Non-attributive m/'ftying+NP

Non-attributive m/ttying+ NP in the initial periphery

Non-attributive instances of mit^^+ NP in the pre-front field of a subsequent turn-constructional unit are usually prefaced by conjunctions such as und ‘and’ or aber ‘but’:

Example (1) Concert

1 H: °h pAssen_se AUF.

just wait

  • 2 DA is wieder AUsverkauft. it will be sold out again
  • 3 (0.3)
  • 4 LAchen wOllen_se; they want to laugh
  • 5 aber ERNste sachen wollen_se nich hOren. but they don’t want to hear serious things
  • 6 (1.5)
  • 7 G: na wOlln_wa HOFfen.

well let’s hope

  • 8 dAss es SOwird. that it will be that way
  • 9 H: Aber SIcher.

you bet

10 “h Aber mit dem konZERT?

but regarding the concert

11 dAs WEISS ich ja nich.

I don’t know

  • 12 ob DAS klAppt. if that will work
  • 13 (1.0)
  • 14 °h also MEI:ne bekannten sind begEIstert. well my friends are enthusiastic
  • 15 (.)
  • 16 die sonst NICHT hingehen in die brOnshalle.

those who otherwise don’t go to the Bronshalle

  • 17 HIER gehen se alle hIn. thats where they all want to go
  • (Source: Archiv fur Gesprochenes Deutsch, Interaction PF026)

Example (1) is taken from a conversation between Helga (H) and Gerd (G), who are talking about cultural events in Emden (a German town in Lower Saxony). In the preceding course of their conversation, Helga and Gerd talked about a recent symphony concert (which was not successful and did not attract much attention) and an upcoming concert in the “Bronshalle” (a festival hall in Emden). After that, Helga and Gerd changed the topic and talked about the theatre in Emden and one of the pieces which is going to be enacted there, the comedie- ballet “The Imaginary Invalid” by Moliere.

The excerpt starts at a point when “The Imaginary Invalid” is still the conversational subject: Helga expects “The Imaginary Invalid” to be successful in Emden because “LAchen wOllen_se; aber ERNste sachen wollen_se nich hOren.” (‘they want to laugh but they don’t want to hear serious things’, cf. lines 1-6). After Helga and Gerd agreed that they wish Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid” to be successful (lines 7-9), she returns to the topic of the upcoming concert, i.e. she re-establishes a topic which has been talked about in the preceding course of talk but which is not the local conversational business-at-hand anymore (lines 10-17). Thus, Helga deals with three conversational tasks at this point of the conversation:

  • (i) She closes or at least suspends the local topic (= the theatre in Emden with a focus on the upcoming play “The Imaginary Invalid”).
  • (ii) She explicitly establishes a “new” topic (= the upcoming concert).
  • (iii) She marks the “new” topic as intersubjectively accessible.

Helga accomplishes these three tasks by means of the turn-constructional unit “Aber mit dem konZERT?” (‘but regarding the concert’) in line (10), which is followed by the complex clause “=dAs WEISS ich ja nich. ob DAS klAppt.” (‘I don’t know if that will work’) in lines (11-12). “Aber mit dem konZERT?” is a topical “misplacement marker” (Schegloff and Sacks 1973) which indicates that the topic change takes place in a sequential position in which it is not necessarily

expectable for the addressee. Syntactically and prosodically, it can be classified as a hanging topic:7 It occupies a position in the pre-front field[1] [2] of the subsequent syntagma, it is prosodically independent, and the subsequent syntagma does not contain an anaphoric pronoun which refers to the hanging topic as its antecedent.[3] [4] Furthermore, it is initiated by the adversative conjunction “Aber” (‘but’), which marks a contrastive caesura with regard to the preceding turn-constructional unit(s). Note that canonical prepositional phrases with mit (i.e. instrumental, modal, temporal etc. adverbials), in contrast, usually cannot occupy the pre-front field in terms of a hanging topic.

The prepositional phrase “mit dem konZERT?” (‘regarding the concert’) not only differs from canonical prepositional phrases with mit for syntactic and prosodic reasons, but semantically and pragmatically as well. First, this can be shown retrospectively (sequentially backward-pointing) with regard to the complement of mit, which, in the given context, is not a symbolic part of a proposition but functions as an indexical topical keyword (or “conversational deictic” ‘Gesprachsdeiktikum’) that marks a prior stretch of talk in Helga’s and Gerd’s conversation as its topical antecedent.10 This makes it possible for Helga to employ the hanging topic as a tying rule in the sense of Sacks. Sacks (1964- 1972/2005, I: 322) defines tying rules as

a means by which one piece of conversation is tied to another. If conversation simply consisted of A-B-A-B in alternation, then one might, for example, be perfectly well able to disorder all the parts, as long as the alternation is preserved, and still have a recognizable conversation, or even the same conversation. What these “tying rules” do is radically restrict that possibility, and provide for very local control over the relationship between utterances.

Sacks shows that conversational tying can be accomplished by means of repetitions, or locational tying techniques as he calls them (see Sacks 1964-1972/2005, I: 722ff).11 Locational tying techniques have the advantage that they allow for skip-tying (Sacks 1964-1972/2005, I: 734), i.e. they can tie two distant stretches of discourse together while skipping utterances between them. This is exactly what is happening in example (1): The complement “konZERT” (‘concert’) - a “thematic” lexeme with a high recognition value which has often been used in the preceding course of talk - makes it possible to connect a preceding stretch of talk (the topical antecedent) to the local context even though there are several turns in between.

Secondly, the prepositional phrase “mit dem konZERT?” (‘regarding the concert’) does not have a phrasal or a clausal scope, but a wider scope from a prospective (sequentially forward-pointing) point of view: Since Helga establishes the topical antecedent as an integral part of the topical presuppositions of subsequent speech acts (thereby restricting their possible readings), the prepositional phrase functions as a pragmatic operator with a pragmatically driven scope that is not tied to syntactical boundaries.[5] [6] This operator is part of a self-initiation of topic talk: Helga establishes the topical antecedent in order to carry on with topic-related talk herself. Canonical prepositional phrases with mit, in contrast, specify the verb phrase or at most their syntactic host-clause as a whole, but not a complex sequence of speech acts.

Example (1) shows that mittying + NP in the pre-front field is structurally and semantically different from the canonical uses of the preposition mit. It is both context shaped (i.e. “built in response to the frameworks of intelligibility and action” created by prior utterances) and context renewing (i.e. providing “the contextual point of departure for the action(s) that will follow”; see Heritage 1984: 242; Goodwin 2006: 443). Hence, it can be characterized as a dialogical inter-act in the sense of Linell (2001: 207). In example (1), this inter-act is being used as a means to self-initiate topic talk, but there are also examples in which mittying + NP other-initiates topic talk. In these cases, the turn-constructional unit after the hanging topic is a question or an invitation to talk followed by turntaking:

Example (2) Educational curricula

1 B: es IST (—) im allgemeinen ( — ) dOch zu sagen,

in general it can be said

  • 2 dass die schUler nach: (.) KURzer zEIt,= that the pupils after a short while
  • 3 vielleicht Elnem mOnat; (.) a month maybe
  • 4 der neuen schule gAnz_ah geWACHsen sind? = are able to cope with the new school
  • 5 und AUFf allige lUcken ( — ) geschlOssen haben. and have filled remarkable knowledge gaps
  • 6 H: °hund mit den schUlPLA:nen.

and regarding the educational curricula

  • 7 "h gelten DIEse fur eine langere zEIt? do they hold for a longer period of time
  • 8 oder_ah finden haufig ANderungen solcher schUlplane statt?

or are there many revisions of these educational curricula

9 B: "h die SCHULplane werden in der regel in einem


the educational curricula are usually scheduled by regulations

  • 10 der einzelnen schulen festgelegt, of the particular schools
  • (Source: Archiv fur Gesprochenes Deutsch, Interaction PF397)

In this example, Herbert (H) talks with Bernd (B), a teacher, about Bernd’s job. After Bernd told Herbert that pupils usually do not need much time to get used to a new school (lines 1-5), Herbert changes the topic and asks Bernd for information concerning the educational curricula which structure the teaching in school (see lines 6-8).

Just like in example (1), the new topic is being introduced by means of a hanging topic which is initiated by a conjunction (und ‘and’) and which features an indexical topical keyword (“den schUlPLA:nen.” ‘the educational curricula’) as the complement of a prepositional phrase with mit (see line 6).[7] Sequentially and topically, example (2) is slightly different in comparison to example (1), though. First, the accessibility of the new topic is not linked to a preceding stretch of talk (Herbert and Bernd had not talked about educational curricula before, at least not in the data available) but is based on pragmatic inferences in combination with contextual knowledge and world knowledge: Since Herbert knows that Bernd is a teacher, he can assume that the topic “educational curricula” is accessible to him. Secondly, Herbert does not carry on with topic-related talk himself but invites Bernd to talk by means of an alternative question (cf. lines 78). Accordingly, the hanging topic with mit in line (6) can be classified as a means to other-initiate topic talk which is pre-structured by the pragmatic scope of the operator in the pre-front field.

In examples (1) and (2), the prepositional hanging topics with mittying + NP are employed for mid-scale or large-scale topic tying: They are used when a topic is regarded to be accessible to the addressee but

(a) has not been opened up before or has already been closed explicitly (= large-

scale topic tying), or

(b) has been opened up before but is not being dealt with in the preceding turn-

constructional unit(s) (= mid-scale topic tying).[8]

The reason seems to be that the explicit establishment of an accessible topic - especially in the pre-front field as a syntactically and pragmatically prominent position (see Auer 1996 and Auer and Gunthner 2005, for example) - makes sense primarily when the topic is “misplaced” inasmuch as it cannot necessarily be considered to be “active” or the local conversational business-at-hand.

However, hanging topics with mittying + NP can also be used for small-scale topic tying, i.e. with regard to a topic which has not been closed yet and is also being dealt with in the preceding turn-constructional units. One such context is the use of mittying + NP as a means to compete for the floor in order to express disagreement, as in the following example, which is taken from the German TV cooking show “Lanz kocht!”:

Example (3) Salad

1 S: ALso?=


2 =dIr SCHMECkter.

you like it

3 L: ja SEHR gUt.=

yes very good

4 =SEHRgUt.

very good

5 S: und DAzu gibts_en kartOelsalat?

and additionally we’re going to have a potato salad

6 (das) is ein kartOel VOgerlsalat,

that’s a potato and lamb’s lettuce salad

7 was ja auch (.) tYpisch OSterreichisch is,

which is typically Austrian actually

8 L: SUper.


9 S: °h u:nd beim FELDsalat mussen wa sAgn,

and concerning lamb’s lettuce we have to say

10 der fEldsalat hat von dem vitamin CE her,

lamb’s lettuce has, in respect of vitamin C,

11 DOPpelt so vIEl?

twice as much

12 "h als JEder kOpfsalat.=

as any garden salad

13 L: AberKOMM.

but come on

14 S: sEhr viel [BEtakarotine?]

a lot of beta-carotene

15 ^ L: [aber mIt mIt ] demsaLAT,=

but regarding the salad

16 =ich hab NEUlich wieder eine_eine stUdie ah_ah gehort,

I heard of a study recently again

17 oder das erGEBnis einer stUdie,

or of the results of a study

18 ^ da KAM im grUnde raus,

basically, the results say

19 dass salAt is einfach nur fUr karNICkel.

that salad is just something for rabbits

20 S: NEIN.=


  • 21 =Is aSCHMARRN.= that’s nonsense
  • 22 [=Is DAS.] is that
  • 23 L: [DOCH. ]


24 S: JA.=


  • 25 =Aber-= but
  • 26 L: [=da is nix DRIN,]

there is nothing in it

  • 27 A: [( )]
  • 2 8 L: da is nix DRIN,

there is nothing in it

(Source: Example from Beate Weidner)

The host of the cooking show, Markus Lanz (L), talks with Alfons Schuhbeck (S), a cook who is a regular guest on “Lanz kocht!”, about the meal Schuhbeck is currently preparing. After Lanz has confirmed that he enjoys Schuhbeck’s meal (lines 1-4), Schuhbeck comments on the side dish, a kind of Austrian potato salad (cf. lines 5-8), and he takes the view that lamb’s lettuce is healthier in comparison to garden salad due to its wealth of vitamins (lines 9-12), but Lanz, the host of the show, indicates upcoming disagreement (line 13). Since Schuhbeck keeps on talking (line 14), Lanz interrupts him by means of an overlapped hanging topic with mit in order to refer to the results of a study which differ from Schuhbeck’s point of view since they indicate that salad is not very healthy at all because “there is nothing in it” (cf. lines 15-28). This point of view - which is also held by Andreas Studer (A), another guest cook - does not convince Schuhbeck, though (cf. lines 20-22).

In this example, the prepositional hanging topic “[aber mIt mIt ] dem saLAT,” (‘but regarding the salad’) in line (15) is used as a means for small-scale topic tying: its topical antecedent is a part of the local conversational business- at-hand which is not only accessible but even active at the time of Lanz’s turn.

Thus, it actually does not need to be reactivated. However, the prepositional hanging topic makes it possible for Lanz to indicate the topical relevance (or relatedness) of his turn in the exposed initial position that gets overlapped (Jefferson 2004) and to stop the topic progression in Schuhbeck’s turn while holding back dissent until he has successfully occupied the turn himself.

Another context in which prepositional hanging topics with mittying + NP can be employed for small-scale topic tying are list-like (Jefferson 1991; Selting 2004) topical structures in the preceding turn(s). It can be useful, then, to tie follow-up turn-constructional units explicitly to one of the preceding list items:

Example (4) Baking

1 W: tirOler hut NA:hen.

sew a Tyrolean hat

  • 2 JEder bewohner soil Elnen hut anfertigen. every resident ought to make a hat
  • 3 C: ph:::


4 W: <

simultaneously> WEIter. furthermore

  • 5 (-)
  • 6 am dOnnerstag wird um ZEHN uhr ein hau den lukas in

den garten gehoben.>

on Thursday at ten o’clock a strength tester will be carried into the garden

7 °h BUCHstaben backen.

bake letters

8 den teig fur buchstaben (.) konnt ihr nach dem beidigen[9] rezept,=

you can [prepare] the batter for the letters using the enclosed recipe

9 hamwir HIER?

[which] we have here

10 (0.5) zubereiten.


11 C: ph:::


  • 12 S: ( )
  • 13 W: BUCHsta:ben miissen ungefahr in der grobe vIErzig,

letters ought to be [shaped] about the size of forty

14 auf ACHTnzwanzig zentimEter geformt werden.

on twenty-eight centimeters [...]

15 S: hm,


  • 16 es is aber nIch so LEICHT.= but that’s not so easy
  • 17 =also ah [von DAher,] well eh hence
  • 18 W: [ja. ]


19 ^ S: grAd mit dem BACken.

especially regarding the baking

20 ich glaub [dAs:] gibt die MEISten probleme.

I think that will cause the most problems

21 W: [ja. ]


22 S: weil das brIcht ausnANder,

because that breaks apart

23 odadumUsswas [( )]

or you have to

24 W: [( )] lAUgen,

[made] lye

  • 25 lAUgengeback gemacht? lye bread [. . .]
  • (Source: linguistische Audio Datenbank (lAuDa), Interaction 25)

This excerpt is taken from the German adaption of the TV reality show “Big Brother”, which films a group of people who live together in a large isolated house and have to do certain tasks every week. Walter (W), Christian (C) and Stefanie (S) are talking here about the tasks they have to do this week, and Walter reads out a list they have received from the “Big Brother” organizers: The housemates have to sew Tyrolean hats (lines 1-2), use a strength tester (line 6) and bake letters (lines 7-14). After Walter read out the list (accompanied by several commentaries by the other discourse participants), Stefanie expresses her opinion that it won’t be easy for them to complete these tasks (cf. lines 1617). Stefanie finishes her turn-constructional unit in line (17) by means of the “topic-tag” “von DAher,” (‘hence’), a frequent construction in spoken German talk-in-interaction which marks the topical and argumentative coherence and completeness of the turn-so-far by signaling that a conclusive continuation would be possible in principal but does not necessarily need to be realized at the moment.[10] Then Stefanie carries on and specifies her point: She refers to the preceding topical list item “baking letters” (line 19) in order to characterize this task as the most difficult task because baked letters easily break apart (lines 20-22). Then she is interrupted by Walter (lines 23-25).

The hanging topic with mittying + NP (line 19) is being used in example (4) as a means for small-scale topic tying which focuses on a certain item (baking) within a list of items (sewing, striking a strength tester and baking). So, just like in example (3), there is a concrete sequential reason here to make use of a hanging topic with mittying + NP even though the topic is not only accessible but active at the time of the utterance.

  • [1] I am following Altmann’s (1981: 48ff) and Selting’s (1993) studies of hanging topics. See alsoOchs and Schieffelin (1976) and Duranti and Ochs (1979). It would also be possible to analyzethe prepositional phrase in line 10 as a left-dislocated attribute to the correlative pronoun “dAs”in line 11, but I prefer to classify it as a hanging topic due to its pragmatic salience and prosodicindependence. This goes well with Selting’s (1993) observation that hanging topics tend to indicate a more or less significant break instead of smooth progression.
  • [2] In German, declarative non-dependent sentences are topologically defined by the position ofthe finite and non-finite parts of the verb which separate the front field (position before thefinite verb), the middle field (position between the finite and non-finite parts of the verb) andthe end field (position after the non-finite parts of the verb). The pre-front field is positionedbefore the front field. It can be occupied by conjunctions, discourse markers (see Auer 1996)and hanging topics.
  • [3] The direct object “dAs” in line (11) has a vague anaphoric reading which gets specified by theturn-constructional unit in line (12).
  • [4] The notions “retrospective” and “prospective” are used here in the sense of Lenk (1998: 52).See also Goodwin (2006).
  • [5] See also Tannen (1989), Aitchison (1994), Anward (2005) and Du Bois (2010) as concerns thecommunicative functions of repetitions in language use.
  • [6] Bucker (i.Pr.) suggests calling such a scope an adlocutionary scope. See also Fiehler, Barden,Elstermann, and Kraft (2004) concerning “Operator-Skopus-Strukturen” (‘operator-scope-structures’)in German spoken interaction and Imo’s (2010a) study of “Mein Problem ist/mein Thema ist”.
  • [7] In example (2), the referent of the hanging topic is taken up in the subsequent clause bya coreferential pronoun. However, since the turn-constructional units in lines (6) and (7) areseparated prosodically (they both feature a focus accent and they are both embraced by aninitial inbreath and an independent final pitch movement), the turn-constructional unit in line(6) can be classified as a hanging topic.
  • [8] Hence, they have characteristics of “second-level discourse markers” (see Siepmann 2003:266): “[T]ypically, second-level discourse markers, hereafter SLDMs, are restricted medium frequency collocations composed of two or more printed words and having a definably pragmaticfunction. They act as single units establishing local linkage between adjacent elements, sequencesor text segments and/or global linkage between text segments further apart.”
  • [9] Probably an unclear pronunciation of beiliegenden ‘enclosed’.
  • [10] Stefanie’s “von DAher,” gets overlapped by Walter’s back-channel in line (18) since it is notprojected by the preceding turn-constructional unit. See Bucker (in print) for a comprehensiveanalysis of the forms and functions of von daher in German spoken interaction.
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