The interaction between the syntactic position and the interpretation of adverbials in German clauses has been the subject of a recent debate. Typically, a hierarchy of adverbial classes is proposed. Order constraints between elements of different adverbial classes, as well as between adverbials and arguments are then derived from the membership in the adverbial classes. Alternative proposals attribute adverbial positioning solely to semantic constraints imposed by the adverbials on the phrases they modify.
We ascribe the various discrepancies found in this debate to two factors: a general definitional deficiency and the empirical base of many proposals.
There is a lack of a coherent definition of adverbial types and adverbial classes. Often, a systematic variation of adverbial phrases of the same class, or a contrast of adverbials of different classes is ignored. Various proposals do not consider different meanings of polysemous adverbials.
Second, the introspective approach of many current proposals must be doubted.
The project addresses the divergencies in a set of experiments targeting an empirically adequate theory of the interaction between position and interpretation of event-external, event-internal, and process-related adverbial PPs. The test items are systematically derived from semantically annotated corpus data (“modified stimulus composition”).