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I have recently studied "Temporale und Lokale Präpositionen" and learned to write sentences in TeKaMoLo format. So it struck me that whether there are any Kausal and Modal (KaMo) prepositions in writing German sentences? If so, could someone please explain with appropriate examples?

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    Keep in mind that TeKaMoLo is just a tool help non-German speakers find a word order that doesn't sound wrong. Native German speakers often don't follow it and it's probably not worth getting into the weeds in terms of interpretation and analysis. Really the most important part is that temporal phrases tend to placed early in the sentence, but it's more a tendency than a rule. See the second part of Alazon's answer and bakunin's answer.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:01

3 Answers 3

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Please(!): forget "TeKaMoLo" and everything related to it!

This is something told innocent non-native learners of German because it helps to translate english texts verbatim, but no such rule exists in fact and native speakers (save for people writing here because they are confronted with it regularly) usually haven't heard of it at all. See, for instance, the comments here, the answer here, also this thread and so on. Just search for "tekamolo" on this site and you get a plenty of hits.

The real rule in German is: German is a V2-language. That means, in main sentences (Hauptsätze) the verb (to be precise: the inflected part of the verb) has to be in second position. (There are different rules for dependent sentences [verb goes last] and questions and commands [verb goes first].)

This is the rule of German, everything else is secondary and most other sentence parts can be put whereever you want them. (Notice that there is a certain word order within expressions. "Ein rotes Auto" is good, "ein Auto rotes" is not. But with the order of whole expressions German is pretty lax.)

Take, for example, the following sentence:

Er ging um 8 Uhr laut Zeugenberichten ohne Begleitung nach oben.

This would fulfill your TeKaMoLo-rule and indeed it is a correctly built sentence. This is what can be called "neutral order" without putting emphasis onto anything in particular, the sentence just states a fact. Still, there would be many variants possible which just shift the emphasis from one part of the sentence to another. This is done by putting a particular part up front or to the end. Here are some examples with implied meanings in brackets:

Laut Zeugenberichten ging er um 8 Uhr ohne Begleitung nach oben.

According to witness testimonies, he went [...]. (We might have thought differently, but they say so.)

Laut Zeugenberichten ging er ohne Begleitung nach oben um 8 Uhr.

According to witness testimonies, he went [...] at eight o'clock. (notice: not at nine or seven!)

Ohne Begleitung ging er um 8 Uhr laut Zeugenberichten nach oben.

Alone he went [...]. (Usually he goes upwards in a group of people, but not so this time.)

and so on, I could continue easily. All these sentences are equally correct and the base facts expressed are the same. Only the emphasis put on different parts varies.

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  • There is a rule for adjective order in English: "opinion, size, age or shape, color, origin, material, purpose". But I guarantee 99% of native English speakers don't know it and most would not notice that "big black old dog" is "wrong" and "big old black dog" "right". But "black old big dog" does sound strange to my ears, so I imagine non-English speakers are taught some variation of the rule avoid these odd combinations. I'm thinking this is similar to the situation with TeKaMoLo.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:19
  • Well but you still have to state some ordering rules for what comes after the left bracket; of course V2 is an additionaly complication. Linguists do assume ordering rules, at least for "base positions" of aderbials in the middle field (neutral word orders without contrast effects etc.) -- and that's doable, but you need different and more fine-grained adverbial classes.
    – Alazon
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:22
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    Doesn’t attempt to answer the question.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:25
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    @Alazon: i can see your point about the ordering. My main point (and I think I made that clear) is, though, that the whole "tekamolo"-thing is nonsense and the correct order of the given sentence is as it has to be to express the emphasis one wants to express. All the given (and many more) orders are "correct" if they do that and wrong if they don't. The problem with the question is that the question is wrong and, hence, a meaningful answer can't be given.
    – bakunin
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:43
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    @CarstenS: see my comment above to Alazon: yes, I didn't attempt to answer the question, because the premise the question is based upon is wrong already. For e.g. "Is 'green' more than 'cold' or not?" there is also no other answer possible than explaining why it can't be answered at all.
    – bakunin
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 17:47
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Halvar's answer is entirely correct from the point of view of standard teaching materials... However: The point of making up such categories is simply to find a way of covering the meanings of all prepositions. In this way, "causal" and "modal" come to be used in such a wide sense that the labels become pretty meaningless, IMO -- they are meant to cover anything that is not temporal or local (only these have a precise meaning, I would say).

By the way, Tekamolo doesn't work for many sentences. That's precisely because all these adverbial classes are so wide that they contain subclasses with different word order tendencies. Additionally, German word order is strongly influenced by the distinction „given information / new information“, over and above rigid meaning classes.

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Lists are not comprehensive, and semantics can overlap:

Kausal (in a very wide sense): anlässlich, angesichts, aufgrund, betreffs, dank, durch, infolge, laut, mit, nach, um, vor, wegen, zu

Ich kann angesichts/aufgrund/dank/infolge/wegen eines gebrochenen Beins heute nicht zur Arbeit kommen.
Anlässlich des 400. Todestagen von J. S. Bach spielen wir die Toccata und Fuge.
Ich wende mich an Sie betreffs Ihrer offenen Stelle.
Durch einen glücklichen Zufall haben wir heute den Autor des Werks bei uns.
Laut Obduktion starb das Opfer an der Schusswunde in der Brust.
Mit/nach deiner Unterstützung kann es ja nur gut laufen.
Um des Friedens willen bot er einen Kompromiss an.
Vor lauter Lachen konnte Anna gar nicht mehr gerade stehen.
Zur Beruhigung kochte er sich eine Tasse grünen Tee.

Modal (also in a very wide sense): auf, aus, außer, bis auf, für, gegenüber, in, mit, ohne, unter, von, wider, zu

Jeder isst Kartoffeln am liebsten auf seine Weise.
Aus einem Impuls heraus küsste er sie.
[Außer]/[Bis auf] Heiner steht allen das Wasser bis zum Hals.
Sie macht das alles für ein Lächeln und ein "Danke".
[Gegenüber]/[Im Vergleich mit] Mandarin ist Italienisch noch eher leicht zu lernen.
Ohne Krimi geht die Mimi nie ins Bett, oder zumindest nur unter Protest.
Ich bin Klempner von Beruf.
Dieser Vertrag ist wider die guten Sitten geschlossen worden.
Die Zeugin wusste zu dem Unfall nichts zu sagen.

Source for the lists: https://www.lernhelfer.de/schuelerlexikon/deutsch/kapitel/32-wortarten#cid-3328

I completely agree with @Alazon's answer that the categories "causal" and "modal" are so broad here that it's often meaningless, sometimes outright wrong.

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