N be that-constructions in everyday German conversation
A reanalysis of ‘die Sache ist/das Ding ist’ (‘the thing is’)-clauses as projector phrases
Based on a corpus of conversational German, I will show that the standard view of N be that-constructions (e.g. ‘the thing is/the point is...’) as [matrix clause + subordinated complement clause] cannot be supported by actual data from spoken interactions. Instead of a subordinated complement clause following the matrix clause, speakers reanalyse ‘die Sache ist’ (‘part A’)as a projector phrase, anticipating the upcoming core message (‘segment B’). Part B (‘the complement clause’), which overwhelmingly occurs with no complementizer ‘dass’ (‘that’), can take various forms in spoken interactions: it can be realized as a subordinate clause, a main clause, a complex clause and even as a larger discourse segment. In all these cases, it is no longer a conceptual element of segment A’s proposition. Instead of the traditionally assumed matrix clause vs. subordinate clause relation, the ‘matrix clause’ (‘die Sache ist’ syntagma) is reanalysed as a projector phrase, focussing recipients’ attention on the following segment, which expresses the core message. Thus, the ‘complement’ overrides the ‘matrix clause’. This functional upgrading of the ‘complement clause’ (part B) tends to be accompanied by formal indications of prosodic and syntactic independence.