Dear colleagues,

we are very happy to announce the:

Roundtable – Prosody of Pronouns – 19.05.2021 15:00 CET via Zoom.

Please register beforehand ( to receive the access data to zoom!


Time (CET)




Marlene Böttcher, Fabian Schubö & Sabine Zerbian (U Stuttgart)

Stress Assignment on Pronouns in German Prepositional Phrases – Evidence from read and spontaneous speech


Seunghun Lee
(Christian U Tokyo)

The prosody of weak and strong pronouns in Xitsonga


Tina Bögel
(U Konstanz/ U Amherst)

The prosody of Swabian pronouns: strong and weak forms at the interfaces


Coffee break



Frank Kügler (GU)

Aspects of prosodic phrasing of pronouns in German


Anja Arnhold, Regina Hert & Juhani Järvikivi
(U Alberta)

Do prosody and word order influence the interpretation of German pronouns?
17.40 Markus Bader (GU)

Choosing a position for an object pronoun in German — the role of
individual differences







Abstract Böttcher, Schubö & Zerbian:

Stress Assignment on Pronouns in German Prepositional Phrases – Evidence from read and spontaneous speech

Function words, such as pronouns and prepositions are considered prosodically weak elements and are restricted with regard to stress assignment (e.g. Selkirk, 1996). There is recent evidence for optional stress on non-focused pronouns from read German productions: Kügler (2018) found that disyllabic pronouns are more frequently stressed than monosyllabic pronouns. However, spontaneous intonation differs from controlled intonation and allows for accent realisation on given constituents, such as pronouns (DeRuiter, 2015).

We investigated whether these aspects also hold for stress realisations on pronouns in spontaneous speech. Based on pilot data from a corpus of spoken German by mono- and bilingual speakers (RUEG group, Wiese et al., 2016/17) we show that stressed pronouns occur in instances where (i) intonational phrases do not contain lexical categories such as noun or verb, or (ii) they are a complement to a preposition(Zerbian & Böttcher, 2019).

Furthermore, the influence of the preposition type (directional vs non-directional) on the stress assignment on pronominal and lexical complements in such a PP construction was tested in a controlled production study. We found that directional PPs trigger a stress shift from a pronominal complement to the preposition, attesting that (optional) stress assignment in German also depends on the semantic relation of function words (Böttcher & Schubö, in prep). These findings on stress assignment in PPs are supported by observations in the latest RUEG corpus of spontaneous spoken German of both mono- and bilingual speakers.

Based on our results we propose additional factors determining stress assignment on pronouns in German: one referring to the prosodic phrasing of the spontaneous spoken utterances, and the other referring to the syntactic structure (i.e. PPs) in which the pronoun occurs, as well as its semantic relation to the prepositional head.


Abstract Lee:

The prosody of weak and strong pronouns in Xitsonga

Pronominal elements in Xitsonga, a southern Bantu language (S53), are realized as verbal prefixes or emphatic pronouns. This paper examines the tonal and prosodic patterns of these pronouns. The 1st and 2nd person verbal prefixes (weak pronouns) are toneless, but the 3rdperson has a high (H) tone, creating a minimal pair: /u/ ‘you (singular)’ and /ú/ ‘s/he’. In weak pronouns, we show that when /ú/ ‘s/he’ is realized with a super H tone when it precedes an H tone verb, suggesting the presence of a prosodic boundary. All the disyllabic emphatic pronouns (strong pronouns) are realized with a final H. Prosodic properties of the emphatic pronouns are reported when it is used with or without its corresponding subject agreements in a sentence.


Abstract Bögel:

The prosody of Swabian pronouns: strong and weak forms at the interfaces

In Swabian, a Southern German dialect, the 1SgNom pronoun is represented by two different forms: the (strong) prosodic word [i] and the (weak) enclitic [ə]. Data on written and spoken Swabian from two corpus studies shows that, depending on clause position and focus structure, the two forms occur in complementary distribution. This close association between prosodic representation, syntactic position, and information-structural function provides interesting insights into the interplay between different modules of grammar, and allows for a new perspective on a long existing theoretical debate on the distinction between function words and content words at the syntax-prosody interface.


Abstract Kügler:

Aspects of prosodic phrasing of pronouns in German

Pronouns are function words syntactically, and are commonly viewed as weak elements in prosodic constituency (Selkirk, 1996; Truckenbrodt, 2007). A pronoun constitutes a functional head without any complement, and thus the pronoun usually does not project a mapping constraint from syntactic to higher prosodic structure (Truckenbrodt, 2007; Bennett et al. 2015). Prosodically, function words usually are phrased as a clitic (Selkirk, 1996). In this study I am concerned with personal pronouns in German and their conditions for prosodic phrasing. I will explore the ability for them to carry a pitch accent. Based data from a production study on German I will argue that pronouns may carry an optional pitch accents, as opposed to obligatory sentence accents. In terms of phrasing, I assume them to project ‘minor phrase stress’ in the sense of Kratzer & Selkirk (2007).


Kratzer, A., & Selkirk, E. (2007). Phase theory and prosodic spellout: The case of verbs. The Linguistic Review, 24(2-3), 93–135.

Selkirk, E. O. (1996). The prosodic structure of function words. In J. L. Morgan & K. Demuth (Eds.), Signal to syntax. (pp. 187–213). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Truckenbrodt, H. (2007). The syntax-phonology interface. In De Lacy, Paul V. (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology (pp. 435–456). Cambridge: CUP.


Abstract Arnold, Hert & Järvikivi:

Do prosody and word order influence the interpretation of German pronouns?

This study investigated whether prosody and word order of a preceding utterance affect the interpretation of the German subject pronoun er. Both prosody and word order mark changes in information structure, which guides the listener’s attention and information processing. Given that listeners are often assumed to resolve the pronoun towards the most salient referent in the context, this could be expected to affect pronoun processing and/or interpretation.
Results of an eye-tracking study with 60 participants confirm that manipulations in prosody and word order guide the listener’s processing both for the manipulated sentence and for the following sentence containing the pronoun. However, the final offline-interpretation showed a stable preference for resolving the pronoun towards the subject of the preceding sentence.

Abstract Bader:

Choosing a position for an object pronoun in German — the role of individual differences

Within the IP/VP in German (the so-called middle field), weak object pronouns can freely occur before or after the subject, unless the subject is itself a pronoun. Soft constraints in terms of animacy, thematic roles and weight, among others, favor either SO or OS order in a probabilistic way. In this talk, I discuss the position of object pronouns in German from the perspective of language production. While the soft constraints mentioned above have been demonstrated in a corpus study, production experiments allow us to explore cognitive properties of individual speakers. I discuss an experiment that has investigated the effect of speakers‘ working memory capacity and production speed. While the former did not affect the choice between SO and OS order, the latter did: Faster production times were associated with higher rates of SO order. The results are discussed with respect to current theories of grammatical encoding.