Author Topic: German linguistics books / articles  (Read 6215 times)

Offline Matt Longhorn

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German linguistics books / articles
« on: June 14, 2021, 06:09:56 AM »
Hi all, I got bored the other day so decided to start to learn German again after abandoning it 20 years ago at school.
I was wondering if anyone knew of good linguistic books about German  written in English from a non-chomskyian view?
I recognise that that is a bit of a wide field, but basically want something more than just the standard grammars
I have the following on my wish list

Stuff on morphology would be ideal as well

Offline Daniel

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Re: German linguistics books / articles
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2021, 09:54:35 AM »
Skimming over previews of those books suggests they are (at least broadly) in the Generative (i.e. Chomskyan) perspective. They look like they might be useful, but that's not what you asked for. They're not filled with trees, but they are pretty technical in terms of the usage of certain phrase types, descriptions of movement, etc. That may not be so much of a problem if you're just interested in the data, but could be somewhat tricky to understand in some places if you aren't familiar at all with the framework, or maybe not so fun to read if you strongly prefer another approach.

When I took a German Linguistics course a long time ago, the textbook we used was German: A Linguistic Introduction by Sarah Fagan, and it was a good overview. The syntax chapter is from a Chomskyan perspective, but I think it's actually a particularly good example of how to use the framework well, because it utilizes CP in a way that shows how useful it can be, basically treating German "V2" word order as equivalent to English questions (which also have similar subject-verb inversion in a "V2" sense). Another similar book I'm not as familiar with, but skimming over quickly looks possibly useful for you, is The Structure of German by Anthony Fox.

On the other hand, there has been a lot written about German, so you might instead look for articles of topics that interest you, rather than a single book. You'll find a lot online, and you could explore what interests you most.

If your German is at least at the intermediate level (and especially if it's beyond that), you might kill two birds with one stone by reading something written in German instead. Even if it takes you a long time to work through it, you'll be getting practice with the language that way! It's been a long time since I studied German, but I still read it often for research. It's not as transparent in terms of vocabulary as a Romance language for example, but especially in Linguistics, many terms are actually borrowed, and for the rest you may pick them up quickly. Reading in a specialized domain like that can actually be relatively easy with some practice. And again, you'll find a lot online so just try it out to see what you think.

There's been far too much written about German for me to try to summarize it here. It's not specifically my area (instead, when I read German it's mostly things in German about other languages, or about German it's for some very specific topic).

Now if you'd like a bridge between a pedagogical and linguistic book describing German, something like the following could be useful to you:
Bruce C. Donaldson. 2006. German: An essential grammar. London: Routledge
That series is good in general as a linguistic overview of languages, while being relevant as a reference grammar for students too. It's not a textbook, but it's approachable and not too technical, while also still covering important information well. So that's what I'd recommend most, probably, if that is the sort of thing that might interest you.

(One final thought is that because English is an important second language in Germany, and because Linguistics is a relatively popular area of study there, I think there actually may be German textbooks of Linguistics written in English. That might sound like an odd option for you, and I'm not sure of one in particular to recommend, but you might find that the examples are useful, for example in a chapter about Morphology, etc.)
« Last Edit: June 14, 2021, 10:00:06 AM by Daniel »
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Offline Matt Longhorn

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Re: German linguistics books / articles
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2021, 01:14:58 AM »
Thanks for such a detailed answer Daniel. A number of books added to my wish list now - hopefully I get to read them sometime!