzern entstand einer der grofiten Nahrungsmittelhersteller Europas ‘The Oetker group emerged as one of the largest food producers in Europe’).[1] This classification holds true for the majority of attributive instances with mit as well. For example, one can distinguish between comitative (unsere Fahrt mit den Eltern ‘our journey with the parents’), instrumental (die Brandbekampfung mit chemischen Stoffen ‘the firefighting with chemical substances’), modal (das Fahren mit hoher Geschwindigkeit ‘the driving with high speed’) and “affiliation/ part-whole” (der Aufprall mit dem Kopf auf dem Boden ‘the collision with the head on the floor’) attributes with mit.[2]

In German talk-in-interaction, however, mit can also be used in other ways: It can take a nominal phrase as its complement which, in the given context, functions as a metapragmatic index (Silverstein 1993) and refers back to a topical antecedent (a discourse topic which is considered to be intersubjectively accessible by the speaker) in order to establish it as a part of the context for adjacent turn- constructional units (cf. sections 2.1 and 2.2).[3] I will refer to such tying instances of mit by means of mittying + NP (cf. the following excerpt from example 1 which is analyzed more comprehensively in section 2.1.1):

Example (1) Concert [excerpt]

10 H: “h Aber mit dem konZERT?

but regarding the concert

11 dAs WEISS ich ja nich.

I don’t know

  • 12 obDASklAppt. if that will work
  • (Source: Archiv fur Gesprochenes Deutsch, Interaction PF026)

Here, Helga (H) establishes an upcoming concert as the local topic by means of the turn-constructional unit in line (10) - a topic which has already been talked about in the preceding course of talk but which was not the local conversational business-at-hand anymore.

Since the tying instances of mit cannot be explained compositionally in terms of adding a certain context and an indexical topical keyword to one of the canonical types of mit, they can be classified as constructs of a construction in its own right (see section 3). This construction can be characterized as a dialogical construction inasmuch as it cannot be sufficiently described in terms of semantic, morphological and syntactic features which completely abstract from dialogue-constituting aspects such as sequential positions and communicative practices.

Just like their canonical counterparts, the instances of mittying + NP can be subdivided into attributive and non-attributive occurrences. Since the functions and meanings of mit manifest themselves more clearly in a non-modifying syntactic environment, the non-attributive mittying + NP will be addressed first. They

can be found in the initial (“left”) (2.1.1) and the final (“right”) periphery of turn- constructional units (2.1.2) or integrated into a turn-constructional unit (2.1.3).

  • [1] See Zifonun, Hoffmann, and Strecker (1997, Ш: 2135ff) and Hilpert (2009). The last example istaken from Hilpert (2009: 30).
  • [2] Cf. Droop (1977), Teubert (1979), Lehmus (1983), Lauterbach (1993: 126ff) and Schierholz(2001, 2004) with regard to prepositional attributes in German.
  • [3] Thus, mittying + NP is comparable to “the topicalizer/cleft construction was X betrifft” whichis mentioned in Auer (1996: 299). See also Goodwin (1995: 127) with regard to “prospectiveindexicals” and Gundel, Hedberg and Zacharski (1993) and Gundel (2010) with regard to referenceand accessibility.
 
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