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German Nominal Syntax in HPSG - On Syntactic Categories and Syntagmatic Relations -

Stephan Oepen
DFKI, DFKI Documents (D), Vol. 94-15, 1994.


The German nominal group --- even when reduced to the core inventory of nouns, determiners and attributive adjectives --- is a morphologically and syntactically complex structure. In this paper it is suggested that a detailed understanding of the (morpho-) syntactic categories and the syntagmatic relations exhibited in the core nominal group is a prerequisite to an adequate analysis. It will be argued that the two fundamental syntagmatic relations holding within the nominal group, viz. GOVERNMENT and AGREEMENT, have to figure as theoretically primitive concepts in any reasonably detailed account of nominal structures. Explicating government and agreement relations and especially separating one from the other, will presuppose a sufficient inventory of formal descriptive devices in any particular theory of grammar. The paper is settled in the framework of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar HPSG. Recent HPSG analyses for the German nominal group that have been put forth in [Pollard and Sag 1994] and [Netter 1994] are studied in detail contrasting them to (semi-) formal proposals from other linguistic frameworks; potential problems as well as some abstract joint properties of the two HPSG approaches are exemplified. Building on this comparison it is concluded that in exactly the linguistic stipulations shared by the two accounts, two important generalizations about the inherent structure of the German nominal group are to be found. At the same time the [Pollard and Sag 1994] analysis is tentatively reformulated.