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Cross-linguistic analyses of backward causal connectives in Dutch, German and French

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The Dutch, German and French languages display a variety of regularly used connectives all of which introduce causes, arguments or reasons, such as Dutch omdat, want and aangezien, German weil, denn and da, and French parce que, car and puisque. Why should these languages have different connectives to express the notion of backward causality? The central argument developed in this article is that the use of these connectives is dependent on the degree of subjectivity associated with the causal relation. The pre-eminence of this account with respect to prior accounts of the uses of these connectives is established on the basis of a series of corpus analyses. The outcomes show that the degree of subjectivity of the main participant involved in the causal relation strongly predicts the occurrence of one or another connective. A distinction can be made between objective connectives like omdat and doordat, parce que and weil on the one hand and subjective connectives like want and aangezien, car and puisque and denn and da on the other hand. No differences between the subjective connectives aangezien/want, puisque/car and denn/da could be observed in terms of subjectivity, but additional frequency data and analyses of translation practices revealed promising directions for supplementary explanations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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