German Particle Verbs and the Predicate Complex

Stefan Müller

In: Ronnie Cann; Claire Grover; Philip Miller (Hrsg.). Grammatical Interfaces in HPSG. Pages 215-229, Studies in Constraint-Based Lexicalism, Vol. 8, CSLI, Stanford, 2000.


In German there is a class of verbs that can appear discontinuously (1). The part that appears to the left of the main verb in verb final position and that is stranded when the finite verb is in initial position is traditionally called a separable prefix. Since prefixes are by definition not separable, the terms particle and preverb are used in more recent work. (1) a. Setzt der Fährmann Karl über? takes the ferryman Karl across 'Does the ferryman take Karl across?' b. daß der Fährmann Karl übersetzt. that the ferryman Karl across.takes In (1a), where the verb is in initial position, the preverb is stranded. Below I will argue that separable verbs in German behave like other elements in the predicate complex. This view is supported by the following facts: Preverbs are serialized like verbal or predicative adjectival complements in the right sentence bracket (the right periphery of a clause that does not contain extraposed elements), they can be fronted as can be done with single verbs or predicative adjectives. If preverbs are analyzed as part of the predicate complex, the fronting data can be accounted for as an instance of complex fronting (Partial Verb Phrase Fronting (PVP)). The inability of particles and predicates in resultative constructions to co-occur and the non-iterability of preverbs will be explained by the fact that particles and resultative predicates occupy a designated valance position that does not allow more than one particle Grammatical Interfaces in HPSG.

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