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Pragmatics of German doch

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

The purpose of this paper is to propose a new interpretation of doch, a German modal particle that has been widely studied, but whose contributions to an utterance are dis- puted by many prominent scholars. In what follows, I diverge from analyses put forth by Thurmair (1989), Abraham (1991), Rinas (2007), Grosz (2011, 2014), Rojas-Esponda (2013), and Müller (2014), and propose that doch’s contribution to an utterance rep- resents expectation violation with respect to a salient proposition in discourse. In par- ticular, the analysis here stems from two observations made about doch that is absent in previous work on this particle. First, I put forth evidence showing that doch is not only able to appear discourse-initially, a previously undiscussed property of this parti- cle, but also that the prejacent of doch need not be the propositional argument of the particle. Second, I argue that doch is a grammatical marker of mirativity, a category which inherently references surprise or violated expectation of a discourse participant (DeLancey, 1997, Aihkenvald, 2004). By taking these two steps, this approach is able to capture the previously undiscussed properties of this particle, and also explain an interesting distributional generalization about doch in polar questions.

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