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Beyond Alternations

A Constructional Model of the German Applicative Pattern

Laura A. Michaelis and Josef Ruppenhofer

Alternations play a central role in most current theories of verbal argument structure, which are devised primarily to model the syntactic flexibility of verbs. Accordingly, these frameworks take verbs, and their projection properties, to be the sole contributors of thematic content to the clause. Approached from this perspective, the German applicative (or be-prefix) construction has puzzling properties. First, while many applicative verbs have transparent base forms, many, including those coined from nouns, do not. Second, applicative verbs are bound by interpretive and argument-realization conditions which cannot be traced to their base forms, if any. These facts suggest that applicative formation is not appropriately modeled as a lexical rule.

Using corpus data from a diverse array of genres, Michaelis and Ruppenhofer propose a unified solution to these two puzzles within the framework of Construction Grammar. Central to this account is the concept of valence augmentation: argument-structure constructions denote event types, and therefore license valence sets which may properly include those of their lexical fillers. As per Panini's Law, resolution of valence mismatch favors the construction over the verb. Like verbs of transfer and location, the applicative construction has a prototype-based event-structure representation: diverse implications of applicative predications--including iteration, transfer, affectedness, intensity and saturation--are shown to derive via regular patterns of semantic extension from the topological concept of coverage.

Laura A. Michaelis is an assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics and a faculty fellow in the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Josef Ruppenhofer is a doctoral student in the department of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a lexicographical researcher for the FrameNet project at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley.


  • Acknowledgements
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 An Alternation-Based Account
    • 2.1 Overview of Brinkmann (1997)
    • 2.2 Preposition Incorporation
      • 2.2.1 Grammatical Architecture
      • 2.2.2 Representing Valence Augmentationand Creation
      • 2.2.3 Unpredicted Properties of Other Prefix Verbs
    • 2.3 Interpretive Principles
      • 2.3.1 Holism
      • 2.3.2 Theme Omissibility
      • 2.3.3 Exteriority

  • 3 The Constructional Approach
    • 3.1 Theory Overview
    • 3.2 Null Complementation
    • 3.3 Valence Augmentation
    • 3.4 Valence Creation
    • 3.5 Exteriority
    • 3.6 Holism
    • 3.7 Concreteness and Compositionality

  • 4 The Linking Constructions in Combination
  • 5 The Semantics of the Applicative Pattern
    • 5.1 The Prototype
    • 5.2 Metaphorical Extensions of the Central Sense
      • 5.2.1 Seeing is Contact with the Percept
      • 5.2.2 Attending to Something is Directing One's Attention to it
      • 5.2.3 Discouse is Travel Across the Topic
    • 5.3 Non-metaphorical Extensions
      • 5.3.1 Communication and Affecting as Transfer
      • 5.3.2 Iteration
      • 5.3.3 Intensification
      • 5.3.4 Affectedness
      • 5.3.5 Act in a Particular Capacity Toward Someone
    • 5.4 Historical Evidence
    • 5.5 Verb Classes and Partial Productivity
    • 5.6 Restrictions on Verb-Construction Integration
      • 5.6.1 Accompanied Motion Verbs
      • 5.6.2 Verbs of Inherent Directed Motion
      • 5.6.3 Verbs of Nondirected Motion
      • 5.6.4 Verbs of Surface Depression
      • 5.6.5 Verbs of Position

  • Conclusion
  • Appendix: Verb Classes
    • 1 The Coverage Scenario
      • 1.1 Bivalent [Theme Covers Location]
      • 1.2 Trivalent [Agent Covers Location with Theme]
    • 2 Metaphorical Extensions
      • 2.1 Discourse as Travel across a Topic
      • 2.2 Seeing as a Contact with the Percept
      • 2.3 Attending to a Percept as Contact with it
    • 3 Inference-based Extensions
      • 3.1 Extensions Based on the Transfer Entailment
      • 3.2 Iterated Action
      • 3.3 Intensive Action/State
      • 3.4 Affecting
      • 3.5 Acting in a Particular Capacity
    • 4 Surrounding the Containment
    • 5 Removal
    • 6 Proximity
    • 7 Pseudo-Applicative
    • 8 Verbs and Participles that Could not be Assigned to any Class

  • References
  • Index


ISBN (Paperback): 1575863308 (9781575863306)
ISBN (Cloth): 1575863294 (9781575863290)

Subject: Grammar; Verb phrase; Syntax and semantics

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