Utterance- and phrase-initial parts of speech in German interactions and textbooks



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Kansas State University


The current study investigates phrase-initial parts of speech as found in intermediate German textbooks and compares these findings to utterance-initial parts of speech as found in spontaneous speech in German-language interactions. This is important, because learning and using German word order appears to be a struggle for German learners whose first language is English. Research has shown that possible word order realizations in a language are partly restricted by the parts of speech system of that language (Hengeveld, Rijkhoff, & Siewierska, 2004; Vulanovic & Köhler, 2009). This is important because English and German have different parts of speech systems (Hengeveld et. al., 2004; Hengeveld & van Lier, 2010). Doherty (2005) analyzed English to German translations of an international science magazine and found that almost every second sentence begins differently. Instead, this study looks at talk in contexts of use and compares these findings with textbook language because, in recent years, communicative approaches to language teaching have been adopted by a large number of US German language programs. One would thus expect that textbooks used in these classrooms would contain at least some input with constructions that are typical to contexts of use. The results of the study indicate that construction-initial parts of speech in textbooks and in contexts of use are quite different. These differences imply that if it is a communicative approach that is being promoted, textbook authors and German educators would do well to expose students to actual talk from contexts of use so that they might learn to make meaning based on considerations of context.



Parts of speech, German, English, Textbook, Spontaneous speech, Pedagogy, Language in interaction

Graduation Month



Master of Arts


Department of Modern Languages

Major Professor

Janice McGregor