On the German Discourse Particle ‘wohl’

This project is concerned with the semantics and pragmatics of wohl, with a special focus on its effects in interrogatives. For declaratives, I have argued that wohl contributes evidential meaning, contrary to the account by Zimmermann (2008), who analyzes it as indicating uncertainty. In interrogatives, wohl seems to give rise to undirected questions which cannot be used to address someone directly but are best translated as being prefaced by an implicit I wonder… . Moreover, these questions interact with the syntactic structure insofar as the verb position seems to indicate whether the speech-act is anchored to the speaker’s epistemic state or to an addressee. Interestingly, a similar ambiguity of evidential markers in questions has been observed in languages with evidential systems, for example Cheyenne (Murray 2010), which may open up a promising line of research on the cross-linguistic connection.
I am also working on discourse particle combinations, more specifically on an explanation for corpus data which provided counter-evidence against the rigidity of the combination ja wohl, but rather suggests that the order is reversible under certain information-structural conditions.


Göbel, A. (2017). Evidentiality and Undirected Questions: A New Account of the German Discourse Particle wohl. Talk at Penn Linguistics Conference 41, March 2017. [handout]

Göbel, A. (2016). On Evidentiality and Undirected Questions: Some Puzzles of the German Discourse Particlewohl. Talk at the UConn Meaning Group, November 2016. [handout]