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Syncretism in German: a unified approach to underspecification, indeterminacy, and likeness of case

Berthold Crysmann
In: Stefan Müller (Hrsg.). Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Department of Informatics. International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG), August 23-24, University of Lisbon, Portugal, Pages 91-107, CSLI Publications, Stanford, 2005.


In this paper I address the phenomenon of syncretism in German and show how Flickinger (2000)'s approach to related issues in English can be adapted to provide a compact, disjunction-free representation of German nominal paradigms by means of combined case/number/gender type hierarchies. In particular, I will discuss the issue of case identity constraints in German coordinate structures, which has so far prevented successful application of Flickinger's proposal to German, and show how likeness constraints targetting individual inflectional dimensions of a combined type hierarchy can be expressed by means of typed lists that abstract out the relevant dimension. I further show that current type-based approaches to feature neutrality are unable to combine the treatment of this phenomenon with the virtues of underspecification. I will then propose a revised organisation of the inflectional type hierarchies suggested by Daniels (2001), drawing on a systematic distinction between inherent and external (case) requirements.