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The paper investigates placeholders, such as German Dings(bums) or English thingy. They are used in informal speech particularly for person or place names, when the speaker has forgotten them or doesn’t know them. As it turns out, in a sample of twenty-nine languages, more than half of them show only phrases or phrasal compounds of the question type (e.g. what is s/he/it called) or the deictic type (e.g. that/this). The other half use simple words or word formations, usually with a negative meaning. Compounds and derivations exist solely in Romanic and Germanic languages, however. Therefore, in a second step, I will take a closer look at placeholders in Modern German.
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