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Sentence brackets and topological fields

 
 
The German word order can be described by means of sentence brackets and topological fields. The sentence brackets are formed by the finite verb form and the other parts of the predicate. They divide the sentence into different topological fields that are occupied by the other constituents of the sentence.

Sentence brackets
Topological fields


Sentence brackets

When a sentence or clause contains a complex predicate, the finite verb form and the other parts of the predicate can appear separately in different positions (see Position of the complex predicate). In verb-second and verb-first clauses or sentences, the finite verb form and the other parts of the predicate form sentence brackets that enclose one or more constituents of the sentence:

Verb-second clause:
Sentence brackets
Der Großvater  hat  seinem Enkel ein Buch  geschenkt .

Verb-first clause:
Sentence brackets
Hat  der Großvater seinem Enkel ein Buch  geschenkt ?

In verb-last clauses, the sentence brackets are formed by the introductory word and the predicate:

Verb-last clause:
Sentence brackets
dass  der Großvater seinem Enkel ein Buch  geschenkt hat .

When verb-second and verb-first clauses or sentences have a simple predicate, the right sentence bracket is empty. It corresponds to the end of the sentence.

Verb-second clause:
Sentence brackets
Der Großvater schenkt seinem Enkel ein Buch 

Verb-first clause:
Sentence brackets
Schenkt  der Großvater seinem Enkel ein Buch  ?


Topological fields

The sentence brackets described above divide the sentence into so-called topological fields that are occupied by the other consituents of the sentence:
  • The Vorfeld (pre-field) is the field to the left of the left sentence bracket. It is only occupied in verb-second clauses.

  • The Mittelfeld (middle field) is the field that is enclosed by the sentence brackets.

  • The Nachfeld (post-field) is the field to the right of the right sentence bracket. It is occupied when a part of the sentence is removed from the brackets and place after them.
Verb-second clause:
Sentence brackets
Vorfeld
(
Mittelfeld
)
Nachfeld
Der Großvater  hat  seinem Enkel ein Buch  geschenkt, das der Kleine sofort las.

Verb-first clause:
Sentence brackets
(
Mittelfeld
)
Nachfeld
Hat  der Großvater seinem Enkel ein Buch  geschenkt,  das der Kleine sofort las ?

Verb-last clause:
Sentence brackets
(
Mittelfeld
)
Nachfeld
dass der Großvater seinem Enkel ein Buch  geschenkt  hat,  das der Kleine sofort las.

Occupation of the topological fields

The topological fields are occupied differently by the constituents of a sentence. See:

Vorfeld
Mittelfeld 
Nachfeld      







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