Quantifying auxiliary tun to study seventeenth-century German metalinguistic reflection
Keywords:Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft, auxiliary tun, tun periphrasis, Early New High German, Novellino
This paper discusses whether the quantitative analysis of auxiliary tun in the Erzehlungen aus den mittlern Zeiten (1624), the first German translation of the Italian short story collection Novellino, can help uncover new aspects of the metalinguistic reflection of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft. The Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft was the first German society that focussed on the improvement of the German language, and the Erzehlungen are a product of the “language work” of this society. In the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft East Central / Low German were seen as the model for a new standard literary German. The metalinguistic writings of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft voice this opinion explicitly when describing the rules for orthography, phonotactics and morphology but, as it was typical in the seventeenth-century, they don’t give any rule for syntactic correct structures. Therefore, the question whether the syntax of this newly founded literary German had to be regionally marked as well, can only be inferred by observing the syntactic properties of the texts that resulted from the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft’s “language work”. The quantitative analysis of auxiliary tun in the Erzehlungen will show that the use of this construction in the studied translation bears a Low German regional markedness. This quantitative linguistic analysis could thus shed some light on the question of which regional variety the first German “linguistic” society considered to be the model for syntactic correctness.