Focus Particles Inside Prepositional Phrases: A Comparison of Dutch, English, and German

  • Gosse Bouma
  • Petra Hendriks
  • Jack Hoeksema
Open Access
Original Paper


Partly due to disagreement on acceptability judgements, there is little agreement on the possibility of PP-internal and DP-internal focus particles in languages such as Dutch, English, and German. Our large-scale corpus investigation reveals that PP-internal focus particles are a genuine possibility, not only in English, but also in Dutch and, to a lesser extent, German. These results seem to be incompatible with a number of existing syntactic theories of bound focus in German. However, our investigation also provides evidence for a strong dispreference for focus particles to follow a preposition, although the dispreference is less strong in Dutch than in German. Qualitative analysis of the corpus data shows that the variational patterns found in English, Dutch, and German are highly similar, and are influenced by lexical-semantic as well as syntactic factors. We sketch an alternative analysis, couched in the framework of stochastic Optimality Theory.


Corpus analysis Focus particles Optimality Theory Prepositional phrases Word order variation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Language and Cognition GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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