Open Access

Syntactic variation and interactional coherence in online communication: The German conjunction “weil” in written interactions


The current study presents an analysis of a linguistic device supporting interactional coherence in computer-mediated communication (CMC). The analysis focused on the use of the German causative conjunction weil and, more specifically, on the syntactic variation of verb-final versus verb-second word order in the weil-clause. Verb-final word order in German indicates a dependent clause, whereas verb-second word order indicates an independent clause. While only the former is accepted in written Standard German, the latter is well documented in oral communication. Relying on freely available Facebook, WhatsApp, and Wikipedia corpus data, the analysis shows that both grammatical constructions are used in written CMC. In a specific usage across discrete messages, the syntactic variation of the weil-clause can serve to unambiguously identify its reference clause. While verb-final weil-clauses can be used to refer to previous messages by both an interlocutor and oneself, verb-second weil-clauses are predominantly used to relate to an own previous message. Thus, the syntactic variation in weil-clauses can be used for disambiguating references in written interactions.

Publication timeframe:
Volume Open
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Psychology, Applied Psychology