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Appositions in monologue, increments in dialogue? On appositions and apposition-like patterns in spoken German and their status as constructions


Typically, so-called wide appositions of the pattern NP + NP are used to provide additional information about a newly introduced referent. In written, monologically oriented language this pattern is fairly common, but it is also used in monological settings in spoken language, as the following example shows:[1] [2]

Example 1: radio interview

5 H ^ mlr gegenuber sitzt nun markus ERtel,

‘opposite of me is now sitting Markus Ertel’

6 ^ einer der verANstalter dieses projEkts. (1.0)

‘one of the organizers of this project’

7 markus ERtel,

‘Markus Ertel’

8 die HEUrige burgermesse hat ein motto das lAUtet, (-)

‘this year’s citizens’ fair has got a motto that says’

9 was ALle Angeht konnen nur alle lOsen. (-)

‘what concerns everybody can only be solved by everybody’

The example is taken from a radio interview. The host of the radio program (H) has just started greeting the audience and, beginning in line 5, he introduces his guest and interview partner, Markus Ertel. In lines 5 to 6 the radio host uses a traditional wide apposition, linking the name “markus ERtel” with the coreferential noun phrase “one of the organizers of this project”, which helps his audience identify the interviewee.

If one compares monologically and internationally oriented spoken data, a striking observation can be made. In monological sequences such as in example 1, where the host can talk without fearing interruption, typical wide appositions occur, while in interactional sequences, such as in example 2, where a constant change of speaker turns occurs, a different structure is used:

Example 2: private phone call

03 S2 von wo rufst DU denn an;

‘where are you calling from’

  • 04 (-)
  • 05 S1 ^ ah von SKYPE weil unser tElefon so rAUscht die Anlage, (-)

‘erm via Skype because our telephone is so noisy the system’

06 S2 ach SO; (-)

‘oh all right’

07 S1 wieso WEIL ah::- (-)

‘why because erm’

08 (ma) keine NUMmer angezeigt wurde oder warUm.

‘(my) no number was shown (on the display) or why’

09 S2 NE: weil; (.)

‘no because’

10 keine NUMmer angezeigt wurde;

‘no number was shown’

Transcript 2 is taken from a private telephone conversation between two sisters (S1 and S2). S2 asks her sister where she is calling from, because her telephone display does not show the caller’s telephone number. S1 replies that she is using the computer software Skype and not her telephone because she has technical problems with her telephone. The noun phrase “our telephone” is expanded by the vaguely co-referential noun phrase “the system”. This second noun phrase could have been placed next to the first one to create an - albeit slightly oddsounding - “monological” wide apposition (e.g. “our telephone, the system, is so noisy”) but here it is placed after the finite verb (“rauscht / is noisy”). Therefore, in terms of Interactional Linguistics, the phrase “the system” rather resembles an increment (e.g. Couper-Kuhlen and Ono 2007) and not an apposition.

The aim of this paper is to show how a combination of Interactional Linguistics (Couper-Kuhlen and Selting 2001) with Construction Grammar (e.g. Goldberg 1996; Croft 2002) can be used to create an approach that may be called Interactional Construction Grammar (see also Deppermann 2006) that is able to explain the constructional status and network relations of both of the patterns presented here.

  • [1] I would like to thank Daniel Ross for proofreading the text.
  • [2] The transcription conventions are listed on the last page. All names were anonymized. Theproper name of the citizens’ fair in line 8 has been replaced by the words “citizens’ fair”.
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