5: Information Structure in Scandinavian Languages

Elisabet Engdahl & Maia Andréasson (Gothenburg)

The Scandinavian languages provide a particularly interesting area for investigating the relation between word order, prosody and information structure. Like other Germanic languages, they are V2, but unlike Dutch and German the verb is initial in the VP, like in English. This has repercussions for the order in the midfield, in particular for Object Shift. One factor that has been shown to influence word order is the so-called cognitive status of the antecedent (cf. Gundel et al. 1993, Andréasson 2010, Ørsnes 2012), but more research is needed to clarify the interaction between cognitive status and the information structural realization of topic and focus.

Since topicalization and left dislocation are easy to distinguish in V2-languages, data from Scandinavian languages provide a good testing ground for the informational impact of these constructions. Furthermore, investigations of presentational and clefting constructions may be used to bring light on how speakers structure their messages to convey what should be taken as new information and what can be assumed or accommodated (cf. Søfteland 2012). But in some dialects, clefting has become a grammaticalized unmarked form, used for instance in subject questions.

A lot of earlier research built exclusively on constructed data, but with the advent of spoken language corpora such as the Nordic Dialect Corpus (Johannesen et al. 2009) we are now in a position where we can investigate both in what contexts speakers use constructions such as topicalization, clefting and unshifted object pronouns, and how they are realized prosodically.

The papers in this theme session will address questions like the following:

  • How is the combination of V2 and V-initial in VP exploited in information structure?
  • What motivates fronting to preverbal position in declarative clauses?
  • What does embedded topicalization reveal about the information structure of subordinate clauses?
  • In what ways are anaphoric relations to antecedents reflected in word order preferences?
  • What does the use of clefts reveal about the information exchange?