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Subjectivity in causal connectives: similarities and differences between Dutch and German. Ninke Stukker and Ted Sanders Universiteit Utrecht. Meaning and use of causal connectives: Cross-linguistic unity …?. Outline: Cross-linguistic perspective on CC

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Subjectivity in causal connectives similarities and differences between dutch and german

Subjectivity in causal connectives: similarities and differences between Dutch and German

Ninke Stukker and Ted Sanders

Universiteit Utrecht

Meaning and use of causal connectives cross linguistic unity

Meaning and use of causal connectives:Cross-linguistic unity …?


  • Cross-linguistic perspective on CC

  • Cognitive categorization hypothesis on CC

  • Pilot corpus analysis of:

    Dus/ ?Also – Daarom/ ?Deshalb – Daardoor/ ?Dadurch

Meaning and use of causal connectives cross linguistic unity1

Meaning and use of causal connectives:Cross-linguistic unity …?

(Cf. Pit, 2003; Pander Maat & Degand, 2001; Degand & Pander Maat, 2003; Pander Maat & Sanders, 1995; 2000; Frohning, 2007, Stukker, Sanders & Verhagen, 2008; Sanders, 2005)

What unity diversity must we expect

What unity & diversity must we expect?

Findings from linguistic typology:

  • Grammatical patterns are essentially language-specific;

  • BUT variation is constrained by:



    -synchronic intra-linguistic variation

    -diachronic development

    -cognitive structure

Causal connectives cognition

Causal connectives & cognition

  • Research Project Causality and subjectivity as cognitive principles of discourse representation: Converging evidence from language use (Sanders, 2005: NWO vici project)

  • The linguistic project: evidence from language use

    “Connectives provide a window on human cognition”, BUT usage patterns vary across:




Causal connectives cognition1

Causal connectives & cognition

  • Categorization function

    Lexical category ≈ conceptual category (cf. Lakoff, 1987; Taylor, 1995; Geeraerts, 1997)

  • Categorization hypothesis:

    When selecting one of the causal connectives available in a language, the language user assigns the causal coherence relation expressed to a specific conceptual type of causality

  • Categorization in Dutch CC: subjectivity

Categorization in dutch subjectivity

Categorization in Dutch: subjectivity

  • Subjectivity: the degree of speaker responsibility expressed in the causal relation (Pander Maat & Sanders, 2000; cf. Langacker, 1990; Traugott, 1989)

  • Various dimensions of subjectivity. By way of illustration:

  • Domains of use (Sweetser, 1990; relation to subjectivity by Pander Maat & Sanders, 2000; Pander Maat & Degand, 2001; Pit,2003)

Why a cross linguistic perspective

Why a cross-linguistic perspective?

  • Aims:

    -Generalization over languages

    -Filter out language specific factors

  • Current state of affairs:



    …but what do they look like exactly?

    Where do they come from?

  • In this talk exploration of:

    -Cognitive perspective on cross-ling ‘unity’

    -Empirical data

    …Work in progress…!

Subjectivity cline conceptual space

Subjectivity cline = Conceptual space?

‘Cognitive typology’ (e.g. Heine, 1997; Croft, 2001; Kemmer, 2003)

  • Aim: identify cognitive structure as basis for universals

  • Method: relate conceptual map with semantic map


    Categories of subjectivity = conceptual space that cross-linguistically constrains meaning and use of causal connectives

  • Cognitively plausible

  • Scalar concept (Pander Maat & Degand, 2001; Pit, 2003)

Semantic map of daardoor daarom and dus news reports

Semantic map of daardoor, daarom and dus (news reports)

Contrastive corpus analysis dutch german

Contrastive Corpus analysis Dutch-German

Contrastive corpus analysis dutch german1

Contrastive corpus analysis Dutch-German

  • Dus, daarom, daardoor vs. Also, deshalb, dadurch

  • Subjectivity: domains of use

  • Method of analysis: paraphrase test (Sanders, 1997)

Contrastive corpus analysis dutch german2

Contrastive corpus analysis Dutch-German

  • Analytical perspectives:

    -Onomasiological: naming

    -Semasiological: meaning (cf. Geeraerts, 1997)

  • Corpora:

    -pilot D-Coi, commentaries and opinion pieces

    (74.415 wds; Oostdijk, 2006)

    -Potsdam Commentary Corpus (33.209 wds; Stede, 2004)

  • Statistical analysis: typical and less typical patterns established with contrast analysis (Van den Bergh, 1989)

Semantic map of dus daarom and daardoor opinion pieces

Semantic map of dus, daarom and daardoor (opinion pieces)

Semantic map of also deshalb and dadurch commentaries

Semantic map of also, deshalb and dadurch (Commentaries)

Unity and diversity in dutch and german semasiological perspective

Unity and diversity in Dutch and German: semasiological perspective

  • Unity

    -Daarom/ deshalb have general function

    -Dus / also strongly specialize in SUBJ Epistemic

    -Daardoor / dadurch strongly specialize in OBJ Non-volitional

  • Diversity

    -Frequency Also,dadurch < dus, daardoor

    -Deshalb is more subjective than daarom

Unity and diversity in dutch and german onomasiological perspective

Unity and diversity in Dutch and German: onomasiological perspective

  • Unity

    -Content volitional expressed with daarom / deshalb

    -No specific ‘name’ for subjective causality

  • Diversity

    -Dutch has a specific ‘name’ for non-vol caus; Geman doesn’t



(If our small samples may be generalized)

  • Cognitive perspective:

    Conceptual space/ semantic map

  • Usage-based methodology:

    Frequency of use, distribution from onomas/semas perspective

    specify ‘unity and diversity’ between Dutch-German…

    BUT many questions remain…

Further research

Further research

  • Impact of communicative context? (Intra-language variation)

  • Subdistinctions of subjectivity (volitionality, but also: accessibility, attention –Frohning, 2007)

  • Meaning differences between typically and non-typically marked causal contexts (Stukker, Sanders & Verhagen, 2008)

  • More languages

  • More dimensions of subjectivity

Subjectivity in causal connectives similarities and differences between dutch and german



This study was enabled by The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research, NWO, through NWO Vici-grant 277-70 003, awarded to Ted Sanders.



  • Croft, W. (2001). Radical construction grammar: Syntactic theory in typological perspective. Oxford: OUP.

  • Degand, L., Pander Maat, H. (2003). A contrastive study of Dutch and French causal connectives on the Speaker Involvement Scale. In A. Verhagen & J. van de Weijer, eds., Usage based approaches to Dutch, Utrecht, LOT: 175-199

  • Frohning, D. (2007). Kausalmarker zwischen Pragmatik und Kognition. Korpusbasierte Analysen zur Variation im Deutschen. Tuebingen: Niemeyer.

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  • Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, fire and dangerous things. What categories reveal about the mind. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

  • Langacker, R.W. (1990). Subjectification. Cognitive Linguistics 1: 5–38.

  • Kemmer, S. (2003). Human cognition and the elaboration of events: Some universal conceptual categories. In: M. Tomasello (ed.) The new psychology of language: Cognitive and functional approaches to language structure 2, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 89-118.

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  • Pander Maat, H., Sanders, T. (2000). Domains of use or subjectivity: The distribution of three Dutch causal connectives explained. In: E. Couper-Kuhlen & B. Kortmann Cause, condition, concession, and contrast: Cognitive and discourse perspectives. Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter: 57-82.

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  • Stukker, N., Sanders, T., Verhagen A. (2008). Causality in verbs and in discourse connectives. Converging evidence of cross-level parallels in Dutch linguistic categorization. Journal of Pragmatics 40: 1296-1322.

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