Workshop "Secondary Syntax: Parentheticals, vocatives, quotations"

There are a number of structures in language use which, at first glance, seem to stand outside of syntactic regularities and contradict the traditional principles of syntactic descriptions. Such structures are, for instance, parentheticals, vocatives, and quotations. Although they show a high frequency of occurrence, such performance structures are usually treated as marginal phenomena in grammar books as well as marginal categories or isolated phenomena. When mentioned, they are usually described as members of different categories, often resulting in their common features being ignored.
From a cross-linguistic perspective, these structures exhibit both common and divergent properties. A major issue thus lies in investigating the linguistic and/or cognitive motivations for sameness, similarity as well as difference. To give an example, the signalling of referential vs. vocative usage of a proper name is obligatory in German if there is no contextual disambiguation (1):

 (1) a. Hast du Anna eine Praline weggenommen? (referential usage)
‘Have you taken a praline from Anna?’
b. Hast du, Anna, eine Praline weggenommen? (vocative usage)
‘Have you, Anna, taken a praline?’

The prosodic signalling of non-integration prevents ambiguity. In Russian, such ambiguities would not arise automatically, since (at least some) vocatives are morphologically marked. However, the syntactic position of the vocative is evident in Russian as well as in German, cf. (2), where the double employment of the vocative signifies a functional difference in the syntactic placement of the structure.

(2) Dima, potorpis’, Dima! (, 26.12.2013)
Dima, beeil dich Dima!
Dima, hurry up,Dima!’

Performance structures like vocatives, parentheticals, and quotations are located on a ‘secondary’ level. They not only interact with ‘primary’ syntax, but may also be interrelated on this secondary level, as can be seen in (3). With respect to the interaction between secondary and primary syntax, the structure given in the Russian example would be ungrammatical without explicit (prosodic or graphic) signalisation, since the participles delajuščij ‘doing’ ( do not agree with their apparent head noun ėkzameny ‘exams’ ( This is different for the corresponding German and English sentences; due to their non-inflecting present participles, non-integration is signalled only graphically, not morphosyntactically. As a consequence, it is difficult to translate the exact interactions of primary and secondary syntax encountered in the Russian sentence. What all three sentences show, however, is that parentheticals interact on the secondary level. This is indicated by the fact that the second parenthetical serves as a continuation of the first one (see, e.g., the semantic link resulting from the continuation of čelovek / Mensch / human being in the second parenthetical and the prosody of the second parenthetical with focussed graždanin / Bürger / citizen).

(3) Esli že ėkzameny po literature (delajuščij iz rebënka čeloveka) i istorii (delajuščij iz čeloveka graždanina) stanut objazatel’nymi, kartina izmenitsja. (Literaturnaja Gazeta, 25.12.2013)
Wenn aber die Prüfungen in Literatur (aus einem Kind einen Menschen machend) und Geschichte(aus einem Menschen einen Bürger machend) verpflichtend werden, wird sich das Bild ändern.
If, however, the exams in literature (turning a child into a human being) and in history (turning a human being into a citizen) become obligatory, the picture will change.

The interaction between secondary and primary syntax and the interrelations among elements of secondary syntax can also be observed for the quotations in (4). On the one hand, they relate to Medwedjew and Putin respectively, on the other hand, they are both part of some kind of dialogue located at the secondary level: 

(4) Während Medwedjew Akkordeon spielte und Putin sich das Tamburin auf das Hinterteil schlug, drehte sich die Doppelspitze beschwingt um sich selbst: „Hopp!“ „Bravo!“.(Süddeutsche Zeitung, 13.01.2010)
‘While Medwedjew was playing the accordion and Putin was hitting the tambourine
onto his backside, the double spearhead was swinging around exhilaratedly: “Hopp!”“Bravo!”.  

Performance structures still await a comprehensive description in their entirety. The challenge lies in the fact that they deviate from ‘primary syntax’ yet are systematic at the same time. This workshop aims to investigate the shared properties of the multifaceted class of performance structures as an essential part of ‘secondary syntax’.

Topics include, but are not limited to, the following aspects in a synchronic and diachronic perspective:

-       syntactically non-integrated structures
prosody of non-integration
interactions between syntax and prosody
semantics and pragmatics of non-integration
signalisation of secondary syntax in written texts
secondary syntax from a cross-linguistic perspective
secondary syntax as a challenge for the annotation of corpora

Invited speakers

Martina Lampert
Jörg Meibauer


Abstracts are invited for a 20 minute presentation followed by a 10 minute question period. One-page (including references and examples) anonymous abstracts in both .doc and .pdf format (times new roman, 12p) should be sent to secondary.syntax(at)

Important dates

Submission deadline: 30 September 2014
Notification of acceptance: 15 October 2014
Registration deadline: 25 November 2014
Workshop: 5–6 December 2014 


University of Bamberg

Organising committee

Patrizia Noel, Barbara Sonnenhauser, Hanna Christ, Daniel Klenovšak.


Conference Email: