Ortmann, Katrin

Computational Methods for Investigating Syntactic Change: Automatic Identification of Extraposition in Modern and Historical German

Bochumer Linguistische Arbeitsberichte (BLA) 25, 2023.

The linguistic analysis of historical German and diachronic syntactic change is traditionally based on small, manually annotated data sets. As a consequence, such studies lack the generalizability and statistical significance that quantitative approaches can offer. In this thesis, computational methods for the automatic syntactic analysis of modern and historical German are developed, which help to overcome the natural limits of manual annotation and enable the creation of large annotated data sets. The main goal of the thesis is to identify extraposition in modern and historical German, with extraposition being defined as the movement of constituents from their base position to the post-field of the sentence (Höhle 2019; Wöllstein 2018). For the automatic recognition of extraposition, two annotation steps are combined: (i) a topological field analysis for the identification of post-fields and (ii) a constituency analysis to recognize candidates for extraposition. The thesis describes experiments on topological field parsing (Ortmann 2020), chunking (Ortmann 2021a), and constituency parsing (Ortmann 2021b). The best results are achieved with statistical models trained on Part-of-Speech tags as input. Contrary to previous studies, all annotation steps are thoroughly evaluated with the newly developed FairEval method for the fine-grained error analysis and fair evaluation of labeled spans (Ortmann 2022). In an example analysis, the created methods are applied to large collections of modern and historical text to explore different factors for the extraposition of relative clauses, demonstrating the practical value of computational approaches for linguistic studies. The developed methods are released as the CLASSIG pipeline (Computational Linguistic Analysis of Syntactic Structures In German) at pipeline. Data sets, models, and evaluation results are provided for download at and