. 5
( 12)


32 An -e- is added to the superlative ending -st when an adjective ends in an alve-
olar obstruent (-d, -t, -s, etc.), -sk, or -sch. See Dudenredaktion 2005:374 for
33 The form hoch ˜high™ is used predicatively (e.g., when it is a complement to a noun
that is the subject of a verb, as in der Preis ist hoch ˜the price is high™); hoh- is used
attributively (when it occurs in a noun phrase before the noun it modi¬es, as in der
hohe Preis ˜the high price™).
34 We can explain the difference in the various forms of gut if we consider their
history. The positive form derives historically from the Indo-European root — ghedh-;
Morphology 111

the comparative and superlative forms derive from the root — bhad-. See chapter 5
for a discussion of Indo-European, an ancestor of English as well as German.
35 An exception is the superlative degree form of an adjective, which is always in¬‚ected.
If used predicatively, it occurs in a prepositional phrase: Hamburg ist am sch¨ nsten
˜Hamburg is the most beautiful.™
36 All forms of the de¬nite article (der ˜the™) are considered to be in¬‚ected.
37 The adjective endings are another good example of the syncretism that can be found
in German.
38 We can formalize this account within a WP approach to in¬‚ectional morphology
along the lines suggested by Booij™s (2002:43“44) treatment of prenominal adjec-
tives in Dutch: The relevant features of the determiners and nouns in a noun phrase
will “percolate” to the top node of the noun phrase and then downward to the
prenominal adjective. The particular combination of these features that are associ-
ated with an adjectival stem will determine the shape of the af¬x that is realized on
that stem.
39 This use of “citation” form (for noun phrases) is inspired by Dickens™s (1983) use
of “standard” form (for determiners).
40 The endings of dieser (dies[ɐ]) can be viewed as phonetically reduced forms of
the “endings” of the de¬nite article der (d[e¦ɐ8]). (Compare the forms of dies-er in
Table 2.3 with the forms of d-er in Table 2.2.) The forms of the de¬nite article der
thus supply the same gender, case, and number information that the forms of dieser
41 According to Durrell (2002:126), the -es ending in a phrase like obiges Adressanten
˜of the above sender™ occurs only rarely.
42 I follow Booij (2002:19) and use the categories “participle” and “in¬nitive” to
account for the non-¬nite forms of verbs in German.
43 Finite verb forms in German are also in¬‚ected for tense and mood.
44 The indicative is the unmarked mood, the mood used to express statements of fact
and questions. See section for further discussion of mood.
45 We can also say that the present perfect is analytic (expressed using separate words),
in comparison to the past, which is synthetic (expressed using a single, in¬‚ected
word). The terms “analytic” and “synthetic” are also used to refer to languages
themselves. Languages in which grammatical distinctions are realized by separate
words are known as analytic; those in which grammatical distinctions are realized
by in¬‚ections are characterized as synthetic. See chapter 5 for further discussion of
the terms “analytic” and “synthetic.”
46 But see Haspelmath 2000. Haspelmath identi¬es three different types of
periphrastic forms (one of which is exempli¬ed by the periphrastic tense forms
in German) and argues that all three types may be included in in¬‚ectional
47 The epenthesis of -e- is in part pronunciation-driven. It allows one to avoid forms like

offnst and — offnt, which are impossible to pronounce (unless the n is syllabic). It also
¨ ¨
allows the -t ending to be articulated following -d or -t; compare arbeitet [aɐ8p#a©t ™t ]
˜works™ with — arbeitt [aɐ8p#a©t ]. The Duden grammar (Dudenredaktion 2005:449)
argues that epenthesis in forms like arbeitet is also governed by the principle of
morpheme constancy (Morphemkonstanz), which ensures that the verbal stem and
ending do not coalesce. Verbs that end in [s] do not lend themselves well to either
112 German

explanation (pronunciation; morpheme constancy), since these verbs do not require
epenthesis and thus allow the -s- of the second person singular ending -st to coalesce
phonetically as well as graphemically with the stem: reißen ˜to rip™, du reißt ˜you
48 See Durrell 2002:240“241 for examples of some less common vowel alternations
in the present tense of strong verbs.
49 The verb laden ˜load™, which has a vowel change and a root that ends in a -d, does
not add -e- before the ending -st in the second person singular. However, it adds
a -t rather than no ending in the third person singular: sie l¨ dt ˜she loads™. The
pronunciation of this form is [lµ¦t ], which would also be the pronunciation if no
ending were added.
50 Compare the forms of these verbs with the forms of strong verbs in the past in
Table 2.16.
51 Textbooks and grammars use various terms to refer to this form of the verb: past,
preterite, imperfect.
52 For further information on the formation of the in¬nitive and the past participle, see
53 The verb senden, as well as wenden, which both belong to the mixed class, are
also in¬‚ected like weak verbs (e.g., senden, sendete, gesendet). However, the differ-
ence in in¬‚ection is also associated with a difference in meaning (Dudenredaktion
54 The verb m¨ gen ˜to like to™ has a consonant change as well as a vowel change:
mochte ˜liked to™.
Historically, these forms derive from three different Indo-European roots, — bheu™-,

es-, and — wes-.
56 German grammars and textbooks refer to these two sets of forms as Konjunktiv I
and Konjunktiv II.
57 See Durrell 2002 and Dudenredaktion 2005 for additional uses of Subjunctive I and
II forms.
58 Present Subjunctive II forms, which are always distinct from present tense indicative
forms, are used instead.
59 The paradigm is no longer a purely morphological notion if one admits periphrastic
forms as members. Haspelmath argues, however, that it is not possible to separate
morphology and syntax neatly anyway.
60 The choice of terminology is a dif¬cult issue when dealing with Subjunctive II
forms. The simple forms (which we call “present Subjunctive II” forms) are based
on past indicative forms, but have [’past] meaning. The trick is to keep in mind that
the “present” portion of the term “present Subjunctive II” re¬‚ects meaning, whereas
the second portion of the term re¬‚ects form (stem of second principal part).
61 The modals sollen ˜to be to™ and wollen ˜to want to™ are an exception; the vowels
of their past indicative stems are not umlauted to form the present Subjunctive II.
The present Subjunctive II of wollen, for example, is wollte ˜would want to™. Verbs
in the mixed class, like kennen ˜to know™ and brennen ˜to burn™, indicate umlaut
in present Subjunctive II forms using the orthographic symbol <e> instead of
<¨ >. For example, the past indicative form of kennen is kannte ˜knew™; the present
Subjunctive II is kennte ˜would know™.
62 The Subjunctive II forms in (61) that are in parentheses are less common
(Dudenredaktion 2005:462).
Morphology 113

63 See Durrell 2002:328“330 for further details on the use of the w¨ rde-construction.
64 The symbol “>” means ˜becomes™ or ˜changes to™; “<” means ˜(comes) from™ or
˜(is) derived from™.
65 We treat only those forms that occur prenominally as adjectives (ein schreiben-
des Kind ˜a writing child™). We argue that these adjectival forms are derived
from their verbal counterparts via conversion (see section 2.3.4 for further dis-
cussion). The verbal forms are created by in¬‚ection using the in¬‚ectional af¬x
66 Umlaut was brought about by a -j suf¬x that fronted the vowel of the base; this suf¬x
eventually disappeared.
67 The Duden grammar (Dudenredaktion 2005:677) treats these elements as “verb
particles,” recognizing several particle types, including verb particles with homonym
prepositions (an, auf, aus) and verb particles with homonym nouns (preis, stand).
It is not necessary, however, to recognize a new word class, “particle,” to account
for these forms. They are simply prepositions, nouns, etc. that participate in the
formation of phrasal verbs.
68 The pre¬x be- has been the focus of numerous studies. See, for example, G¨ nther u
1974, 1987, Eroms 1980, Braun 1982, and Kim 1983.
69 This is similar to the constraint that “deletes” the ge- portion of the past participle
circum¬x of verbs that begin with an unstressed syllable (— gebesucht ˜visited™;

getelefoniert ˜telephoned™).
70 Notice that verb forms (in¬nitives, past forms, etc.) as well as verbal stems can be
converted into nouns.
71 Historically, these forms are derived by ablaut and suf¬xation: legen ˜to lay (cause
to lie)™ < — lag-jan. The -jan suf¬x then brought about umlaut of the root vowel. (See
chapter 5 for discussion of umlaut as a phonological process.)
72 Fleischer and Barz (1995), for example, view such words as the product of implicit
derivation. As Donalies points out, with words like Schritt, implicit derivation would
require ¬rst the process of ablaut (to produce the past stem) and then the process of
73 The example Nudelsaucenrezeptsammler is from Donalies 2002:64.
74 Various terms that have been used in the literature in addition to “linking element”
(Fugenelement) are inter¬x, empty morph, and Fugenmorphem ˜linking morpheme™.
Terms like “morph,” “morpheme,” and “inter¬x” (a type of af¬x) all imply that
these segments are associated with meaning, which they are not. The term “linking
element” is neutral in this respect.
75 As Wiese notes, linking -(e)s- behaves very differently from genitive -(e)s. The
optionality of schwa in the genitive ending does not extend to the schwa of the
linking element: das Mann-es-alter/— Mann-s-alter ˜manhood™.
76 Old High German is the stage of the German language that was spoken from roughly
750 to 1050 A.D. See chapter 5 for further details.
77 The examples in (g) and (h) are from Donalies 2002:75“77.
78 The in¬nitive stem is typically used as the verbal portion of verb“noun compounds.
Exceptions are ¬nite forms of modal and auxiliary verbs: die Muss-Vorgaben
˜requirements™ (must-guidelines); der Ist-Zustand ˜the way things are™ (is-state)
(Donalies 2002:73).
79 P¨ mpel-Mader et al. (1992:43) estimate that one fourth of the adjectival compounds
in their corpus are copulative.
114 German

80 Many noun-plus-verb and adjective-plus-verb combinations that are identi¬ed in the
literature as compounds are actually phrasal verbs (the noun or adjective portion can
be separated from the verb portion): standhalten ˜to stand ¬rm™ (er h¨ lt stand ˜he™s
standing ¬rm™); gesundstoßen ˜to grow fat™ (Investor st¨ ßt sich gesund ˜investor
grows fat™).
81 Words like Rad ˜bike™ (< Fahrrad ˜bicycle™) and Platte ˜record™ (< Schallplatte)
are considered by some authors to be examples of reductions created by clipping
the ¬rst portion of a word (e.g., Fleischer and Barz 1995:220). Donalies (2002:145“
146), taking Kobler-Trill™s lead, views such forms not as true reductions, but as
compounds with the modifying portion of the compound left unexpressed.

3.1 Introduction
The sub¬eld of linguistics known as syntax is concerned with the structure
of sentences. It deals with categories of words and the rules for combining
these categories to form the sentences of a language. The system of rules
that underlies sentence formation in any language allows speakers to produce
as well as recognize and comprehend the grammatical sentences of that lan-
guage. This knowledge of their language (this system of rules) allows speak-
ers to determine whether any given sentence in their language is grammati-
cal without ever having heard the sentence before. For example, speakers of
German will characterize the sentence in (1a) as grammatical, that is, as a
possible sentence of German. They will characterize the sentence in (1b) as

(1) a. Dort hat ein großer L¨ we auf mich gewartet.
there has a large lion for me waited
˜A large lion waited for me there.™

Ein großer L¨ we hat gewartet auf mich dort.
a large lion has waited for me there

Various models are used to account for the system of rules that under-
lie native-speaker competence in any given language. The model that will
be used here is a simple version of generative-transformational syntax.2
Before we look speci¬cally at the syntax of German, we will consider brie¬‚y
the common categories of words that can be found in the world™s languages,
the types of phrases that can be formed using these categories, and the ways
in which the generation and structure of these phrases can be expressed
The words of a language can be grouped together into a relatively small
number of classes, known as syntactic categories. This classi¬cation of words
takes into account the semantics (meaning), morphological characteristics

116 German

(e.g., types of in¬‚ectional af¬xes), and syntactic distribution of words in iden-
tifying the central syntactic categories. Four important categories, known as
lexical categories, are noun (N), verb (V), adjective (A), and preposition (P).
An additional lexical category, adverb (Adv), is similar in many ways to the cat-
egory of adjective. In English, most adverbs are derived from adjectives (quickly
< quick). In German, adverbs and adjectives are often morphologically identi-
cal (Sie f¨ hrt gut ˜She drives well™; Das Foto ist gut ˜The photograph is good™).
Languages may also have non-lexical or functional categories, which include
determiners (Det), auxiliary verbs (Aux), and conjunctions (Con). Functional
categories typically have meanings that are harder to characterize than the
meanings of lexical categories. Compare, for example, the meaning of a noun
like Tisch ˜table™ with that of a determiner like das ˜the™.
Sentences are not simply strings of words; they have a hierarchical structure,
in which words are grouped together into increasingly larger units. The units
that are formed around the lexical categories N, V, A, Adv, and P, for example,
are noun phrases (NPs), verb phrases (VPs), adjective phrases (APs), adverb
phrases (AdvPs), and prepositional phrases (PPs). The element around which
each phrase is built (the obligatory element in the phrase) is the head of that
phrase. The head of NP is N, the head of VP is V, and so on.3 Phrases can
consist solely of a head: [NP Kinder] ˜children™; [AP sicher] ˜certain™. They
can also contain speci¬ers, words that make the meanings of their heads more
precise: [NP meine Kinder] ˜my children™; [AP sehr sicher] ˜very certain™. The
speci¬er meine (a determiner) in the NP meine Kinder, for example, indicates
which children are meant; the speci¬er sehr (an adverb) in the AP sehr sicher
indicates the degree of certainty. Speci¬ers also have a syntactic function; they
typically mark a phrase boundary. In the AP sehr sicher, the speci¬er sehr
marks the left boundary of the AP. Phrases can also contain complements.
Complements in English are attached to the right of their heads, whereas
speci¬ers are attached to the left.4 For example, in the NP the backpack on the
chair, which has the noun backpack as its head, the speci¬er, the, is to the left
of the head; the complement, on the chair, is to the right. Complements are
themselves phrases. The complement in the backpack on the chair is a PP. The
complement in the VP always read the labels is an NP, the labels; in the PP on
the moon (which does not have a speci¬er), the complement is also an NP, the
The structure of phrases can be represented as tree diagrams. For exam-
ple, the NP der Rucksack auf dem Stuhl ˜the backpack on the chair™ can be
represented as the tree diagram in (2). In (2), the top NP node dominates
all the other nodes in the tree:5 it is higher in the tree than all these nodes
and connected to them by continuous downward-branching lines. The top NP
node immediately dominates the Det, N, and PP nodes, since no other nodes
Syntax 117

(2) NP

Det N PP


Det N

der Rucksack auf dem Stuhl

Phrase structure can also be represented with labeled bracketing, which pro-
vides the same information as a tree, but does so linearly:
(3) [NP [Det der] [N Rucksack] [PP [P auf] [NP [Det dem] [N Stuhl]]]]

The well-formed phrases in any given language are generated by phrase
structure rules (PS-rules). The phrase structure rule in (4), for example, gener-
ates PPs in German like auf dem Stuhl ˜on the chair™ or vor der T¨ r ˜in front of
the door™.

The arrow in this rule can be read as “consists of”: a prepositional phrase
consists of a preposition followed by a noun phrase.
The lexical entries of the words in a language will contain subcategorization
frames, which indicate the kinds of lexical categories and phrases with which
these words can occur.7 For example, the lexical entry of the preposition auf
˜on™ will indicate that it can occur before an NP.
(5) auf: _____ NP

Although PS-rules may not be a necessary component of a grammar, since the
information contained in them can potentially come from other sources, includ-
ing the subcategorization frames of lexical items, PS-rules are a convenient way
of expressing generalizations about the phrase structure of a language.

3.2 Noun phrases

3.2.1 NP structure
The following are examples of typical NPs in German. All have a head N and
one or more of the categories Det, AP, and PP, except (h), which only has a
118 German

(6) a. die sehr kleinen Kinder auf dem Spielplatz ˜the very small children
on the playground™
b. die sehr kleinen Kinder ˜the very small children™
c. die Kinder auf dem Spielplatz ˜the children on the playground™
d. sehr kleine Kinder auf dem Spielplatz ˜very small children on the
e. die Kinder ˜the children™
f. sehr kleine Kinder ˜very small children™
g. Kinder auf dem Spielplatz ˜children on the playground™
h. Kinder ˜children™

All NPs with the same structure as those above can be generated by the follow-
ing PS-rule (where parentheses indicate that an element is optional):

NP ’ (Det) (AP) N (PP)

In addition to PPs, various types of phrases can serve as the complement of
N: NPs, AdvPs, and CPs (complementizer phrases; e.g., relative clauses, dass-
clauses, etc.).

der erste Tag des Monats ˜the ¬rst day of the month™8
(8) a.
b. der Baum dort ˜the tree there™
c. das Buch, das er mir geschenkt hat ˜the book that he has given me™

We can substitute NP, AdvP, or CP for PP in the PS-rule above, which will
yield PS-rules that generate NPs like those in (8):

NP ’ (Det) (AP) N (NP)
(9) a.
NP ’ (Det) (AP) N (AdvP)
NP ’ (Det) (AP) N (CP)

The four PS-rules in (7) and (9) can be collapsed into one by putting PP, NP,
AdvP, and CP in curly brackets, indicating that either PP, NP, AdvP, or CP can
optionally follow N:
«± 
NP ’ (Det) (AP) N  
(10) PP
 
¬ NP ·
¬ ·
 AdvP 

 CP  

The following rule is also necessary in order to generate NPs that are realized
as pronouns (ich ˜I™, er ˜he™, uns ˜us™, etc.).

NP ’ Pro
Syntax 119

Strictly speaking, pronouns should be called pro-NPs, since they occur in NP
rather than N positions. The pronoun sie ˜she™ in (12b), for example, replaces
the entire NP die Mutter ˜the mother™ in (12a), not just the N Mutter:9
(12) a. [NP [Det die] [N Mutter]] weckt [NP [Det den] [N Sohn]]. ˜The mother
wakes the son.™
b. [NP Sie] weckt [NP ihn]. ˜She wakes him.™

3.2.2 Case
German NPs are marked for case, which signals the role of the NP in a phrase
(e.g., sentential subject, direct object, nominal complement, etc.). Although an
entire NP will bear a particular case, it is typically the determiner (or adjective)
in the NP rather than the N itself that is in¬‚ected for case.
(13) Singular Plural
Nominative der Tag ˜the day™ die Tage ˜the days™
Accusative den Tag die Tage
Dative dem Tag den Tagen
Genitive des Tages der Tage

Recall from the discussion in section that (with the exception of the weak
masculine nouns) only singular masculine and neuter nouns in the genitive and
plural nouns in the dative are in¬‚ected for case. Nominative The main function of the nominative case is to
mark the subject of the ¬nite verb in a clause.
(14) Gestern ¬el der Unterricht aus.
˜Instruction was cancelled yesterday.™
Because subject NPs in German are marked for case, they are syntactically
freer than subjects in English. As the example above shows, German subjects
are not required to precede the verb, unlike subjects in English (— Yesterday was
cancelled instruction).
The nominative is used to mark the NP complement (predicate complement)
of copulative verbs like sein ˜to be™, werden ˜to become™, and bleiben ˜to
(15) Er ist der beste Bond. ˜He is the best Bond.™
It is also used to mark NPs in isolation and for NPs used to address people.
(16) a. Und dein Mann? Was sagt der dazu? ˜And your husband? What
does he say about it?™
b. Guten Morgen, Herr Schmidt. ˜Good morning, Mr. Schmidt.™
120 German

The sentence in (16a) suggests that nominative is the default case in
German. In English, on the other hand, the default case appears to be accusative
(non-nominative). If we substitute a pronoun for your husband in the English
translation of (16a), it appears in the accusative: And him? What does he say
about it? Accusative The main function of the accusative case is to
mark the direct object of a transitive verb.
(17) a. Der Spieler schl¨ gt den Ball uber das Netz. ˜The player hits the ball
over the net.™
b. Mein Bruder hat mir den Tipp gegeben. ˜My brother gave me the
Greetings like guten Morgen ˜good morning™ and wishes like herzlichen
Gl¨ ckwunsch ˜congratulations™, which can be viewed as direct objects of an
unexpressed verb like w¨ nschen ˜to wish™, are in the accusative.
Some adjectives (e.g., los ˜rid of™, gewohnt ˜used to™) have NP complements
in the accusative:
(18) a. Nach Chemotherapie ist sie den Krebs los. ˜After chemotherapy
she™s rid of cancer.™
b. Sie ist den L¨ rm gewohnt. ˜She™s used to the noise.™
Various types of NPs used adverbially are in the accusative:
(19) a. de¬nite expressions of time: Dort waren wir den ganzen Abend.
˜We were there the whole evening.™
b. measurement: Meine Tochter ist jetzt einen Monat alt. ˜My daughter
is a month old now.™
NP complements of certain prepositions are in the accusative:
(20) a. Millionen arbeiten t¨ glich f¨ r den Frieden. ˜Millions work daily for
a u
b. K¨ nstler gegen den Krieg ˜artists against the war™
u Dative The dative case has a broad range of uses.11 The
indirect objects of ditransitive verbs (verbs with two objects) are typically in
the dative.
(21) a. Ich habe meiner Tochter einen Hund geschenkt. ˜I have given my
daughter a dog.™
b. Er zeigte seinem Freund das neue Fahrrad. ˜He showed his friend
the new bike.™
Syntax 121

Although the majority of monotransitive verbs (verbs taking a single object)
have accusative objects, a number have dative objects.
(22) a. Ich habe ihm nie richtig gedankt. ˜I™ve never thanked him properly.™
b. Wir haben ihr gratuliert. ˜We congratulated her.™
The dative is also used to mark an optional NP that is affected in some way
(positively or negatively) by the action of the verb.
(23) a. Er hat mir einen Kuchen gebacken. ˜He baked me a cake.™
b. Sein Handy is ihm kaputt gegangen. ˜His cell phone broke on him.™
The dative can also indicate possession, particularly when it is used with parts of
the body. As the following examples show, a possessive determiner is typically
used in English when a dative of possession is used in German.
(24) a. Du hast ihm die H¨ nde gewaschen. ˜You washed his hands.™
b. Ihr schmerzt das Knie. ˜Her knee hurts.™
The dative is the most common case assigned by adjectives to their NP
complements (Durrell 2002:137).12
(25) a. Das kommt mir bekannt vor. ˜That seems familiar to me.™
b. Die Wohnung ist ihr zu teuer. ˜The apartment is too expensive for
A number of prepositions govern the dative case.
(26) a. Mit dem Weihnachtsgesch¨ ft ist der deutsche Einzelhandel sehr
zufrieden. ˜The German retail industry is very satis¬ed with the
Christmas trade.™
b. Nach dem Krieg hat sich ihr Leben schnell ver¨ ndert. ˜After the war,
her life changed quickly.™ Genitive One of the main uses of the genitive is to mark NP
attributes of nouns. As the following examples show, the genitive is used to
express much more than a possessive relationship between the head noun and
its NP attribute.
(27) a. der Wagen meines Vaters ˜my father™s car™
b. der Beginn der Behandlung ˜the beginning of the treatment™
c. die T¨ r der Schlosskirche ˜the door of the castle church™
d. die Untersuchung seines Todes ˜the investigation of his death™
A prepositional phrase with von ˜from™ (which governs the dative case) is often
used in colloquial speech in place of the genitive.13
122 German

(28) a. der Wagen von meinem Vater ˜my father™s car™
b. der Beginn von der Behandlung ˜the beginning of the treatment™

If genitive nouns are proper names, they may precede the head of an NP (in
which case they function as determiners).

(29) a. Theos/sein bester Freund ˜Theo™s/his best friend™
b. Frau Mullers neuer Wagen ˜Frau M¨ ller™s new car™

A handful of verbs take an object in the genitive case.

(30) a. Sechs Patienten bedurften einer psychiatrischen Behandlung. ˜Six
patients needed psychiatric treatment.™
b. Ich ermangelte nicht g¨ nzlich der Erfahrung. ˜I wasn™t entirely
lacking in experience.™

A small number of set expressions can serve as a genitive NP complement of
the verb sein ˜to be™.

(31) a. Ich bin der Meinung, dass . . . ˜I am of the opinion that . . .™
b. Er ist schlechter Laune. ˜He™s in a bad mood.™
c. Die Namen sind deutschen Ursprungs. ˜The names are of German

Some NPs used adverbially are in the genitive. For example, NPs that express
inde¬nite time or have a habitual meaning are in the genitive.

(32) a. eines Tages ˜one day™
b. abends ˜in the evening™
c. freitags ˜on Fridays™

Other genitive NPs, with a variety of meanings, are also used adverbially.

(33) a. meines Erachtens ˜in my opinion™
b. schweren Herzens ˜with a heavy heart™
c. letzten Endes ˜after all™

A number of adjectives that occur in formal German take genitive NP

(34) a. Das ist h¨ chster Bewunderung wert. ˜It is worthy of the highest
b. Er ist seines Erfolges uberdr¨ ssig. ˜He is weary of his success.™

A number of prepositions also govern the genitive case. Several are common
and are often used with the dative case in colloquial German.
Syntax 123

(35) a. Trotz {des Regens/dem Regen}ist es angenehm warm. ˜In spite of the
rain, it™s comfortably warm.™
b. Wegen {seines Jobs/seinem Job}ziehen wir alle drei bis vier Jahre
um. ˜Because of his job, we move every three to four years.™
A large number of genitive prepositions are limited to formal written German
typically used in of¬cial and commercial contexts (see Durrell 2002:462“464
for further examples).
(36) a. Er ist dann kraft seines Amtes ein Stellvertreter des Pr¨ sidenten.
˜He is then by virtue of his of¬ce a proxy of the president.™
b. fehlende Akzeptanz seitens der Verbraucher ˜lacking acceptance on
the part of consumers™

3.3 Prepositional phrases
A typical PP in German is simply a preposition followed by an NP.
(37) a. durch die Luft ˜through the air™
b. mit einem Kompromiss ˜with a compromise™
c. außerhalb des Sonnensystems ˜outside the solar system™
That is, in a typical PP, the head, P, precedes its complement. However, some
prepositions can follow their complements, in which case they are more accu-
rately characterized as postpositions.14
(38) a. dem Artikel nach ˜according to the article™
b. die Straße entlang ˜along the street™
c. der Umwelt zuliebe ˜for the sake of the environment™
Several appear in two parts, which surround the complement, and thus can be
identi¬ed as circumpositions.
(39) a. um der Liebe willen ˜for the sake of love™
b. von diesem Tag an ˜from this day on™
Although the cover term for prepositions, postpositions, and circumpositions
is adposition, the term “preposition” will be used here, since these are the most
common in German.
NPs are probably the most common complement in a PP. APs, AdvPs, and
PPs, however, can also serve as prepositional complements.
(40) a. Ich halte ihn [PP f¨ r [AP sehr klug]]. ˜I take him for very intelligent.™
b. [PP von [AdvP unten]] ˜from below™
c. [PP von [PP vor dem Krieg]] ˜from before the war™
In English, prepositional complements can be optional.
124 German

(41) She went in (the shop).
In German, however, prepositional complements are obligatory.15
(42) a. Sie ging in den Laden. ˜She went in the shop.™
b. — Sie ging in. ˜She went in.™
The NP complement in a PP may be replaced by a pronoun if it refers to an
animate being (person or animal); if it refers to a thing, a prepositional adverb
must replace the entire PP.
(43) a. Er spricht mit {seinem Vorgesetzen/ihm}. ˜He™s speaking with {his
b. Sie arbeitet {an dem Problem/daran}. ˜She™s working {on the
problem/on it}.™
NPs and AdvPs can function (optionally) as the speci¬er of P.16
(44) a. Sie stehen [PP [NP einen Schritt] vor dem Abgrund]. ˜They™re a step
from disaster.™
b. Sie stehen vor dem Abgrund. ˜They™re facing (standing in front of)
(45) a. [PP [AdvP Kurz] nach seinem Tod] erschien sein Hauptwerk. ˜Shortly
after his death, his main work appeared.™
b. Nach seinem Tod erschien sein Hauptwerk. ˜After his death, his
main work appeared.™

3.4 Adjective phrases
AdvPs occur optionally in APs as speci¬ers; they precede the adjective they
(46) a. eine [AP [AdvP besonders schnell] laufende] Kellnerin
a particularly quickly running waitress
b. die [AP beste] Kellnerin ˜the best waitress™
APs can also contain complements; these occur as the ¬rst element in APs that
are used attributively.17 That is, attributive APs are head-¬nal. In the following
example, the PP complement occurs ¬rst in the AP; it is followed by the AdvP
speci¬er, which immediately precedes the adjective:
(47) die [AP [PP mit den Ergebnissen] [AdvP sehr] zufriedenen] Fachleute
the with the results very satis¬ed experts (Dudenredaktion 2005:845)
APs used predicatively allow more freedom of word order. NP complements
typically precede the adjective in predicative APs.18
Syntax 125

(48) a. Das ist [AP [NP dem Leser] bekannt]. ˜That is known to the reader.™
b. — Das ist bekannt dem Leser.
PP complements, on the other hand, can precede or follow the adjective.
(49) a. Wir sind [AP [PP mit dem Weihnachtsgesch¨ ft] sehr zufrieden].
˜We™re very satis¬ed with the Christmas trade.™
b. Wir sind [AP sehr zufrieden [PP mit dem Weihnachtsgesch¨ ft]].
A striking characteristic of German attributive APs is their potential length
and complexity. For example, adjectives derived by conversion from present
and past participles can occur in APs along with their (formerly verbal)
(50) a. das [AP [NP sich] [AdvP t¨ glich] steigernde] Verstehen der Sprache
the re¬‚ daily increasing understanding of language
b. eine [AP [NP dem Vater] [NP den Vorrang] einr¨ umenden] Regelung
a to-the father the priority giving provision
c. ein [AP [PP in der amerikanischen und europ¨ ischen Wirtschaft]
[AdvP inzwischen] [AdvP weit] verbreitetes] Instrument
an in the American and European economy meanwhile widely
spread instrument
These “extended” APs (“extended adjective constructions”), which are often
best translated in English as relative clauses, can be viewed as being derived, in
a sense, from relative clauses. Compare the AP in the (b)-example above with
the relative clause (CP) in the following example:
eine Regelung, [CP die dem Vater den Vorrang einr¨ umt] ˜a provision
that gives priority to the father™
Although extended APs are typically formed using participial adjectives, they
also occur with other adjectives, as the example in (47) above demonstrates.
Extended APs are typically found in formal written German (e.g., journalis-
tic and scienti¬c prose); they are not common in everyday speech (Durrell

3.5 Adverb phrases
In German, the category of adverb refers to a heterogeneous group of words
that are often, but by no means always, used to characterize the action of the
verb. In addition to verbs, adverbs can modify adjectives and other adverbs;
they can even modify sentences. Different subclasses of adverbs can be iden-
ti¬ed according to meaning. For example, some of the semantically de¬ned
subclasses of adverbs are locational (hier ˜here™, dorthin ˜thither™), temporal
126 German

( jetzt ˜now™, gestern ˜yesterday™), modal (gern ˜gladly™, brie¬‚ich ˜by letter™),
and degree adverbs (sehr ˜very™, fast ˜almost™). Adverbs can also be classi¬ed
according to their distributional characteristics. Sentence-adverbs, for example,
which express the speaker™s opinion of the content of a sentence (e.g., leider
˜unfortunately™, vielleicht ˜maybe™), cannot be questioned, unlike adverbs that
modify verbs (e.g., sofort ˜immediately™, kaum ˜barely™).

(52) Sie hat das leider/sofort gesehen. ˜She unfortunately/immediately
saw that.™
(53) a. Wie hat sie das gesehen? — Leider. ˜How did she see that?
b. Wann hat sie das gesehen? Sofort. ˜When did she see that?

AdvPs are typically not complex. They can optionally contain adverbs as

(54) a. Es ging [AdvP [Adv sehr] schnell]. ˜It went very quickly.™
b. Sie ging [AdvP oft] ins Kino. ˜She often went to the movies.™

NPs can serve optionally as complements. As the following examples
demonstrate, AdvPs are head-¬nal; that is, adverbs are preceded by their

(55) a. Fahren Sie [AdvP [NP den Berg] hinauf]. ˜Drive up the mountain.™
b. Fahren Sie [AdvP hinauf]. ˜Drive up.™
(56) a. Sie kommen die Treppe herunter. ˜They come down the stairs.™
b. Sie kommen herunter. ˜They come down.™

Not all adverbs can occur in AdvPs with speci¬ers and/or complements. The
subclass to which an adverb belongs plays a role in determining whether and
how it can be further modi¬ed. Directional adverbs like hinauf and herunter
allow NP complements, but not positional adverbs like hier ˜here™ and dort
(57) a. Wir wohnen hier/dort. ˜We live here/there.™
b. — Wir wohnen die Stadt hier/dort. ˜We live the city here/there.™

3.6 Verb phrases
Verbal complements in German can, on the surface, both precede and follow
the verb.
Syntax 127

(58) a. Ich gab ihm einen Kuss. ˜I gave him a kiss.™
b. . . . dass ich ihm einen Kuss gab.
that I him a kiss gave (˜ . . . that I gave him a kiss.™)
However, the verb precedes its complements only when it is in a ¬nite form in
a main clause, as in the (a)-sentence above. If it is in a subordinate clause, as in
the (b)-example above, or if it is in a non-¬nite form (in¬nitive; past participle),
as in the examples below, it follows its complements.
(59) a. Ich m¨ chte ihm einen Kuss geben. ˜I™d like to give him a kiss.™
b. Ich habe ihm einen Kuss gegeben. ˜I™ve given him a kiss.™
To account for the order of verbs and their complements, we can assume that
VPs in German are head-¬nal in underlying structure (the structure generated
by PS-rules).20 For example, to generate VPs with verbs like geben ˜to give™
(those with two NP complements), we posit the following PS-rule:
VP ’ (NP) (NP) V
Because the NP complements in this rule are optional, the rule generates VPs
with verbs that require only one NP complement (putzen ˜to clean™: Ich putze das
Zimmer ˜I™m cleaning the room™) and those that do not require any (schlafen
˜to sleep™: Sie schlafen ˜They™re sleeping™) in addition to those that require
two. This rule will yield the correct placement of the verb in relation to its
complements in all sentences except main clauses when the verb is ¬nite “ the
one instance when the verb precedes its complements. A movement rule (see
section will account for this particular order of constituents.21
The PS-rule above does not exhaust the possible combinations and types of
verbal complements. For example, some verbs require PP complements, others
require NP and PP complements.
(61) a. Sie hat [PP auf ihre Mutter] gewartet. ˜She waited for her mother.™
b. Ich habe [NP ihn] [PP f¨ r einen Freund] gehalten. ˜I regarded him as
a friend.™
A PS-rule like the following will generate the proper VP structure to account
for these kinds of verbs:
VP ’ (NP) PP V
Additional PS-rules will be needed to generate the structures for other verbal
complement patterns.
The subcategorization frame of any given verb will indicate the kind of VP
in which it can occur. For example, the subcategorization frame for geben ˜to
give™ will indicate that it occurs following two NP complements; the subcate-
gorization frame for warten ˜to wait for™ will indicate that it occurs following
a PP complement (and that the P must be auf ˜for™).
128 German

(63) a. geben: NP NP _____
b. warten: [PP auf NP] _____

Not all NPs and PPs that occur with a verb are complements; some are
adjuncts, elements that are always optional. The (non-subject) NPs and PPs
that occur with a verb like arbeiten ˜to work™, for example, are adjuncts. The
NP that occurs with a verb like verteidigen ˜to defend™ and the PP that occurs
with a verb like liegen ˜to be located™ are complements.

(64) a. Sie arbeitet [NP jeden Tag]. ˜She works every day.™
b. Sie arbeitet [PP zu Hause]. ˜She works at home.™
c. Sie arbeitet. ˜She works.™
(65) a. Er verteidigt [NP seinen Standpunkt]. ˜He defends his position.™
b. — Er verteidigt. ˜He defends.™
(66) a. Das Museum liegt [PP am Main]. ˜The museum is located on the

b. Das Museum liegt. ˜The museum is located.™

Although complements are often obligatory, adjuncts never are (as noted
above). Verbs are subcategorized with respect to their complements, but not
with respect to the optional adjuncts with which they can occur. Typical adjuncts
in the VP are PPs and AdvPs that express the time of the verbal action (am
Montag ˜on Monday™, gestern ˜yesterday™), the location of the verbal action
(in der Stadt ˜in the city™, dort ˜there™), the instrument with which the ver-
bal action is carried out (mit dem Korkenzieher ˜with the corkscrew™), and
so on.
Verbal complements typically occur closer to their heads than do adjuncts (I
bought the book yesterday/— I bought yesterday the book). If the VP in German
is head-¬nal (as is assumed here) and the VP in English is head-initial, we
should expect to ¬nd the opposite order of adjuncts, complements, and verbs
in the two languages.22 This prediction is borne out, as the following examples
(from Kirkwood 1969:87) demonstrate.23

(67) a. Ich habe mich (auf der Sitzung) auf deine Unterst¨ tzug verlassen.
I have re¬‚ at the meeting on your support relied
b. I was relying on your support (at the meeting).

These sentences contain the optional PP adjuncts auf der Sitzung and at the
meeting, and the obligatory PP complements auf deine Unterst¨ tzung and on
your support. In the German sentence we ¬nd the order adjunct“complement“
head; in English the order is head“complement“adjunct.
Syntax 129

3.7 Sentential phrases

3.7.1 Sentences IP and CP The PS-rules that generate VPs do not account for
auxiliary verbs (e.g., ¬nite modal verbs, ¬nite forms of sein ˜to be™ and haben
˜to have™ when used with past participles, ¬nite forms of werden ˜to become™
when used with in¬nitives, etc.). These PS-rules only account for main verbs.
If we compare the distribution of auxiliary verbs with that of main verbs, we
see a striking similarity. Finite auxiliary verbs, like ¬nite main verbs, occur as
the second constituent in a main (declarative) clause and as the ¬nal constituent
in a subordinate clause.
(68) a. Ich gab ihm einen Kuss. ˜I gave him a kiss.™
b. Ich habe ihm einen Kuss gegeben. ˜I have given him a kiss.™
(69) a. . . . dass ich ihm einen Kuss gab. ˜ . . . that I gave him a kiss.™
b. . . . dass ich ihm einen Kuss gegeben habe. ˜ . . . that I have given
him a kiss.™
Auxiliary verbs are considered to be a realization of the abstract category
In¬‚, short for “in¬‚ection” (auxiliary verbs are in¬‚ected for tense, among other
things). In¬‚ is viewed as the head of a sentence, an In¬‚-phrase (IP). An IP
has an NP (the subject) as its speci¬er and a VP as its complement. Given the
similarity in distribution between main verbs and auxiliary verbs in German,
we assume that German IPs, like VPs, are head-¬nal:
IP ’ (NP) VP In¬‚
The In¬‚ position can be occupied by abstract features for ¬niteness ([+tense],
[’tense]) and tense ([+past], [’past]).24
(71) a. [IP [NP ich] [VP ihm einen Kuss gab] [In¬‚ [+tense, +past]]]
I him a kiss gave
b. [IP [NP PRO] [VP ihm einen Kuss zu geben] [In¬‚ [’tense]]] him a kiss
to give
It can also be occupied by in¬‚ected auxiliary verbs, actual words.
(72) [IP [NP ich] [VP ihm einen Kuss gegeben] [In¬‚ habe]]
I him a kiss given have
Notice that the NP in a German IP is optional. This accounts for the fact
that some sentences in German do not have subjects. For example, impersonal
passives (passives formed from verbs without accusative objects) do not have
subjects. The ¬rst impersonal passive below does not even exhibit an NP.
130 German

Although the second one has an NP, it does not have the characteristics of
a subject; it does not bear nominative case and also does not participate in
subject“verb agreement.
(73) a. Nachher wurde getanzt.
afterwards was danced ˜There was dancing afterwards.™
b. Ihnen wurde geholfen.
them-dative was helped. ˜They were helped.™
Impersonal verbs also lack subject NPs (nominative NPs that control subject-
verb agreement).
(74) a. Mich hungert.
me-accusative hungers ˜I™m hungry.™
b. Mir ist kalt.
me-dative is cold ˜I™m cold.™
In order to generate subordinate clauses (e.g., dass-clauses, indirect ques-
tions, relative clauses) “ as well as main clauses “ we need to establish the
structure of CPs, complementizer phrases. Complementizers are words like
dass ˜that™, weil ˜because™, ob ˜whether™, and um ˜in order [to]™. The comple-
mentizer constituent (COMP; C) is the head of CP; IP is the complement of C;
and Spec will represent the speci¬er position of CP.
CP ’ (Spec) C IP
CPs with complementizers like dass ˜that™ or um ˜in order™ in the C position
will have the kind of structure illustrated in the following examples:
(76) a. [CP [C dass] [IP ich ihm einen Kuss gegeben habe]]
that I him a kiss given have
b. [CP [C um] [IP pro ihm einen Kuss zu geben]]
in-order him a kiss to give
Main clauses are also CPs. For example, the main clause in (68b), Ich habe
ihm einen Kuss gegeben ˜I have given him a kiss™, has the underlying structure
illustrated below:
[CP [Spec ] [C ] [IP [NP ich] [VP ihm einen Kuss gegeben] [In¬‚ habe]]]

In the underlying representation of this clause, Spec is empty and so is C.
To account for the surface (actual) word order of this clause, we assume two
movement rules.25 Movement rules One movement rule, Verb Movement,
moves the ¬nite verb into the C position.26 The other, Topicalization,27 moves
the subject NP, ich ˜I™, into the Spec position.28
Syntax 131

(78) Verb Movement
Move the ¬nite verb into the C position.
(79) Topicalization
Move an XP that is an immediate constituent of IP or VP into the
Spec position in CP (Spec-CP).29

These two rules, applied to the (underlying) structure in (77), yield the following
(surface) structure.

(80) [CP [Spec [NP ich2 ]] [C [In¬‚ habe1 ]] [IP [NP t2 ] [VP ihm einen Kuss
gegeben] [In¬‚ t1 ]]]

An element that is moved does not change its category. For example, the ¬nite
verb, habe, retains its In¬‚ label even though it is moved into the C position.
Movement also does not change the structure created by the PS-rules. The In¬‚
position occupied by habe before movement is not eliminated. Constituents
that are moved leave behind a co-indexed trace (t). This trace indicates the
position in the sentence where the moved element originated. A trace is simply
a formal means of marking the place that a constituent held before it was
The two movement rules, together with the PS-rules of German, will also
generate main clauses like (68a), Ich gab ihm einen Kuss ˜I gave him a kiss™,
that is, clauses in which a verb precedes its complements. PS-rules generate
the underlying structure in (81a); movement rules yield the surface structure in

(81) a. [CP [Spec ] [C ] [IP [NP ich] [VP ihm einen Kuss [V gab]] [In¬‚ past]]]
b. [CP [Spec [NP ich2 ]] [C [V gab1 ]] [IP [NP t2 ] [VP ihm einen Kuss [V t1 ]]
[In¬‚ past]]]

Note that it is not only subject NPs that can move into Spec-CP. Object NPs,
PPs, AdvPs “ even the VP “ can move into this position.

(82) a. Seinem Sohn hat er das Elternhaus geschenkt.
his son-dative has he the parents-home given ˜To his son he gave
the parental home.™
b. Mit seiner Frau hat er einen Ehevertrag geschlossen.
with his wife has he a prenuptial-agreement closed ˜He entered into
a prenuptial agreement with his wife.™
c. Sehr oft haben sie Sommersprossen.
very often have they freckles ˜Very often they have freckles.™
d. Fußball spielen wollte er.
soccer to-play wanted he ˜He wanted to play soccer.™
132 German

Wh-phrases (question words/phrases) can also move into Spec-CP, yielding
(83) a. Wann hat sie Geburtstag?
when has she birthday ˜When is her birthday?™
b. Welchen Wagen w¨ rdest du empfehlen?
which car would you recommend ˜Which car would you
c. Mit wem ist sie verheiratet?
with whom is she married ˜To whom is she married?™
It turns out that portions of the VP that do not appear to be XPs can also
occur in the Spec-CP position in main clauses. For example, non-¬nite Vs and
non-¬nite Vs with only one of their complements can occur in this position.
(84) a. Gelesen hat das Buch keiner.
read has the book-accusative no-one-nominative ˜No-one has
read the book.™
b. Ein Buch gegeben hat die Claudia dem Peter. (M¨ ller 1998:3)
a book-accusative given has the Claudia-nominative the
Peter-dative ˜Claudia has given Peter a book.™
M¨ ller (1998) argues that these fronted elements are nevertheless XPs, namely,
VPs. According to M¨ ller (1998:2), the sentence in (84a), for example, involves
two instances of movement. First, the direct object, das Buch, is “scrambled”
out of the VP and adjoined to IP in front of the subject (leaving behind a trace,
t1 ).31 Second, the remnant VP is topicalized (also leaving behind a trace, t2 ).32
(85) [VP t1 gelesen]2 hat [IP [NP das Buch]1 [IP keiner t2 ]]
In main clauses, which are CPs, Verb Movement is obligatory. C is the head
of CP and thus must be ¬lled with some element. If the Spec-CP position is not
generated (Spec is optional in CP), this yields a verb-¬rst clause, which can be
realized as a yes/no-question, a command, or an exclamation.33
(86) a. [CP [C hat1 ] [IP keiner das Buch gelesen t1 ]]
has no-one the book read ˜Has no-one read the book?™
b. [CP [C lies1 ] [IP das Buch t1 [In¬‚ imperative]]]
read the book ˜Read the book!™
c. [CP [C hast1 ] [IP du aber einen sch¨ nen Hund t1 [In¬‚ present]]]
have you but a lovely dog ˜You have a really lovely dog!™
If Spec-CP is generated, it must be ¬lled. There is a constraint in German, the
Verb-Second Constraint, which requires main declarative clauses to be verb-
second. If there is no element that can be moved to Spec-CP, the place-holder
Syntax 133

es ˜it™ is inserted in this position. In impersonal passives, for example, which
do not have subjects, es is inserted into the Spec-CP position to satisfy the
Verb-Second Constraint and prevent the sentence from being ungrammatical “
if no other element can occupy this position.34

(87) a. Wurde getanzt.
was danced ˜Was dancing.™
b. Uberall wurde getanzt.
everywhere was danced ˜There was dancing everywhere.™
c. Es wurde getanzt.
it was danced ˜There was dancing.™
Sentences with subjects can also contain place-holder es. For example, when a
subject is new information (and for discourse reasons must occur as far to the
right in the sentence as possible), place-holder es is inserted so that discourse
requirements can be satis¬ed without violating the Verb-Second Constraint.
(88) a. Es war einmal eine M¨ llerin.
it was once a miller™s-wife ˜Once upon a time there was a miller™s
b. Es kamen die Franzosen.
it came the French ˜The French came.™
In embedded clauses “ CPs embedded in a higher (matrix) clause or phrase “
Verb Movement typically does not apply. In embedded CPs that contain an overt
complementizer (e.g., dass ˜that™, ob ˜whether™, um ˜in order™, ohne ˜without™),
the ¬nite verb cannot move to C, since this position is already occupied by the
(89) a. [CP [C ob] [IP ich ihm einen Kuss gegeben habe]]
whether I him a kiss given have ˜whether I have given him a kiss™
b. [CP [C um] [IP PRO ihm einen Kuss zu geben]]
in-order him a kiss to give ˜in order to give him a kiss™
In embedded wh-questions, the ¬nite verb also cannot move to C.
(90) Sie wusste, [CP [Spec [NP welchen Preis]1 ] [C [+wh]] [IP ich t1 daf¨ r
zahlen musste]]
she knew which price I for-it pay had-to ˜She knew what price I had
to pay for it.™
In this type of clause, the embedded CP is selected by the matrix verb (the verb
wissen ˜to know™ in the example here); it is a complement of the matrix verb.
Thus the head of this CP, C, must contain the feature [+wh] in order to satisfy
the subcategorization requirements of the matrix verb. The ¬nite verb in the
134 German

embedded CP cannot move to C because C is already ¬lled with the feature
[+wh] (Vikner 1995:49“50). The wh-phrase moves to the Spec-CP position
from its underlying position in IP.
Although one might be tempted to rule out Verb Movement in embedded
wh-questions by assuming that the wh-phrase moves to C rather than Spec-
CP, there are arguments that can be made on theoretical as well as empirical
grounds against such an analysis. The following sentences, for example (from
Dudenredaktion 2005:878), provide empirical evidence that the moved wh-
phrase does not occupy the C position. In these sentences, found in non-standard
German, particularly in the southern portion of the German-speaking area, a
wh-phrase (mit wem ˜with whom™; wann ˜when™) can appear in an embedded
wh-question together with the complementizer dass ˜that™. The wh-phrase thus
cannot occur in C, which is occupied by dass.

(91) a. Kommt drauf an, mit wem dass sie zu tun haben.
comes on-it on with whom that they to do have ˜It depends who
they™re dealing with.™
b. Jetzt bleibt nur noch abzuwarten, wann dass gen¨ gend Software f¨ r
u u
Palm OS5 verf¨ gbar sein wird.
now remains only still to-wait when that enough software for
Palm OS5 available be will ˜Now it just remains to be seen when
enough software will be available for the Palm OS5.™

The structure of relative clauses (CPs that are embedded in NPs) is identical
to that of embedded wh-questions.

der Mantel, [CP [Spec [NP den]1 ] [C [+wh]] [IP ich t1 gekauft habe]]
the coat that I bought have ˜the coat that I bought™

The relative pronoun (a wh-element) moves to the Spec-CP position from its
underlying position in IP. The ¬nite verb remains in its underlying position; it
cannot move to C, which is occupied by the feature [+wh].
Although embedded clauses are typically verb-¬nal clauses (e.g., dass-
clauses, embedded questions, relative clauses), some verbs select verb-second
clauses. For example, verbs like antworten ˜to answer™, behaupten ˜to claim™,
and berichten ˜to report™, which select verb-¬nal complements, also select
verb-second complements.

(93) a. Er behauptet, dass er es zur Post gebracht hat.
he claims that he it to-the post-of¬ce brought has ˜He claims that he
took it to the post of¬ce.™
b. Er behauptet, er hat es zur Post gebracht.
˜He claims he took it to the post of¬ce.™
Syntax 135

As the example in the (b)-sentence shows, verb-second clauses in German
are not limited to main clauses. Verb Movement and Topicalization apply
in embedded verb-second clauses in the same way as they apply in main
If, as we assume here, verbal complements occur to the left of the verb
in underlying structure, we need to account for the position of sentence
(CP) complements that occur to the right of the verb in sentences like the

Ich muss [VP t1 feststellen], [CP was geschehen ist]1
I must determine what happened is ˜I have to determine what has

In this example, the CP was geschehen ist is the object of the verb feststellen.
Subject CPs as well as adverbial CPs can also appear in the same position as
this object CP.

(95) a. Mir ist [IP t1 aufgefallen], [CP dass viele dasselbe Problem hatten]1
me is struck that many the-same problem had ˜It struck me that
many had the same problem.™
b. Ich werde [VP dir t1 helfen], [CP sobald ich Zeit habe]1 35
I will you help as-soon-as I time have ˜I™ll help you as soon as I have

Although adverbial CPs are acceptable in their underlying position inside the
matrix clause, subject and object CPs are not (Dudenredaktion 2005:1062).

(96) a. ?Ich muss, was geschehen ist, feststellen.
b. ?Mir ist, dass viele dasselbe Problem hatten, aufgefallen.
c. Ich werde dir, sobald ich Zeit habe, helfen.

Subject and object CPs must either move to the end of the matrix clause or to
the Spec-CP position of the matrix clause (via Topicalization).

(97) a. Was geschehen ist, muss ich feststellen.
b. Dass viele dasselbe Problem hatten, ist mir aufgefallen.
c. Sobald ich Zeit habe, werde ich dir helfen.

The movement rule necessary to account for the rightward movement of CPs
is Extraposition. Unlike Verb Movement and Topicalization, which are substi-
tution rules, Extraposition is a rule of adjunction. Adjunction is an operation
136 German

on a phrase structure tree that creates a new position for a moved element. As
illustrated in (98), it adjoins this element (YP) to a node, XP, by making a copy
of the XP node immediately above it and attaching the moved element to the
higher XP node.

(98) Adjunction


¦ YP ¦ XP YP1

¦ t1 ¦

In the case of Extrapostion, an IP-internal CP is adjoined to the CP in which it
is contained.

(99) Extraposition
Right-adjoin an embedded CP to the CP in which it is contained.

We can illustrate Extraposition with the tree structures in (100).

(100) ’

Spec C IP CP1

NP VP Infl Spec C IP

CP V NP VP Inf l

t1 V

Given the underlying structure in (101a), for example, Extraposition, together
with Verb Movement and Topicalization, will yield the surface structure in

(101) a. [CP [Spec ] [C ] [IP [NP ich] [VP [CP was geschehen ist] [V feststellen]]
[In¬‚ muss]]]
b. [CP [CP [Spec [NP ich2 ]] [C muss1 ] [IP [NP t2 ] [VP t3 [V feststellen]]
[In¬‚ t1 ]]] [CP was geschehen ist]3 ]
˜I have to determine what has happened.™

Extraposition is not limited to subject, object, and adverbial clauses like
those above; it can also apply to relative clauses.
Syntax 137

(102) a. [CP [CP Ich hatte damals einen [NP BMW t3 ] im Auge,] [CP den ich
kaufen wollte]3 ]
I had then a BMW in-the eye that I buy wanted ˜I had at that time a
BMW in mind that I wanted to buy.™
b. [CP [CP Sp¨ ter ist noch [NP ein Freund t3 ] aufgetaucht,] [CP der DJ
ist]3 ]
later is yet a friend appeared who DJ is ˜Later yet another friend
appeared, who is a DJ.™

The extraposition of relative clauses is not mandatory; they can remain in the
NP with the noun they modify.

(103) a. Er hat sich [NP den Film, [CP den er von Anja empfohlen bekam]],
he has re¬‚ the ¬lm that he by Anja recommended got seen ˜He has
seen the ¬lm that was recommended to him by Anja.™
b. Einmal hat [NP ein Freund, [CP der mich h¨ u¬g besuchte]], sogar
gesagt, dass . . .
once has a friend who me often visited actually said that ˜Once a
friend who often visited me actually said that . . .™

The extraposition of CPs is an optional movement rule. Subject, object, and
adverbial CPs, for example, can move to the left via Topicalization instead of to
the right via Extraposition. Relative clause CPs do not have to move at all; they
can remain inside the NP in which they appear in underlying structure. However,
speakers appear to prefer sentences with moved CPs over sentences with CPs
that remain in their original position. According to Durrell (2002:492), while
both sentences below are acceptable, the second sentence (which contains an
embedded CP that has not been moved) is regarded as clumsier.

(104) a. Ich konnte den Gedanken nicht loswerden, dass wir ihn betrogen
I could the thought not shed that we him deceived had ˜I couldn™t get
rid of the thought that we had deceived him.™
b. Ich konnte den Gedanken, dass wir ihn betrogen hatten, nicht

This preference can help to explain why sentences with subject and object
CPs that have not been topicalized or extraposed (see [96a] and [96b]) are
less acceptable than sentences with those that have. Why should sentences
with adverbial CPs that have not been moved be different (see [96c])? Recall
that adverbial CPs are optional elements, unlike subject and object CPs. When
these CPs are not moved from their underlying position, they behave much like
138 German

parenthetical statements, which are also CPs that are not required by the matrix
clause. Compare (96c), for example, with the sentence below.
(105) Das Kind hat “ was doch wirklich erstaunlich ist “ den Absturz
uberlebt. (Dudenredaktion 2005:1063)
the child has what however really amazing is the fall survived ˜The
child has “ and this is really amazing “ survived the fall.™

3.7.2 The topological model
A traditional approach to German sentence structure is the topological model,
which divides a sentence up into ¬elds. There are three ¬elds (Felder): the
Vorfeld ˜¬rst ¬eld™, the Mittelfeld ˜central ¬eld™, and the Nachfeld ˜¬nal ¬eld™.
These ¬elds are separated from each other by the sentence bracket (Satzklam-
mer). In main clauses, the left bracket (linke Satzklammer) contains the ¬nite
verb and the right bracket (rechte Satzklammer) contains the remaining verb
forms. In subordinate clauses, the left bracket contains complementizers, and
the right bracket contains all verb forms.
The topological model is useful for mapping out the three types of clauses
that can be identi¬ed by the position of the ¬nite verb: verb-¬rst, verb-second,
and verb-¬nal clauses.
(106) verb-¬rst clauses
a. Hat er dich gestern angerufen? ˜Did he call you yesterday?™
b. Ruf mich mogen an! ˜Call me tomorrow!™
(107) verb-second clauses
a. Er hat dich gestern nicht angerufen, weil er dich nicht st¨ ren wollte.
˜He didn™t call you yesterday because he didn™t want to disturb you.™
b. Sobald er Zeit hat, wird er dich anrufen. ˜As soon as he has time,
he™ll call you.™
(108) verb-¬nal clauses
a. . . . dass er dich gestern nicht angerufen hat ˜that he didn™t call you
b. . . . wer dich gestern angerufen hat ˜who called you yesterday™
Table 3.1 shows how these three types of clauses ¬t into the topological model
Notice how this view of sentence structure corresponds to the analysis pre-
sented above in section 3.7.1. The Vorfeld corresponds to Spec-CP. Like Spec-
CP, the Vorfeld is occupied by an XP constituent in main clauses and a wh-word
in embedded clauses. The left bracket corresponds to C: it is occupied by the
¬nite verb in main clauses and complementizers in embedded clauses. The
Mittelfeld and the right bracket together correspond to IP. The right bracket
Syntax 139

Table 3.1 The topological model of sentence structure

Linke Rechte
Vorfeld Satzklammer Mittelfeld Satzklammer Nachfeld

Hat er dich gestern angerufen?
Ruf mich morgen an!
Er hat dich gestern nicht angerufen, weil er dich nicht
st¨ ren wollte.
Sobald er wird er dich anrufen.
Zeit hat,
dass er dich gestern nicht angerufen hat
wer dich gestern angerufen hat

by itself does not correspond to a single constituent in IP, however. The right
bracket contains both non-¬nite verb forms, which appear in VP, and ¬nite
verb forms, which appear in VP (if main verbs) or In¬‚ (if auxiliary verbs). The
Nachfeld corresponds to the CP position created by Extraposition. For exam-
ple, the Nachfeld in the third example in Table 3.1 is ¬lled by the extraposed
CP weil er dich nicht st¨ ren wollte ˜because he didn™t want to disturb you™. The
structure of this CP can be analyzed according to the topological model, as the
last line in Table 3.1 shows. Any CP, whether a matrix CP or an embedded CP,
can be analyzed according to the topological model.
The use of sentence brackets in the topological model highlights a salient
feature of German syntax that sets it apart from English, namely the split verb.
(109) a. Ich habe ihnen einen Brief geschrieben.
b. I have written them a letter.
This model also brings out the essentially ¬xed position of verb forms (these
are limited to positions in the sentence brackets), in contrast to the much freer
distribution of non-verbal constituents, which can occupy any of the three ¬elds
(subject, of course, to pragmatic restrictions, among others).37 The following
section addresses in more detail the freedom of German word order as well as
the constraints.

3.7.3 Word order constraints and freedom
Because German has a relatively “strong” case system, with four cases to sig-
nal grammatical functions like subject, direct object, and indirect object, word
order can be used to a certain extent for pragmatic purposes. In particular, word
order can be used to distinguish between theme (old information) and rheme
(new information).38 In languages with pragmatic (as opposed to syntactically
determined) word order, the general order of elements is theme before rheme
(old information before new information). This pragmatic word order can be
140 German

seen in the following example from Russian (Comrie 1979:95), where the
rheme (Maksim, the answer to the question ˜Who defends Viktor?™) is to
the right of the theme (Viktor), even though this results in the object preceding
the subject.
o sˇ sˇ ´
(110) a. Kt´ zaˇciˇcajet V´ktora?
˜Who defends Viktor?™
sˇ sˇ ´
b. V´ktora zaˇciˇcajet Maks´m.
± ±
Viktor-theme defends Maksim-rheme
˜Maksim defends Viktor.™
Word order in German is governed partly by syntactic constraints, partly by
semantic and pragmatic considerations. For example, as Lenerz (1977) argues,
the unmarked order of non-pronominal NPs in German is indirect object (IO)
< direct object (DO).39 This order can be reversed if the indirect object is the
rheme, as in (111b).40
(111) Wem hast du das Geld gegeben? ˜To whom did you give the money?™
a. Ich habe dem Ka"ssierer das Geld gegeben.
I have the teller-IO the money-DO given
b. Ich habe das Geld dem Ka"ssierer gegeben.
I have the money-DO the teller-IO given
If the direct object precedes the indirect object, and the indirect object is not
the rheme, as in (112b), the sentence is not acceptable.
(112) Was hast du dem Kassierer gegeben? ˜What did you give to the
a. Ich habe dem Kassierer das "Geld gegeben.
I have the teller-IO the money-DO given
b. ?— Ich habe das "Geld dem Kassierer gegeben.
I have the money-DO the teller-IO given
In short, the unmarked order, indirect object < direct object, can be overridden
only if pragmatic restrictions are not violated. Other unmarked orders of con-
stituents are subject (SUB) < object (when these are all non-pronominal NPs
in the Mittelfeld); and direct object < prepositional object (PO).41
(113) a. Ich glaube, dass der Kranke das Medikament braucht.
I think that the sick-man-SUB the medicine-DO needs.
˜I think that the sick man needs the medicine.™
b. Ich habe ein Bild an den Kleiderhaken geh¨ ngt.
I have a picture-DO on the coat-hook-PO hung
˜I hung a picture on the coat hook.™
A semantic restriction on German word order involves the de¬niteness of an
NP. For example, semantically de¬nite objects can appear to the right or left of
Syntax 141

a sentential adverb; inde¬nite objects can only appear to the right (Webelhuth
(114) a. weil er wohl das Buch gelesen hat
because he probably the book read has
˜because he has probably read the book™
b. weil er das Buch wohl gelesen hat
(115) a. weil er wohl ein Buch gelesen hat
because he probably a book read has
˜because he has probably read a book™

b. weil er ein Buch wohl gelesen hat
A constraint on German word order that can be viewed as pragmati-
cally driven is the requirement that pronouns occur before non-pronominal
NPs. Pronouns are essentially old information; they are used in place of
NPs that have already been mentioned in the discourse. This constraint
explains the acceptability judgments of the word order in the following
(116) a. — Er hat dem Lehrer es gegeben.
he has the teacher-IO it-DO given
˜He gave the teacher it.™
b. Er hat es dem Lehrer gegeben.
he has it-DO the teacher-IO given
˜He gave it to the teacher.™
If all the NPs in a sentence have been pronominalized and appear in the
Mittelfeld, they must occur in the sequence nominative (nom.) < accusative
(acc.) < dative (dat.).
(117) . . . dass er es ihr geben wird.
that he-nom. it-acc. her-dat. give will
˜ . . . that he will give it to her.™
This constraint on the order of pronouns can be viewed as essentially syntacti-
cally governed. For example, there is no apparent pragmatically driven reason
for the order of pronominal objects (DO < IO), which is the opposite of the
unmarked order for non-pronominal objects (IO < DO).
If we assume that constituents are generated in the VP in their unmarked
positions (e.g., IO < DO, DO < PO, etc.), we need a movement rule to account
for surface orders that differ from unmarked orders. This type of movement is
known as scrambling. In German, scrambling is to the left, and can be viewed
as left-adjunction of a phrase to VP or IP (Webelhuth 1992, M¨ ller 1998, Choi
142 German

(118) Scrambling


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