Construction-Specific Properties of Syntactic Subjects in Icelandic and German

Construction-Specific Properties of Syntactic Subjects in Icelandic and German
Construction-specific properties of syntactic
subjects in Icelandic and German
JÓHANNA BARÐDAL*
Abstract
This paper discusses the syntactic similarities and di¤erences in the behavior of subject-like obliques in the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic
and German. Research on this construction so far has suggested that the
subject-like oblique behaves as a syntactic subject in Icelandic, but as an
object in German. Data from German are presented which show that the
subject-like oblique in fact passes almost all the subject tests, with some
restrictions. The di¤erences between Icelandic and German are therefore
much smaller, and the similarities much greater, than predicted by analyzing them as subjects in Icelandic and objects in German. A comparison between Icelandic and German further reveals that the subject criteria cannot
be applied across two as closely related languages as Icelandic and German,
and they cannot be consistently applied even within the same language.
Therefore, grammatical relations like ‘‘subject’’ and ‘‘object’’ should be
regarded, not as universal, not as language-specific, but as CONSTRUCTIONSPECIFIC relations. It is shown that the di¤erence between Icelandic and
German resides in Obl–V–(XP) predicates being reluctant to occur in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions in German, whereas their occurrences in such constructions in Icelandic are less restricted. This correlates with di¤erences in the
frequency of Obl–V–(XP) predicates in the two languages, suggesting that
the construction exists at di¤erent levels of schematicity in Icelandic and
German. This is expected on a usage-based account in which frequency is
taken to be an important determinant of the language system.
Keywords:
Icelandic; German; oblique subjects; argument structure; subject tests; syntactic relations vs. syntactic roles; Radical Construction Grammar; frequency; schematicity.
Cognitive Linguistics 17–1 (2006), 39–106
DOI 10.1515/COG.2006.002
0936–5907/06/0017–0039
6 Walter de Gruyter
40
J. Barðdal
1.
Introduction
This article focuses on the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic (1a) and
German (1b), highlighting some of the problems caused by the assumption
that a uniform/universal category ‘‘subject’’ exists. In contrast, this article
will argue for a Radical Construction Grammar approach (cf. Croft 2001)
in which the concept of global grammatical relations is systematically
abandoned. Instead, it is assumed that categories like subjects and objects
are not only language-specific, but even construction-specific categories.
(1)
a.
b.
Icelandic
Mér er kalt.
me.dat is cold
‘I’m cold.’
German
Mir ist kalt.
me.dat is cold
‘I’m cold.’
For Icelandic (Sigur¶sson 1989; Zaenen et al. 1985) and German (Reis
1982; Zaenen et al. 1985) together, the following thirteen subject criteria
have been used: first position in declarative clauses, subject-verb inversion, first position in subordinate clauses, ‘‘subject-to-object raising,’’
‘‘subject-to-subject raising,’’ long distance reflexivization, clause-bound
reflexivization, control infinitives, conjunction reduction, nominative
case, verb agreement, deletion in imperatives and deletion in telegraphic
style (see Table 2 in Section 3.1 below). The first nine tests have been assumed for Icelandic, while the last seven have been used for German.
Only three tests are common for both languages. Because of this di¤erence in which constructions have been assigned the status of being subject
criteria in Icelandic and German, the subject-like obliques in (1) above
are analyzed as objects in German, while their Icelandic equivalents are
analyzed as subjects. This has led to a view of Icelandic and German as
typologically widely distinct languages, with a subsequent downgrading
of the similarities between them.
These empirical facts give rise to three problems:
–
–
Subjects do not exhibit the same syntactic behavior in closely related
languages, a problem for theories that posit a universal category
‘‘subject.’’
A closer survey of the German Obl–V–(XP) construction reveals that
subject-like obliques actually pass most of the syntactic tests that have
been regarded as subject criteria in German. Therefore, the subject
criteria cannot be consistently applied even within the same language.
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
–
41
Using di¤erent constructions in di¤erent languages to define subjects
is theoretically inconsistent and is an example of methodological
opportunism (Croft 2001: 30–32, 41–44).
The best way to adequately account for the empirical facts presented here
is to abandon the concept of universal grammatical relations. This is the
approach taken by Radical Construction Grammar, where constructions
are assumed to be the basic units of language and the behavior of each
argument is specified for the construction it is a part of. On such an account categories like subjects and objects are derived from the construction as a whole, and thus represent part–whole relations and not part–
part relations (cf. Section 5 and Kay 1997 on the di¤erence between the
two). Following Croft (2001), traditional syntactic relations will be referred to with lower-case letters (subject) in the remainder of this article,
while syntactic roles will be referred to with upper-case letters (Subject).
I begin by giving my definition of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German in Section 2, where I also show that the construction
has the same structure and semantics in both languages. In Section 3 I
give a systematic overview of the subject criteria in Icelandic and German
in order to explain why the same criteria have not been applied in both
languages. I also provide examples of the construction in Icelandic and
German in order to illustrate how the subject-like oblique behaves with
regard to these criteria. I show that the di¤erence between Icelandic and
German is smaller than that assumed in the prevalent literature, and certainly smaller than predicted by the analysis that subject-like obliques are
subjects in Icelandic but objects in German. The data relevant for this
argument involve reflexivization, conjunction reduction and control constructions, including a systematic questionnaire survey of native speakers’
judgments on documented control infinitives in German (Section 4). After
discussing the theoretical problems brought about by the empirical findings presented here I turn to an outline of a Radical Construction Grammar solution to the problem (Section 5), and how it instigates di¤erent
kinds of research questions, hitherto unexplored (Section 6).
The findings of the present article show that the main di¤erence between Icelandic and German is found in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions, in that
subject-like obliques show a reluctance to be left unexpressed in German,
whereas their Icelandic counterparts do not show this reluctance to the
same degree. This is expected on a usage-based account, a model in which
frequency is assumed to be one of the main determinants of the language
system (see Section 6). Thus, I suggest that the status of the Obl–V–(XP)
construction in German is such that it takes an intermediate position between Icelandic, where the construction is still frequent and psychologi-
42
J. Barðdal
cally real in the minds of speakers, and English, where only a couple of
lexicalized relics of the construction still exists.
2.
The Obl–V–(XP) construction
I assume that the basic unit of language is the construction, i.e., a formmeaning (or a form-function) pairing (cf. Bar¶dal 1999, 2001a, 2001c;
Bar¶dal and Molnár 2003; Fillmore et al. 1988, Goldberg 1995; Kay
and Fillmore 1999; Michaelis and Ruppenhofer 2001, and many more).
More specifically, I assume that all form-meaning pairings are constructions of their own, and that a grammar of language consists of constructions and a network defining the relations between them. On such an
account, all linguistic units classify as constructions, from the smallest
morpheme to complex argument structure and sentence type constructions. This is laid out in Table 1 below (Croft and Cruse 2004: 255):
Table 1. The syntax-lexicon continuum
Construction type
Traditional name
Examples
Complex and (mostly) schematic
Complex, substantive verb
Complex and (mostly) substantive
Complex but bound
Atomic and schematic
Atomic and substantive
syntax
subcategorization frame
idiom
morphology
syntactic category
word/lexicon
[sbj be-tns V-en by obl]
[sbj consume obj]
[kick-TNS the bucket]
[noun-s], [verb-tns]
[dem], [adj]
[this], [ green]
In other words, all linguistic form can be paired up with a meaning/
function, sometimes a meaning/function of its own and sometimes a
meaning/function that is shared across forms. Constructions can, moreover, be divided into two subtypes (cf. Bar¶dal 2001a: 62–63; Bar¶dal
and Molnár 2003: 234–235; Croft and Cruse 2004: 253–254; Tomasello
1998: 481–482): (i) more general constructions, of which the meaning
of the whole is derivable from the meaning of the parts, for example the
Ditransitive construction, and (ii) more specific constructions, in which
case the meaning of the whole is not a sum of the meaning of the parts,
but idiosyncratic, like the What is X doing Y-construction, as discussed
by Kay and Fillmore (1999).
By Obl–V–(XP) construction I refer to the constructions in Icelandic and German in which the first or leftmost argument of the argument structure [Obl–(XP)] is not in the nominative but is found in accusative, dative or, more rarely, in the genitive case. I subsume the three
under the label oblique, meaning ‘‘non-nominative.’’ This means that the
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
43
construction has three subconstructions, namely the Obl dat –V–(XP) construction, the Oblacc –V–(XP) and the Obl gen V–(XP) construction.
The discussion in this article is confined to the two first, as the Obl gen –
V–(XP) construction is very rare in Icelandic and obsolete in German.
Thus, the construction is always lexically filled with a subject-like dative
or accusative in both languages, and a predicate which can be a simple
verb (see example [4] below), an adjectival predicate ([1] above), a compositional predicate (2a), and others. There is also a variation as to the
number of arguments which can occur in the construction. In addition
to the subject-like oblique, it can be filled with another direct argument
(example [2] below), a PP (3), a subordinate clause (4), or the subject-like
oblique is the only argument as in the examples in (1) above:
(2)
a.
b.
(3)
a.
b.
(4)
a.
b.
Icelandic
Mér
fellur hann
me.dat falls he.nom
ge¶.
liking
German
Mir
gefällt der
me.dat ge-falls the.nom
‘I like that guy Christian.’
to my liking.’
Kristján
mjög
Christian.nom very
vel
well
ı́
in
Christian sehr gut.1
Christian very well
or: ‘That guy Christian is very much
Icelandic
Mér
bý¶ ur
vi¶
essum óhreinu neglum.
me.dat disgusts with these
dirty
nails
German
Mir
ekelt
vor den schmutzigen Fingernägeln.
me.dat disgusts for the dirty
finger-nails
‘I feel disgusted by the(se) dirty finger nails.’
Icelandic
Mig
grunar
a¶
etta bo¶i
ekki gott.
me.acc suspects that this
bodes not good
‘I suspect that this does not bode anything good.’
German
Mir
schwant dass es nichts Gutes bringt.
me.dat suspects that it nothing good brings
‘I suspect that nothing good will come out of this.’
Verbs selecting for dative objects also instantiate the Obl–V–(XP) construction when they are passivized, as shown with the verbs mótmæla
and widersprechen ‘contradict’ in (5) below:
44
J. Barðdal
(5)
a.
b.
Icelandic
Honum var mótmælt.
him.dat was contradicted
German
Ihm
wurde
widersprochen.
him.dat be(came) contradicted
‘He was contradicted.’
These two verbs occur in the Nom–V–Dat argument structure construction in the active form in both Icelandic and German but in the Obl dat –
V–(XP) construction in the passive form (see Bar¶dal and Molnár 2003
for a construction-based analysis of the passive in the North Germanic
languages and more generally for an aspectual account of diathesis). Instances of mótmæla and widersprechen ‘contradict’ in the active form
with the dative object topicalized to first position are naturally not included in my definition of the Obl–V–(XP) construction as they are topicalization of the Nom–V–Dat construction, yielding Dat–V–Nom surface order. Thus, topicalizations of the Nom–V–Dat argument structure
construction are distinct from the Dat–V–Nom argument structure construction in both Icelandic and German.2
The Obl–V–(XP) construction is documented in all the Germanic
daughter languages, including Gothic, Old English, Old High German,
Old Dutch, Old Swedish, Old Danish and Old Norse-Icelandic, although
it has gone lost in all the modern languages except for Modern Icelandic,
Faroese and German (cf. Bar¶dal 2001b: 196–206, 2004; Eythórsson and
Bar¶dal 2005 and the references therein). In both Icelandic and German,
the Obl dat –V–(XP) subconstruction is much more common than the
Oblacc –V–(XP) subconstruction (cf. Bar¶dal 2004: 109–110, 120–124).
When counting both adjectival and verbal predicates, including di¤erent
lexical entries of the same verbal stems, Obl dat –V–(XP) predicates
amount to 700 in Icelandic, while Oblacc –V–(XP) predicates are approximately 200. In German, however, the distinction between the Obl dat –V–
(XP) and the Oblacc –V–(XP) construction has been neutralized because
of a massive exchange of predicates between the two constructions
(Seefranz-Montag 1983: 162). Therefore, by subsuming the two into one
in German, it seems that existing Obl–V–(XP) predicates are approximately 80–100 (Bar¶dal 2004: 137). Moreover, Icelandic has around 750
passive Obl dat –V–(XP) predicates (excluding ditransitives), while German exhibits around 100 (Bar¶dal 2002: 90; Maling 2002: 2).
The Obl–V–(XP) construction is lexically filled in Icelandic and German with either cognate predicates as in (1–2) above, or with synonymous verbs as in (3–5). A semantic analysis of the active Obl–V–(XP)
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
45
predicates in Icelandic and German reveals the following thirteen classes
of verbs, of which the first eleven classes are common to both languages
(Bar¶dal 2004):
1. Verbs of emotion: e.g., ‘feel good/bad’ Ic. lı́¶a vel/illa, G. gut/
schlecht sein; ‘be sorry’ Ic. ykja leitt, G. verdrießen; ‘regret’ Ic. vera
eftirsjá, G. reuen, . . .
2. Verbs of cognition: e.g., ‘suspect’ Ic. bjó¶a ı́ grun, G. schwanen;
‘have in mind’ Ic. vera efst ı́ huga, G. vorschweben; ‘get an idea’ Ic.
detta ı́ hug, G. einfallen, eine Idee kommen; ‘remember’ Ic. vera ı́ fersku minni; ‘understand’ Ic. skiljast, . . .
3. Verbs of perception: e.g., ‘taste’ Ic. smakkast, G. schmecken, munden; ‘appear in vision’ Ic. birtast; ‘appear’ Ic. vir¶ast, G. vorkommen, . . .
4. Verbs expressing idiosyncratic attitudes, e.g., ‘be indi¤erent’ Ic. vera
sama, G. egal/gleichgültig sein; ‘be OK for sb.’ G. recht sein; ‘be
(im)possible for sb.’ Ic. vera (ekki) au¶i¶, . . .
5. Verbs denoting bodily states: e.g., ‘feel pain’ Ic. blæ¶a, G. weh tun;
‘feel queasy’ Ic. vera óglatt, G. übel sein; ‘freeze’ Ic. vera kalt, G.
frieren, frösteln, . . .
6. Verbs denoting changes in bodily states: e.g., ‘start to freeze’ Ic.
ver¶a kalt, G. kalt werden; ‘get better/worse (from an illness)’ Ic.
batna/versna, . . .
7. Verbs denoting personal properties and innate tendencies: e.g., ‘be
natural for sb.’ Ic. vera e¶lislægt, G. angeboren sein; ‘be typical for
sb.’ G. eigen sein; ‘have a loud voice’ Ic. liggja hátt rómur, . . .
8. Verbs of gain: e.g., ‘benefit’ Ic. græ¶ast, G. frommen; ‘be o¤ered sth’
Ic. bjó¶ast; ‘receive’ Ic. berast, . . .
9. Verbs of success and/or performance: e.g., ‘succeed’ Ic. heppnast/
lánast, G. gelingen/glücken; ‘do well/badly’ Ic. ganga vel/illa, G.
gut/schlecht gehen; ‘make progress’ Ic. fara fram, . . .
10. Verbs of failure or mistake: e.g., ‘fail’ Ic. misheppast, G. missglücken; ‘overlook’ Ic. yfirsjást; ‘get hindrance’ Ic. seinka, . . .
11. Verbs of decline: e.g., ‘deteriorate’ Ic. hnigna; ‘subside’ Ic. aflétta;
‘fall thick on the ground’ Ic. snjóa, rigna, G. schneien, regnen, . . .
12. Verbs of ontological existence: e.g., ‘be in a particular manner’ Ic.
vera hátta¶, . . .
13. Verbs of social interaction: e.g., ‘be friends’ Ic. vera vel til vina; ‘not
get along’ Ic. lenda saman, . . .
The last two classes of verbs of existence and social interaction are the
smallest classes in Icelandic, with only a few predicates in each, whereas
there are innumerous examples of, for instance, verbs of emotion and
46
J. Barðdal
attitudes (Bar¶dal 2004). The category of Obl–V–(XP) predicates in Icelandic and German is a radial category (cf. Lako¤ 1987) with experiencebased predicates being the largest class, and the other classes either
occupying adjacent regions in semantic space, or being related to the
prototypical class via shared (partial) semantics, metaphorical extension
or pragmatic inference (for the details of this analysis and a more elaborate discussion, the reader is referred to Bar¶dal 2004). There is thus
a clear family resemblance between the subclasses of Obl–V–(XP) predicates in both Icelandic and German. This can be represented in a simplified graphic version as in Figures 1 and 2, for Icelandic and German,
respectively.
Observe that the semantic map for German is a miniature of the map
for Icelandic. In other words, the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German is
Figure 1. A semantic map of the Obl dat –V–(XP) construction in Icelandic
Figure 2. A semantic map of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
47
a proper subset of the construction in Icelandic. This is of course expected
given the common historical origin of the construction in both languages,
and its considerably lower type frequency in German.
To summarize, the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German
di¤ers from the ordinary default argument structure construction in the
two languages in that the subject-like argument is not case marked in the
nominative but in dative or accusative. The type frequency of the construction is considerably higher in Icelandic than in German, both in the
active and the passive diathesis. The category of active predicates instantiating the construction shows a radial structure, with experience-based
predicates being central while the other subclasses are either extensions
of the prototype or of other less central subclasses. Hence, the Obl–V–
(XP) construction has, more or less, the same structure and semantics in
both languages. This raises the question whether the syntactic behavior of
subject-like obliques in the Obl–V–(XP) argument structure construction
is also the same in Icelandic and German, or whether there are profound
di¤erences between them, supporting the assumption that the two languages are as typologically di¤erent as the literature claims. Thus, I now
proceed to a comparison of the assumed subject tests in these languages
and the syntactic behavior of the subject-like oblique with regard to these
tests.
3. The subject criteria
As stated in Section 1 above, of the thirteen most widely discussed subject
criteria in Icelandic and German only three have been unanimously assumed as valid in both languages, which in turn has given rise to a major
typological distinction between Icelandic and German in the syntactic literature. In this section I discuss the remaining ten criteria and why they
have been refuted in each language. Table 2 below gives an overview of
all the subject criteria and their alleged (non-)applicability in Icelandic
and German.
I first review the criteria that have been accepted for Icelandic but not
for German (Subsection 3.1) and then the criteria accepted for German
but not Icelandic (Subsection 3.2). The three criteria that have been taken
to be common for both languages are discussed in Section 4 below, and
new data against the traditional analysis of German are presented.
3.1.
The Icelandic subject criteria
The first four tests, first position in declarative clauses, subject-verb inversion, first position in subordinate clauses, and ‘‘subject-to-object raising,’’
48
J. Barðdal
Table 2. Subject criteria in Icelandic and German
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
Icelandic
German
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
*
*
*
*
*
*
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
First position in declarative clauses
Subject-verb inversion
First position in subordinate clauses
Subject-to-object raising
Subject-to-subject raising
Long distance reflexivization
Clause-bound reflexivization
Conjunction reduction
Control infinitives
Nominative case
Verb agreement
Deletion in telegraphic style
Deletion in imperatives
*
*
*
*
have not been used as subject tests in German. The reason is that German
word order is sensitive to information structure, allowing for various
scrambling alternations (cf. Reis 1982: 191) which do not exist in Icelandic. In addition, OV word order in clauses containing an auxiliary or a
‘‘raising-to-object’’ verb in German obscures the picture even further:
(6)
a.
b.
(7)
a.
b.
Icelandic
Ég
hef
keypt bókina.
I.nom have bought book-the.acc
German
Ich
habe das
Buch gekauft.
I.nom have the.acc book bought
‘I(’ve) bought the book.’
Icelandic
Bókina
hef
book-the.acc have
German
Das
Buch habe
the.acc book have
ég
keypt.
I.nom bought
ich
gekauft.
I.nom bought
The example in (6a) shows that the nominative subject precedes the finite
verb whereas the accusative object follows the non-finite verb in an Icelandic active declarative clause containing an auxiliary. Example (6b)
illustrates that the equivalent German active declarative clause has the accusative object between the two verbs (OV word order). When the accusative object is topicalized to first position, the nominative subject inverts
with the verb and occurs immediately following the finite verb. As a
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
49
consequence, it is impossible to distinguish between the neutral Active declarative construction (6b) and the Topicalization construction (7b) in
German since the distribution of the two arguments is the same relative
to the verb. This is not a problem in Icelandic since the Topicalization
construction has the accusative object preceding the verb cluster and the
nominative subject between the two verbs (7a), while in the neutral Active
declarative construction the two arguments are placed on either side of
the verb cluster (7a). This is laid out in the following schema:
(8)
(9)
Icelandic
a. X–Aux–V–X
b. X–Aux–X–V
Active declarative construction
Topicalization construction
German
a. X–Aux–X–V
b. X–Aux–X–V
Active declarative construction
Topicalization construction
Therefore, on a positional approach where subjects and objects are assumed to occupy a certain position in the structure, a comparison between the various word order constructions, like the Active declarative
and the Topicalization construction, has not been considered fruitful for
a language like German.
However, it is possible to distinguish between the two constructions in
German with other means than word order. First, the function of the two
constructions is not the same; they di¤er with regard to which argument
is the most discourse-prominent argument. In the ordinary Active declarative clause, it is the subject which is the most discourse-prominent argument, whereas in the Topicalization construction, it is the object. Second,
the intonation structure of the two constructions is di¤erent in that the
topicalized clause-initial accusative object typically bears nuclear stress,
while clause-initial nominative subjects in ordinary active declarative
clauses do not. In contrast, inverted pronominal subjects, as in (7b) can
only be stressed if they are contrastive, while nuclear stress on the object
in (6b) constitutes neutral sentence intonation. Therefore, given an analysis where constructions are recognized as independent linguistic objects
with their own distinctive meaning/function and intonation pattern, it
also becomes possible to identify the arguments as either being in their
canonical subject vs. object positions, or being topicalized vs. inverted.
With regard to the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German, it has been
acknowledged, at least since Lenerz (1977: 113–116), that they represent
neutral word order in German. In other words, they display the intonation pattern of ordinary Active declarative clauses with neutral information structure, but do not show up with the intonation typical of
50
J. Barðdal
Topicalization constructions.3 In this regard, subject-like obliques in German behave as ordinary nominative subjects.
Turning now to the fourth criterion in Table 2 above, ‘‘subject-toobject raising,’’ this criterion is not considered a subject test by Reis
(1982: 192–193), presumably because of German OV word order. The
term ‘‘raising-to-object’’ is here used about infinitive clauses where the
subject of the lower non-finite verb behaves syntactically as the object
of the matrix verb. Although German does not have the prototypical
believe-class of ‘‘raising-to-object’’ verbs, it still has raising verbs of the
causative type, such as lassen ‘let’ (cf. Hoberg 1981: 79–81) which is cognate to the Icelandic ‘‘raising-to-object’’ verb láta ‘let.’ Both of these
select for an infinitive clause, with the nominative subject selected by the
lower verb showing up in the accusative case, assigned by the matrix verb
(see Haspelmath 2001: 70 and Wunderlich to appear for more ‘‘raisingto-object’’ verbs with Obl–V–(XP) constructions in German and a discussion thereof ):
(10)
(11)
German
Ich
lasse ihn
eine
I.nom let
him.acc a.acc
‘I make him eat a newspaper.’
Tageszeitung essen.
newspaper
eat.inf
Icelandic
Ég
læt hana
bor¶a dagbla¶.
I.nom let her.acc eat.inf newspaper.acc
‘I’ll have her eat a newspaper.’
In (10–11) the nominative subject of the lower verb ‘eat’ shows up in the
accusative case when embedded under the matrix verb ‘let’ in both Icelandic and German. With regard to the Obl–V–(XP) construction, however,
it is a well-known fact of Icelandic that, as in the passive, the subject-like
oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) argument structure construction maintains its
case marking in this sentence-type construction. This is shown in (12) for
the Obl–V–(XP) predicates detta ı́ hug ‘get an idea’ and lı́¶a vel ‘feel good’:
(12)
Icelandic
a. Þú
lætur ér
alltaf detta
eitthva¶
you.nom let
yourself.dat always fall.inf something
hug.
mind
‘You always get new ideas.’
b. Láttu
ér
lı́¶a
vel!
let-you you.dat feel.inf well
‘Make sure to feel good!’ or: ‘Take care of yourself.’
ı́
in
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
51
As the examples in (13) show, the subject-like oblique of the Obl–V–(XP)
construction in German also maintains its dative case with ‘let’, exactly as
in Icelandic. The German Obl–V–(XP) predicates, einfallen ‘get an idea’
and gut gehen ‘do well,’ serve as examples:
(13)
German
a. Du
lässt dir
immer etwas
Neues
you.nom let
yourself.dat always something new
einfallen.
come-in-mind.inf
‘You’re always getting new ideas.’
b. Lass dir
gut gehen!
let
yourself.dat well go.inf
‘Make sure to do well!’ or: ‘Take care of yourself.’
(www.mtb-news.de/forum/p64625.html, 2003)
However, not only can subject-like obliques of the Obl–V–(XP) construction occur in between the two verbs in ‘‘subject-to-object raising’’ constructions in German, but ordinary dative objects of transitive verbs also
occur there with ‘let’, as illustrated in (14) below. A comparison of the
German examples in (13) and (14) thus shows that distributional properties with ‘let’ do not distinguish between subjects and objects of the embedded verb, as either argument can occur in between the matrix and the
non-finite verb in German. In contrast, in the Icelandic example in (15)
the object of the embedded verb follows the non-finite verb.
(14)
German
Lass dir
nicht raten!
let
you.dat not
advise.inf
‘Don’t let anybody advise you.’
(15)
Icelandic
Láttu rá¶leggja ér
eitthva¶!
let-you advise.inf you.dat something
‘Get advice from somebody!’
The fifth test, ‘‘subject-to-subject raising,’’ is not considered a valid subject test either in German because not only can the nominative subject occupy the first slot with such ‘‘raising verbs,’’ but also other material, like
a dummy es ‘it, there,’ adverbials like heute ‘today,’ and the subject-like
oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction (cf. Reis 1982: 192):
(16)
German
a. Heute
today
scheint
seems
mal
really
gearbeitet
worked
zu
to
werden.
be(come).inf
52
J. Barðdal
b.
c.
‘People really seem to be busy today.’
(Reis 1982: 192)
Es scheint gearbeitet zu werden.
it seems worked
to be(come).inf
‘Some work seems to be done here.’
(Reis 1982: 192)
Den
Kindern
scheint kalt zu sein.
the.dat children.dat seems cold to be.inf
‘The children seem to be freezing.’
(www.katharinawinkler.de/weihnachten.pdf, 2001)
Likewise, as evident from (17), adverbials, a dummy a¶ and the subjectlike oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction can also occur in this position with ‘‘raising’’ verbs like seem in Icelandic:
(17)
Icelandic
a. Í dag vir¶ist vera
miki¶ unni¶.
today seems be.inf much worked
‘Much work seems to be done today.’
b. Þa¶ vir¶ist vera
miki¶ unni¶.
it
seems be.inf much worked
‘Much work seems to be done here.’
c. Börnunum
vir¶ist vera
kalt.
children-the.dat seems be.inf cold
‘The children seem to be freezing.’
The Icelandic examples in (17) are exact parallels of the German ones in
(16). This has nevertheless not discredited ‘‘subject-to-subject raising’’ as
a subject criterion in Icelandic. On the contrary, the fact that the subjectlike oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction, as well as ordinary nominative subjects, can occur in the position preceding ‘seem’ has been taken
as evidence for the subject status of subject-like obliques in Icelandic
(Bar¶dal 2001a, b; Rögnvaldsson 1996; Sigur¶sson 1989).
Consider also examples in which some other material than the subject
occurs in first position with ‘‘raising-to-subject’’ verbs.4 In such cases, the
subject-like oblique occurs between the two verbs in both Icelandic and
German, exactly as nominative subjects:
(18)
German
a. Heute scheint den
Kindern
kalt zu
today seems the.dat children.dat cold to
b. Í dag vir¶ist börnunum
vera
kalt.
today seems children-the.dat be.inf cold
‘The children seem to be freezing today.’
sein.
be.inf
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
53
This is regarded as subject-verb inversion in Icelandic, but as OV word
order in German, since subject-like obliques are traditionally analyzed as
objects in that language.
The sixth criterion, long distance reflexivization, is applicable in Icelandic as shown in (19), but inapplicable in German since long distance reflexivization does not exist in that language. This is illustrated with the
ditransitive verb geben ‘give’ in (20):
(19)
(20)
Icelandic
Hansi vildi
a¶
Anna gæfi
séri
Hans wanted that Anna would-give self.dat
‘Hans wanted Anna to give him some cake.’
smá köku.
little cake
German
a. Hansi wollte, dass Anna ihmi
ein bischen Torte
Hans wanted that Anna him.dat a
tiny
cake
gäbe.
would-give
‘Hans wanted Anna to give him some cake.’
b. *Hansi wollte, dass Anna sich i
ein bischen Torte
Hans
wanted that Anna self.dat a
tiny
cake
gäbe.
would-give
The Icelandic reflexive pronoun sér in the subordinate clause in (19) is
coreferential with the nominative subject of the main clause, thus the label long distance reflexivization. In German, in contrast, the nominative
subject of a matrix clause can only bind an anaphoric pronoun in a subordinate clause (20a) and not a reflexive pronoun (20b). Hence, since German does not use a reflexive here, there is no subject test either.
3.2.
The German subject criteria
I now turn to the criteria that have been assigned the status of being subject properties in German but not Icelandic, listed as 10–13 in Table 2
above. These criteria are nominative case, agreement, deletion in imperatives and deletion in telegraphic style.
When investigating the syntactic status of subject-like obliques in the
Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic, the property of being case marked
as nominative has been excluded for obvious reasons (cf. Andrews 1976;
Sigur¶sson 1989 and subsequent work; Zaenen et al. 1985). Furthermore,
properties that can be shown to correlate with nominative, such as verb
agreement (Sigur¶sson 1990–1991 and later work), have not been regarded as subject properties either since they, a priori, exclude everything
54
J. Barðdal
but nominative. This is the reason that neither case nor agreement has
been used as subject criteria in Icelandic.5
The third criterion, deletion in imperatives, has not been considered a
subject property either in Icelandic since many Obl–V–(XP) predicates
do not have the right semantics to occur as imperatives (cf. Rögnvaldsson
1996: 48, also pointed out by Barnes 1986: 25 for Faroese). Consider (21)
below:
(21)
a.
b.
#Have a divine vision!
#Feel good!
Exclamations of this type involving Obl–V–(XP) predicates are expressed
either with the conjunctive or as embedded under ‘let’ in Icelandic. Moreover, the Imperative construction in Icelandic ‘‘univerbates’’ the imperative form of the verb and a nominative deictic pronoun. In (22) the underlined -¶u and -(i)¶i are cliticized forms of the nominative pronouns ú
(2p.sg.) and i¶ (2p.pl.), respectively:
(22)
a.
b.
Far¶u!
go-you.2p.sg.nom
‘Leave!’
Fari¶i!
go-you.2p.pl.nom
‘Leave!’
This means that the Imperative construction in Icelandic is formally only
compatible with nominative subject predicates. Thus, Obl–V–(XP) predicates selecting for subject-like obliques are not only excluded from occurring in the Imperative construction in Icelandic on semantic grounds but
also on formal grounds.
Regarding the last criterion, deletion in telegraphic style (cf. Reis 1982:
190), I know of no discussion of it in the literature on syntactic subjecthood in Icelandic. However, the subject-like oblique of the Obl–V–(XP)
construction in Icelandic passes this test, whereas it’s German counterpart
does not:
(23)
Icelandic
Fór
ı́
bı́ó
ı́
gær,
leiddist
Ø.nom went in theatre in yesterday, Ø.dat was-bored
alveg hræ¶ilega.
quite horribly
‘Went to the movie theatre yesterday . . . was horribly bored.’
(24)
German
*
Muß morgen
Ø.nom must tomorrow
die
the
Prüfung
exam
machen,
make,
Ø.dat
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
55
graut schrecklich.
fear
horribly
Intended meaning: ‘Have to take the exam tomorrow . . . am
horribly nervous.’
These data show that the subject-like oblique of the Obl–V–(XP)
construction can be left unexpressed in telegraphic style in Icelandic without that resulting in ungrammaticality, whereas the same is not true for
German.
3.3.
Conclusion
To summarize so far, with regard to word order distribution, ‘‘raising-tosubject’’ and ‘‘raising-to-object,’’ German subject-like obliques behave as
nominative subjects in German and as nominative and oblique subjects in
Icelandic. These distributional properties, however, have not been considered subject properties in German. Also, long distance reflexivization
is inapplicable since there are no long distance reflexives in German.
Subject-like obliques in both languages are not in the nominative case
and agreement is found with the nominative in both languages. Finally,
subject-like obliques in neither language can be left unexpressed in imperatives. A clear di¤erence, however, between Icelandic and German is
found with deletion in telegraphic style, as subject-like obliques in Icelandic are easily left unexpressed in such constructions while their German
equivalents are not.
In next section I turn to the three tests which have been regarded
as subject tests in both German and Icelandic. These are clause-bound reflexivization, conjunction reduction and control infinitives. Observe that
in such closely related languages as Icelandic and German less than one
third of the assumed universal subject properties, as discussed by Keenan
(1976), are regarded as valid tests for both languages. These facts severely
undermine the whole concept of a universal subject; obviously, if the subject tests are not applicable across languages, then the category is not the
same category across languages. The argument here is of course not that
it is impossible to distinguish between subjects and objects within one and
the same languages. Surely, this is possible for all ‘‘configurational’’ languages. The argument is rather that if subjects do not behave in the same
way across languages, then the category of subject is clearly languagespecific and not universal. Instead, what is universal is the fact that languages distinguish between these categories of arguments and not the
exact behavior of the categories themselves. In other words, if scholars
agree that behavioral properties of subjects really are behavioral properties of subjects, they must also be consistent with themselves and accept
56
J. Barðdal
the consequences of the fact that the behavioral properties leak across
constructions and across languages. The approach suggested later in this
article takes this problem seriously and proceeds from the fact that subjects
vary in their syntactic behavior not only across languages but also across
argument structure constructions within one and the same language.
A second problem is that di¤erent scholars have assumed di¤erent
constructions to be criterial of subjecthood, partly because of languagespecific di¤erences but partly, it seems, to suit their own theoretical
purposes: nominative case has been excluded as a subject criterion in Icelandic since the goal has been to investigate the syntactic behavior of
subject-like non-nominatives, whereas nominative case and verb agreement have been defined as subject criteria in German, thus a priori excluding the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction. Deletion in
imperatives and telegraphic style have been considered subject properties
in German on the basis of the fact that subject-like obliques do not pass
these tests, only nominatives. ‘‘Raising-to-subject’’ has not been considered a subject test either in German since subject-like obliques share this
syntactic behavior with nominative subjects. These are two examples of
both cross-linguistic methodological opportunism, and languageinternal methodological opportunism (cf. Croft 2001: 30–32, 41–44).
Cross-linguistic methodological opportunism is manifested as di¤erent
criteria being used for subjects in di¤erent languages, and languageinternal methodological opportunism manifests itself as some properties
being assigned the status of being criterial without a principled way of
making the choices. The choices are based on the theoretical preferences
of the researcher in question (see also Bar¶dal 2000a for a survey of the
methodological opportunism found in research on subjecthood in Old
Scandinavian).
4.
The three subject tests common for both Icelandic and German
The subject tests that have been discussed as valid in both Icelandic and
German are only clause-bound reflexivization, conjunction reduction and
control infinitives. Let us now review the data, relevant to these tests that
have been discussed in the literature on the Obl–V–(XP) construction in
Icelandic and German. Haider (2005: 26) argues with regard to reflexivization that only subjects can bind reflexive direct objects in German,
whereas both subjects and objects can bind reflexive PPs. In (25) below,
the object ihm ‘him’ can either bind a reflexive or an anaphoric pronoun
within the PP:
(25)
Ich
I
habe
have
ihm i
him.dat
Geschichten
stories.acc
über
about
sichi /ihni
self.acc/him.acc
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
57
erzählt.
told
‘I told him stories about himself.’
Hence, the fact that subject-like obliques can bind reflexive PPs in
German, as in (26) below, does therefore not unanimously single them
out as subjects.
(26)
a.
b.
. . . und was
man für Angst hat und wie
and what one for fear
has and how
einem i
graust vor sich selberi . . .
one.dat fears
for self self
‘. . . and the fears one has, and how terrified one is by
oneself . . .’
(www.andrip.de/kind/gutacht/2423gean.rtf, 1992)
Ihm i
gefallen Geschichten über
sichi .
him.dat ge-fall
stories
about self
‘He likes stories about himself.’
(Stepanov 2003: 6)
es
it
With regard to Conjunction reduction, Zaenen et al. (1985: 477) present
the German examples in (27) and (29–30), following the analysis in Cole
et al. (1980).6 The examples below show that the subject-like oblique in
Icelandic can be left unexpressed in conjunction reduction (27a), while
the corresponding subject-like oblique in German cannot (27b):
(27)
a.
b.
Icelandic
Hann i kom og
hjálpa¶.
i var
he.nom came and Ø.dat was helped
‘He came and was helped.’
German
*Er i
kam und
i wurde geholfen.
he.nom came and Ø.dat was
helped
Intended meaning: ‘He came and was helped.’
These examples must be compared with equivalent examples where a conjoined nominative subject is left unexpressed in conjunction reduction:
(28)
a.
Icelandic
Hann i kom ı́
flýti
he.nom came in hurry
strax
aftur.
immediately again
en
but
i
Ø.nom
urfti
had
a¶ fara
to leave
58
J. Barðdal
b.
German
Er i
kam schnell vorbei, aber
i mußte
he.nom came quickly to-here but Ø.nom had-to
gleich
zurück.
immediately back
‘He came by in a hurry but had to leave again immediately.’
The examples in (28) show that a nominative subject in second conjuncts
in Icelandic and German can be left unexpressed on identity with a nominative subject of a first conjunct. Subject-like obliques can also be left unexpressed on identity with a nominative subject in Icelandic (27a) but not
in German (27b).
Zaenen et al. (1985) also point out that the Icelandic examples in
(29a) and (30a) illustrate that the unexpressed argument of a control infinitive corresponds to a subject-like oblique of the passive Obl–V–(XP)
vera hjálpa¶ ‘be helped’ in Icelandic, whereas such correspondence with
the subject-like oblique of geholfen werden in German is impossible (29b,
30b):
(29)
a.
b.
(30)
a.
b.
Icelandic
A¶
vera
hjálpa¶ er gott.7
to pro.dat be.inf helped is good
‘It is good to be helped.’
German
*
Geholfen zu werden
ist
pro.dat helped
to be(come).inf is
Intended meaning: ‘It is nice to be helped.’
angenehm.
agreeable
Icelandic
Ég
vonast til a¶
vera
hjálpa¶.
I.nom hope
for to pro.dat be.inf helped
‘I hope to be helped.’
German
*Ihm/*Er
ho¤t
geholfen zu
him.dat/he.nom hopes pro.dat helped
to
werden.
be(come).inf
Intended meaning: ‘He hopes to be helped.’
Similar examples of conjunction reduction and control constructions in
German are also discussed by Haspelmath (2001), Fischer and Blaszczak
(2001), Fanselow (2002), Sigur¶sson (2002b), Stepanov (2003), Bayer
(2004), Haider (2005) and Wunderlich (to appear).
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
59
On the basis of the examples above, Zaenen et al. conclude that the
subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction is a syntactic subject
in Icelandic but a syntactic object in German (1985: 479). This position is
generally held by the contemporary linguistic community (see for instance
Askedal 2001; Cole et al. 1980; Faarlund 1990, 2001; Sigur¶sson 1989;
Smith 1994, 1996; and many more). The problem with such an analysis
is that the subject-like oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German does not behave particularly like an object. This has been pointed
out by Seefranz-Montag (1983: 166–167), Bar¶dal (1997: 47), Haspelmath (2001: 67–75), Fanselow (2002), Stepanov (2003), Bayer (2004)
and Wunderlich (to appear), and is fleshed out in more detail below.
I now turn to a discussion and presentation of examples involving
reflexivization, conjunction reduction and control, i.e., the three criteria
that have been regarded as subject tests in both Icelandic and German.
I present German data relevant to all three subject tests, data that have
not figured at all in the previous literature on the syntactic properties of
subject-like obliques in German (except in earlier [working] papers of
mine and Eythórsson’s).
4.1.
Reflexivization
In contrast to Haider’s claims, the subject property of clause bound reflexivization in Icelandic and German is not in and of itself that subjects
bind reflexives but rather that subjects must bind reflexives while objects
do so only optionally. This optionality of objects controlling reflexives
holds for both Icelandic and German, shown in (25) above for German,
and does not exist for subjects in neither language:
(31)
a.
Icelandic
Hún i
hræ¶ist sigi /*hanai .
she.nom fears
self.acc/her.acc
b. German
Sie i
fürchtet sichi /*siei
she.nom fears
self.acc/her.acc
‘She fears herself.’ vs.: ‘She fears her.’
Therefore, as evident from the examples in (31), syntactic subjects in Icelandic and German must bind reflexives and cannot bind anaphoric pronouns. The same is also true for subject-like obliques in both languages:
(32)
a.
Icelandic
Honum i falla ı́
him.dat fall
in
sigi /*hanni .
self.acc/him.acc
ge¶
liking
sögur
stories
um
about
60
J. Barðdal
b.
German
Ihm i
gefallen Geschichten über
sichi /*ihni .
him.dat ge-fall
stories
about self.acc/ihm.acc
‘He likes stories about himself.’ vs.: ‘He likes stories about him.’
These examples show that there is in fact a di¤erence between the binding
abilities of subjects and objects and that the subject-like oblique of the
Obl–V–(XP) construction patterns with ordinary nominative subjects
and not objects in both Icelandic and German.
4.2.
Conjunction reduction
With regard to conjunction reduction, another criterion of subjecthood
common to both German and Icelandic, Seefranz-Montag (1983: 167)
shows that the subject-like oblique of ekeln ‘feel disgusted’ can be the unexpressed argument in conjunction reduction, but only if it is omitted on
identity with another subject-like oblique (33a). The same is true for the
subject-like oblique of dürsten ‘thirst’ (34b) and grauen ‘shudder’ (33c).
Conjunction reduction is explicitly discussed as a subject property in
Reis (1982: 190–191), Sigur¶sson (2002b: 694–695), Bayer (2004) and
Wunderlich (to appear).
(33)
German
a. Mich i
schauderte
und
i ekelte.
me.acc felt-horrified and Ø.acc felt-disgusted
‘I felt horrified and disgusted.’
b. Mich i
hungert nach Brot
und
i dürstet
me.acc longs
for
bread and Ø.acc thirsts
Wasser.
water
‘I long for bread and water.’
c. Mir i
wird(’s) schlecht und
i graut(’s)
me.dat is-it
bad
and Ø.dat fear-it
der Zukunft.
the future
‘I feel sick and worry about the future.’
nach
for
vor
for
Compare these examples with a corresponding one where an object is
treated as an antecedent of the unexpressed argument in conjunction
reduction:
(34)
*Ich sah ihni
und
mich nicht.
i sah
I
saw him.acc and Ø.nom saw me
not
Intended meaning: ‘I saw him and he did not see me.’
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
61
This example clearly shows that a nominative subject cannot be left unexpressed in conjunction reduction on identity with an accusative object.
The question arises whether conjunction reduction is perhaps a case test
in German rather than a subject test. Consider the examples below:
(35)
*Er verzieh mir i
und
i graute davor, sein
He forgave me.dat and Ø.dat fear
for
his
Vertrauen zu mißbrauchen.
trust
to misuse
Intended meaning: ‘He forgave me and I am scared of misusing
his trust.’
(Seefranz-Montag 1983: 167)
(36)
*Ich
sah ihn i
und
i hungert.
I.nom saw him.acc and Ø.acc hungers
Intended meaning: ‘I saw him and he was hungry.’
If conjunction reduction were only sensitive to morphological case
irrespective of syntactic relations, obviously the subject-like obliques of
grauen and hungern, respectively (35–36) should have the ability to be
left unexpressed on identity with an object of a preceding clause, provided
that the case marking is the same. Such omission, however, is ungrammatical in German.
Haider (2005: 26–27) points out that topicalized objects can be left unexpressed in a second conjunct as long as both objects are preverbal. This
is shown in (37) below:
(37)
Ihm i
hat kein Rat
geholfen und
i wird
him.dat has no
advice.nom helped
and Ø.dat will
keiner
schaden können.
no-one.nom hurt
can
‘No advice has helped him and no-one will be able to harm (him).’
However, if the subject-like oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction really were an object, it should be omissible if the relevant accusative and
dative objects in (35–36) are preverbal. As shown in (38–39) this is not
borne out in German
(38)
*Mir i verzieh er und
mißbrauchen.
(39)
*Ihn i sah ich und
i
i
graute davor, sein Vertrauen zu
hungert.
Haider further argues that omission in second conjuncts can only be
taken as positive evidence for subject behavior if the subject of the first
conjunct is inverted, i.e., not located in first position. Only then is it
62
J. Barðdal
certain that the examples do not represent fronted object drop (as in [37]
above). However, on the traditional analysis that the nominative in Dat–
V–Nom constructions is a subject, one would certainly expect a nominative subject in a second conjunct to be omissible on identity with such an
(allegedly inverted) nominative in first conjunct. This expectation, however, is not borne out either:
(40)
*Mir gefällt der
Peter i wirklich und
i ist
I.dat ge-falls the.nom Peter really
and Ø.nom is
damit
sehr zufrieden.
with-that very happy
Intended meaning: ‘I really like Peter and (he) is very happy with
that.’
Finally, there are fully acceptable examples of subject-like obliques in
German being left unexpressed on identity with an inverted subject-like
oblique in first conjuncts, despite Haider’s claim to the contrary:
(41)
Deswegen
hungert mich i
nach Brot
because-of-that longs me.acc for
bread
dürstet nach Wasser.
thirsts for
water
‘Because of that I long for bread and water.’
und
and
i
Ø.acc
The examples discussed in this section show that conjunction reduction is
sensitive to both morphological case and syntactic relations in German,
with subject-like obliques of the Obl–V–(XP) construction patterning
with unambiguous subjects but not with unambiguous objects.
4.3.
Control constructions
The last subject test traditionally considered as being valid for both Icelandic and German (and other languages) is the control-infinitive test (cf.
Bayer 2004; Cole et al. 1980; Fanselow 2002; Fischer and Blaszczak 2001;
Haspelmath 2001; Reis 1982: 188–190; Sigur¶sson 1989, 1991, 2002a;
Stepanov 2003; Wunderlich to appear; Zaenen et al. 1985; and others).
As discussed, and shown in (29–30) above, examples of Obl–V–(XP)
constructions embedded under control verbs are always presented as being ungrammatical in German but fully grammatical in Icelandic. However, in spite of their (alleged) ungrammaticality, attested examples of
both active and passive Obl–V–(XP) predicates can be found in control
infinitives in German:
(42)
a.
Hier sind wir noch halb sinnlich, und es ist äusserst naturwidrig,
hier alles verleugnen wollen, was Gott dem physischen Menschen
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
b.
63
zum Labsal und zur Erfrischung hie und da am Pfade unserer
Wallfarth aufgetischt hat: aber den Lebensweg darum pilgern,
um an diesen Erquickungsorten zu schmausen,
das ist so verächtlich, daß man das Auge davon
this is so disgusting, that one the eye
from-it
abwenden muß, um
nicht übel zu
turn
must, in-order pro.dat not
sick to
werden.
be(come).inf
‘Here we are still half sensuous, and it is very much against nature to abstain from everything here that the Lord has served
the physical person for comfort and refreshment here and there
on the path of our pilgrimage: but to take a pilgrimage on the
path of life in order to feast at these rest places, that is so disgusting that one has to turn (the eye) away in order not to feel
sick.’
(home.t-online.de/home/dr.erich. mertens/STILLIN2.htm, 1789)
Häufig ist die gesamte Alltagsbewältigung behinderter Menschen auf Assistenz angewiesen, vom Aufstehen, Waschen, Anziehen über Essen und Bewegen. Die Betro¤enen bauen fast immer ein Vertrauensverhältnis zu ihren Betreuern auf. Potenzielle
Täter nutzen das freundschaftliche Verhältnis häufig aus, um gezielt die Bedürfnisse des behinderten Menschen auszuforschen.
Je größer die Abhängigkeit, umso größer ist die Gefährdung.
Wie soll man Berührungen auch vermeiden, wenn auch die intimsten Handlungen nicht alleine bewerkstellig werden können?
Ein Recht für geistig
wie körperlich behinderte
a
right for mentally as
physically disabled
Frauen,
nur von Frauen bei intimen
women pro.dat only by women at private
Handlungen assistiert zu werden,
gibt
es
in
activities
assisted to be(come).inf exists there in
der Bundesrepublik . . .
nicht.
the Federal-Republic . . . not.
‘In coping with their everyday life, disabled people are often
forced to seek assistance, from the moment they get up, wash,
get dressed and with eating and moving around. These people
almost always build up a relationship of trust with their carers.
Potential o¤enders often take advantage of this friendly relationship with the specific aim to gather information about the
needs of the disabled person. The greater the dependency, the
greater the threat. How is one supposed to avoid contact, if
64
J. Barðdal
c.
d.
even the most personal activities cannot be performed in privacy? The right for mentally and physically disabled women to
only be assisted by women when engaged in private activities
does not exist . . . in Germany.’
(www.freitag.de/2002/45/02450402.php, 2002)
Denn ein Teil dieser Erkenntnisse, die mathematischen, ist im alten Besitze der Zuverlässigkeit, und gibt dadurch eine günstige
Erwartung auch für andere, ob diese gleich von ganz verschiedener Natur sein mögen.
Überdem, wenn man über
den Kreis
der
besides
if
one about the sphere the
Erfahrung hinaus ist, so ist man sicher,
experience over
is, so is one sure pro.dat
durch
Erfahrung nicht widersprochen zu
through experience not
contradicted
to
werden.
be(come).inf
‘Because a part of this knowledge, the mathematical one,
has always possessed reliability, and by means of this it provides
a favorable expectation for others, even though these may be of
a quite di¤erent nature. Besides, if one has left the sphere of experience, one can be certain not to be contradicted by experience.’
(www.gutenberg2000.de/kant/krva/krva003.htm, 1781)
Der ewig läufige Richard Kimble, der dicke Captain Kirk, der
fledermäusige Flatterheini Batman—sie alle kamen zurück.
Sogar den ollen Zossen Black Beauty ließ man letztens noch
einmal ein paar Pferdeäpfel auf die Leinwand abseilen, bevor er
zu seiner letzten Autogrammstunde in die Freibank trabte. Aber
warum klappt das TV-Recycling ei[g]entlich nur im Ausland?
‘‘Mission: Impossible’’ wird ein Mega-Hit auf der ganzen
Welt—aber wo bleibt zum Beispiel ‘‘MS-Franziska—Der
Film’’? Oder ‘‘Manni, der Libero, returns’’?
Haben wir Deutschen etwa keine weggeworfenen
have
we Germans part non
away-thrown
Serien, die
es wert wären,
series, which it worthy were pro.dat
wiederverwertet und nostalgisch
gehuldigt zu
re-used
and nostalgically embraced to
werden?
be(come).inf
‘Richard Kimble, constantly on heat, the fat Captain Kirk, the
bat-like flibbertigibbet Batman—they all returned. They even
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
65
had the old hackney Black Beauty drop some dung one last
time on the movie screen recently, before it trotted to its last
autograph session at the shambles. But why does TV recycling
only work abroad? ‘‘Mission: Impossible’’ has become a worldwide mega-hit—but where, for example, is ‘‘MS-Franziska—
the Movie’’? Or ‘‘Manni, the Fullback, returns’’? Don’t we Germans have any comic series down the drain which are worthy of
being put to good use again and embraced nostalgically?’
(www.bei-gertrud.de/ok/klw_9618.html, 1996)
The examples in (42) contain the infinitive form of the passive Obl–V–
(XP) predicates assistiert werden ‘be assisted,’ widersprechen werden ‘be
contradicted,’ gehuldigt werden ‘be embraced’ and the infinitive of the
active Obl–V–(XP) predicate, übel sein ‘feel sick.’ These predicates standardly occur in the Obl–V–(XP) construction and not in the nominative
subject construction in German, so the unexpressed argument corresponds to a subject-like oblique and not a nominative subject. The examples in (42) therefore show that the subject-like oblique of Obl–V–(XP)
predicates in German shares this particular property—the ability to be
left unexpressed in control infinitives—with nominative subjects, despite
claims to the contrary in the literature. Moreover, I have searched for
control infinitives of approximately 100 types of active and passive Obl–
V–(XP) predicates on the World Wide Web and found examples of at
least fifteen types, of which the oldest one is from 1781 ad (42c). A similar
search on Icelandic web sites has also revealed that only a fraction of all
Obl–V–(XP) predicates in Icelandic are found as being embedded under
control verbs in texts on the World Wide Web.
There are, however, several questions that arise at this point:
–
–
–
–
Are the passive examples in (42) above of Obl–V–(XP) predicates embedded under control verbs really passive Obl–V–(XP) predicates in
the language of these particular speakers and not, say, nominative
passives?
Are the examples at all representative of German, given that they
were found on the World Wide Web and need therefore not manifest
the competence of native German speakers?
How do we know that these examples aren’t just ‘‘on-line performance errors?’’
Is the ability to be left unexpressed in control infinitives really a subject property and not a property of objects?
I will now go systematically through the facts related to these questions.
To begin, consider the following examples:
66
(43)
(44)
J. Barðdal
a.
*Er i
verzieh mirj
he.nom forgave me.dat
helfen.
help.inf
b. *Er i
verzieh mirj
he.nom forgave me.dat
helfen.
help.inf
Intended meaning: ‘He forgave
a.
*Ihm i
gefällt
him.dat ge-falls
b. *Ihm i
gefällt
him.dat ge-falls
Intended meaning: ‘He
statt
instead-of
pro.nom
statt
instead-of
eri
he.nom
i
j zu
Ø.dat to
j zu
Ø.dat to
me instead of helping me.’
es
i
i zu
it pro.nom Ø.dat to
es eri
i zu
it he.nom Ø.dat to
likes to help himself.’
helfen.
help.inf
helfen.
help.inf
Examples (43–44) illustrate that an unambiguous dative object cannot be
left unexpressed in a control infinitive on identity with a dative object of
a preceding clause (43), or on identity with a subject-like oblique of the
Obl–V–(XP) construction (44), neither instead of the subject (a) nor in
parallel with it (b). This is not only true for languages in general, as far
as I am aware, but also for those of my German informants who accepted
the control infinitives in (42) above (see below). Therefore, since the ability to be left unexpressed in control infinitives does not apply to objects
but only to subjects, it is clear that the subject-like obliques of the Obl–
V–(XP) construction pattern with unambiguous subjects and not with
unambiguous objects.
Several of my German discussants, when shown examples like the ones
in (42) out of context, have not accepted them as good German. This is of
course in line with the fact that sentences like those in (29–30) have been
presented as ungrammatical in the literature. I have therefore only included here examples which I feel reasonably sure are formulated by
native German speakers and left out a number of examples which are
clearly phrased by non-native speakers. That does, however, not exclude
the possibility that these sentences may be ‘‘performance errors.’’ This of
course raises the fundamental question of how to distinguish between performance errors and marginally acceptable data. This question is particularly meaningful given the fact that one person’s marginalia is probably
other people’s performance errors (cf. Bar¶dal and Eythórsson 2005).
On a closer inspection, it turns out that several of the relevant examples
are phrased by creative writers, academics and journalists, and are found
in literary texts, academic prose, biographies and newspapers. Example
(42a) is from a lecture given by Prof. Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling in
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
67
1789, entitled Rede über den Werth der Leiden (‘Lecture on the significance of su¤ering’). Example (42c) is from the famous philosopher,
Immanuel Kant, and his earlier edition of Kritik der reinen Vernunft (‘Critique of pure reason’) from 1781. Example (42b) is formulated by a political sociologist and occurs in a text published in the weekly newspaper
Freitag ‘Friday.’ And there are more examples of Obl–V–(XP) predicates
embedded under control verbs occurring in texts composed by the literate
section of the German population. Since many of my examples go completely unnoticed when presented in context to native speakers, they
hardly qualify as ‘‘performance errors’’ or ‘‘stylistic jokes,’’ but deserve
to be taken seriously as genuine examples of a highly infrequent usage
pattern.8
It has been repeatedly pointed out for Modern Icelandic that Obl–V–
(XP) constructions embedded under control predicates are extremely rare
in language use and that a huge corpus is needed to find them (Bar¶dal
2000a: 102; Bar¶dal and Eythórsson 2003b: 461, 2005: 5; Eythórsson
and Bar¶dal 2005: 837–838; Rögnvaldsson 1991: 372, 1996: 50). I myself
have only been able to find such examples on the World Wide Web. Recent research on corpora has shown that the World Wide Web can be regarded as a representative language corpus, despite the fact that it is both
unbalanced and uncontrolled for. Keller et al. (2002) and Keller and Lapata (2003) have shown that there exists a positive correlation between
frequency and acceptability judgments in that the more frequent a
lexical-syntactic combination is in the British National Corpus (BNC),
the higher it is rated in acceptability by native speakers. And vice versa,
that infrequent lexical-syntactic combinations are judged less acceptable by native speakers. Keller and Lapata (2003) compared two di¤erent
corpora with the World Wide Web and found that the correlation is
strongest for the Web. They interpret their findings in such a way that
the Web is in fact the best corpus to use when searching for lowfrequency marginally-acceptable data, and that the gigantic size of the
Web compensates for the fact that it is both unbalanced and uncontrolled
for. It thus seems clear that if Obl–V–(XP) constructions can only marginally embed under control predicates in German, the best chances of
finding such examples are on the World Wide Web, since it is the largest
language corpus available to us.9
With a corpus of the size of the Web, together with a qualitative assessment of the texts from which the examples are extracted, one would think
that the reliability of my control-infinitive examples has been firmly established. However, in order to eliminate any remaining uncertainty, I have
systematically run a questionnaire survey, as a part of a larger investigation (cf. Bar¶dal and Eythórsson 2005 and Eythórsson and Bar¶dal 2005),
68
J. Barðdal
containing examples of the kind in (42), with native German speakers. All
the examples used in the questionnaire were presented in context, and in
order to avoid priming e¤ects, either negative or positive, each participant was only confronted with three examples. The participants were
asked to read the text and state: (i) whether the text represents idiomatic
German, (ii) how they felt about the particular infinitive in question, and
(iii) whether the non-finite verb is a dative-assigning verb in their language or not (see Appendix).10 The survey took place simultaneously in
four German-speaking cities, Bochum, Jena, Saarbrücken and Vienna,
with 130 native-speaker participants who were either students of German
or English at their respective universities. All answers that were incomplete with regard to the second and/or the third question were omitted
from the statistics (as such an incompleteness makes it uncertain whether
these particular speakers use the predicates in the Obl–V–(XP) construction or not), leaving behind 336 observations. The examples in the questionnaire were twelve in total, representing eight di¤erent Obl–V–(XP)
predicates, including three of the examples in (42). The remaining nine
examples are listed, and numbered consecutively, in the Appendix
below. From the answers, a three-point judgment scale emerged, i.e.,
good/OK, strange/awkward and bad/wrong. The results are presented in
Table 3 (with numbers referring to the examples in this article and in the
Appendix).
The figures in Table 3 show clearly that Obl–V–(XP) constructions,
when embedded under control predicates, are judged acceptable by a
Table 3. Native-speaker judgments of attested examples of control infinitives in German
good/OK
42b
42c
42d
A1
A2
A3
A4
A5
A6
A7
A8
A9
strange
bad/wrong
Total
N
%
N
%
N
%
N
%
assistiert zu werden
widersprochen zu werden
gehuldigt zu werden
übel zu werden
widersprochen zu werden
vergeben zu werden
widersprochen zu werden
geholfen zu werden
gefolgt zu werden
widersprochen zu werden
gekündigt zu werden
geholfen zu werden
11
6
16
2
2
5
6
4
10
4
19
9
34.4
21.4
64.0
6.2
6.6
20.0
19.4
12.5
38.5
13.8
86.4
36.0
5
5
1
3
3
2
8
2
2
4
2
5
15.6
17.9
4.0
9.4
10.0
8.0
25.8
6.3
7.7
13.8
9.1
20.0
16
17
8
27
25
18
17
26
14
21
1
11
50.0
60.7
32.0
84.4
83.4
72.0
54.8
81.2
53.8
72.4
4.5
44.0
32
28
25
32
30
25
31
32
26
29
22
25
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
100
Total
94
28.0
42
12.5
200
59.5
336
100
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
69
part of the German population in spite of their alleged ungrammaticality.
The acceptability rates range from 6.2–86.4 percent, depending on the
verb. In fact, the statistical di¤erences between the examples are highly
significant ( p < 0:000), suggesting that there may be lexical restrictions
on which Obl–V–(XP) predicates are accepted as embedded under control verbs in German.11 The verb kündigen ‘dismiss’ (example [8] in Appendix) is most widely accepted, then huldigen ‘embrace’, then folgen ‘follow’ ([5] in Appendix), helfen ‘help’ ([9] in Appendix) and assistieren
‘assist.’ The token frequency of these lexemes from the Mannheim corpus
was measured against the acceptability rates and no correlation was
found. It therefore seems that token frequency can be ruled out as a possible factor a¤ecting Obl–V–(XP) predicates’ ability to be embedded in
control constructions in German.
The figures in Table 3 give the judgments of those German speakers
who claim that they use these verbs with a subject-like oblique and not a
nominative subject. There may of course be some German speakers who
use the passive verbs in the nominative subject construction. However,
this investigation only takes into consideration speakers who explicitly
claim that they use these passive verbs in the Obl–V–(XP) construction.
Hence, the unexpressed syntactic subject in the examples in (42) above
and the Appendix must correspond to a subject-like oblique and not a
nominative subject, at least for these speakers (see also Bar¶dal and Eythórsson 2005: 8–10 and Eythórsson and Bar¶dal 2005: 854 for examples
showing that both Immanuel Kant and H. J. Jung Stilling used widersprechen werden and übel werden consistently with a subject-like oblique and
not a nominative subject).12
Further statistical analysis of the responses reveals that there is a correlation between acceptability rates and the participants’ field of study at
university, in that the German majors were much less accepting of the examples above than the other group of students. This is shown in Table 4.
The correlation between acceptability and field of study at university is
highly significant ( p < 0:000). The chances are only one against 1,000 that
Table 4.
Acceptability rates across field of study at university
good/OK
strange
bad/wrong
Total
N
%
N
%
N
%
N
%
English
German
53
41
38.1
20.8
23
19
16.5
9.6
63
137
45.3
69.5
139
197
100
100
Total
94
28.0
42
12.5
200
59.5
336
100
70
J. Barðdal
this is due to coincidence. There are several possible explanations for this.
One relates to the fact that the survey was administrated by the students’
university professors, which for the German majors means that they were
not only being ‘‘tested’’ in their own subject but also by the professors in
that subject. The German majors may therefore have felt more pressure to
answer ‘‘correct’’ than the other group. Another explanation is that the
German majors (who were advanced students) may perhaps have been
exposed to more language prescriptivism during their studies than the English majors (who were beginners), and may thus be inclined to be as
strict (or perhaps even stricter) in their judgments than normative prescriptive standards require.
The more observant reader may have noticed that there is a clear difference in acceptability between the two examples of geholfen werden in
Table 3 above, a di¤erence which is statistically significant ( p < :014).
This means that lexical restrictions do not explain all the variation found
within the data set. However, the variation can be shown to be related to
the text registers’ degree of formality. A three-point scale turned out to be
su‰ciently di¤erentiated to capture this variance: (i) an informal register
(message boards, chat rooms, etc.), (ii) a formal register (philosophical
texts, sociopolitical texts, etc.) and (iii) a third category of texts which
showed mixed properties between formal and informal registers (popular
texts of elevated style, for instance). The results are given in Table 5.
The table shows that while 41.4 percent of the examples from the
formal texts were judged acceptable, only 6.5 percent of the examples belonging to the informal registers were judged equally acceptable. Also,
while only 44 percent of the examples from the formal register were rejected a whole 84 percent of the examples from the informal register
were rejected. This di¤erence is statistically significant ( p < 0:000), showing that the more formal the text is the higher the chances are that native
speakers will accept the control infinitives, and the less formal the text is
the higher the chances are that native speakers will reject them.
Table 5. Acceptability rates across registers
good/OK
strange
bad/wrong
Total
N
%
N
%
N
%
N
%
Informal register
Mixed register
Formal register
4
35
55
6.5
24.8
41.4
6
17
19
9.7
12.1
14.3
52
89
59
83.9
63.1
44.4
62
141
133
100
100
100
Total
94
28.0
42
12.5
200
59.5
336
100
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
71
This correlation could mean that in reality the participants were only
rating the acceptability/formality of the register, as formal texts are in
more conformity with prescriptive norms of standard High German. Several of the participants who accepted the examples above claimed that the
occurrence of Obl–V–(XP) constructions in control infinitives is highly
colloquial and not accepted in standard High German. However, there
is an alternative explanation to this correlation, namely that there may
be some very subtle semantic, pragmatic or grammatical restrictions on
whether and how Obl–V–(XP) predicates embed under control verbs in
German, and if so these restrictions are perhaps violated most in the informal colloquial registers (cf. the discussion on the Icelandic examples
in [46] below), resulting in lower acceptability rates for the informal registers. Marginal constructions in general are presumably subject to extensive restrictions, irrespective of the construction type and the language in
question.
Yet another factor that may influence the acceptability of German control infinitives is the category of the controller, i.e., the argument that the
unexpressed subject-like oblique is omitted on identity with. In two out of
twelve examples, the subject-like oblique is left unexpressed on identity
with a nominative first person pronoun in the preceding clause, in two
cases on identity with an argument retrievable on the basis of the context,
in two cases on identity with an indefinite, generic man ‘one,’ in two cases
on identity with a nominative noun, in one example on identity with a
PP, and in three instances on identity with a relative pronoun. The distinction made here between nominative personal pronouns and nominative nouns is motivated by the fact that only pronouns are case marked
in German, not nouns (cf. the discussion around the examples in [52] below). The relation between acceptability judgments and the category of
the controller is given in Table 6.
Table 6.
Acceptability rates across categories of controllers
good/OK
strange
bad/wrong
Total
N
%
N
%
N
%
N
%
Nominative pronoun
Contextual reference
Generic man
Nominative noun
Prepositional phrase
Relative pronoun
4
8
11
16
11
44
6.4
13.3
20.8
28.1
34.4
61.1
6
6
7
10
5
8
9.7
10.0
13.2
17.5
15.6
11.1
52
46
35
31
16
20
83.9
76.7
66.0
54.4
50.0
27.8
62
60
53
57
32
72
100
100
100
100
100
100
Total
94
28.0
42
12.5
200
59.5
336
100
72
J. Barðdal
The figures in Table 6 show that there is a clear correlation between
how acceptable the control infinitives are and the category of the controller. Subject-like obliques left unexpressed on identity with a nominative
personal pronoun in the preceding clause are absolutely judged worst,
while those left unexpressed on identity with a relative pronoun are
judged best, with the other four categories falling in between, in an ascending order ( p < 0:000).
Observe also that all the examples discussed above, with the possible exception of (42a), contain fairly stative or non-agentive control predicates,
like ‘be worthy of,’ ‘have the feeling,’ ‘feel certain,’ etc. Verbs like ‘promise,’
or ‘hope to’ for that matter, do not seem to be among the control verbs
which embed the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German language use.
Needless to say, I am not questioning the grammaticality judgments of
the German control-infinitive examples in (29b) and (30b) above that have
been extensively discussed and refuted in the literature. The claim made
by Cole et al. (1980), Reis (1982), Zaenen et al. (1985) and others that the
subject-like oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction cannot be left unexpressed in control infinitives in German is certainly not taken out of
the blue. Note, though, that in (30b) the controller is a nominative personal pronoun and in (29b) it is retrievable on the basis of the context,
i.e., the two most dispreferred identity relations. Nevertheless, the examples presented here show that Obl–V–(XP) predicates may well occur
in control infinitives with the unexpressed argument corresponding to
the subject-like oblique, and facts of German are therefore more
nuanced than hitherto believed. At the moment, the restrictions and nonrestrictions on the occurrence of Obl–V–(XP) predicates in control constructions in German are far from clear, and I believe that this topic is
worthy of a paper of its own. We do know, however, that this ability
may be verb dependent in German, register dependent, controller dependent, or all three. Moreover, those of the participants who stated their
reason for not accepting the examples in the questionnaire survey claimed
that it was because the subject-like oblique must be overt in their language. I return to this topic in Section 6 below.
4.4.
Conclusion
My examination in this section has shown that the behavior of the
subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and
German is quite similar. In fact it is more similar than expected on
the analysis that it is a subject in Icelandic and an object in German.
The comparison above also shows that the di¤erences between Icelandic
and German have been grossly overestimated, calling into question the
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
73
established view that Icelandic and German belong to two widely distinct
typological classes of languages with Obl–V–(XP) constructions.
I have also shown that the three tests which have been regarded as subject tests for both Icelandic and German, the ability to control reflexives,
deletion in conjunction reduction and control infinitives, are not confined
to nominative subject arguments in German as hitherto assumed and argued in the literature. Instead, Obl–V–(XP) predicates must control reflexives (as opposed to anaphors) in both Icelandic and German, they
can be left unexpressed in second conjuncts in German provided that it
is on identity with another subject-like oblique, and they can marginally
occur in control constructions in German.
There are thus only three eminent di¤erences between Icelandic and
German: First, the Obl–V–(XP) construction cannot occur in telegraphic
style in German, while such examples are grammatical in Icelandic. Second, Conjunction reduction is sensitive to both syntactic relations and
morphological case in German, while in Icelandic it is only sensitive to
syntactic relations. Third, there are some restrictions on the occurrence
of Obl–V–(XP) predicates in control constructions in German, restrictions which do not seem to exist in Icelandic, at least not according to
the previous literature on this topic. However, as I discuss in Section 6 below, it is not possible to embed all Obl–V–(XP) constructions under all
control predicates in Icelandic either. It therefore seems that the object
analysis of the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction in
German is problematic in, at least, four respects:
–
–
–
–
The object analysis is not based on enough research on the syntactic
behavior of the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction
in German.
The object analysis is based on a selective choice of subject criteria
and not founded on principle.
The object analysis is not based on a comparison of the actual behavior of syntactic objects; thus syntactic objecthood is treated as a dustbin category.
The object analysis makes wrong predictions about the syntactic behavior of the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction
since it does not behave as a canonical object.
The problem which arises is that irrespective of whether the subject-like
oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German is analyzed as a subject or an object, as the terms are defined within most current syntactic
theories, it will make false predictions about its behavior. Arguing that
the subject-like oblique is a subject predicts that it can freely occur in control infinitives and conjunction reduction, as is the case with ordinary
74
J. Barðdal
nominative subjects. However, analyzing it as an object predicts that it
should not occur at all in these constructions. Thus, the data presented
here show that the subject tests cannot even be consistently applied within
the same language, as di¤erent tests will yield di¤erent results for di¤erent
argument structure constructions. This general fact is of course well
known in the literature on grammatical relations, although it has not
been taken seriously so far. Radical Construction Grammar, on the other
hand, not only acknowledges this but takes it as its point of departure.
At this juncture, it should be mentioned that it has recently been suggested that the subject-like oblique of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in
Russian and other languages that display similar constructions is neither
a syntactic object nor an oblique subject, but rather a so-called I-nominal,
which is taken to equate an indirect object (Moore and Perlmutter 2000:
375). Sigur¶sson in his work (2002b: 695) also states that ‘‘German
subject-like non-nominatives seem to be best analyzed as I-nominals.’’
The problem I have with this analysis is that the subject-like oblique of
the Obl–V–(XP) construction is assigned a status similar to that of indirect objects without it being established at all that it behaves as an indirect object. In fact, there are examples in Moore and Perlmutter’s article
which show that their I-nominals do not behave as indirect objects at all
(2000: 379–380), thus their analysis is ad-hoc, not even warranted by the
data they present themselves. Also, on this account, the category of Inominals is no more appropriate than that of objects since it is not independently defined either, but is a dustbin category.
The Icelandic and German facts discussed in this section can easily
be accounted for in a non-reductionist construction grammar, i.e., in a
theory of grammar which does not reduce syntactic structure to primitive
atomic units, but takes the clausal construction to be the basic unit in a
grammatical description. Such an approach aims at giving a description
of language which captures generalizations, not only at the most abstract
schematic level of description, but also lower-level generalizations. In that
way, we are not forced to either make broad generalizations, which abstract away from irregularity, or to only generalize about a small subset
of the data. Radical Construction Grammar, together with the usagebased and the network models of grammar, provides us with the tool to
capture generalizations at all levels. I now turn to a RCG solution to the
problem addressed in this article.
5.
Radical construction grammar
Radical Construction Grammar is a variant theory of Construction
Grammar designed to deal with the typological diversity of constructions
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
75
across languages (cf. Croft 2001). It rejects the idea that grammatical
relations and parts of speech are universals as such but instead it takes
semantic and symbolic structure to represent the universals underlying seemingly compatible constructions in di¤erent languages. On this
approach, constructions are language specific and thus, grammatical relations and parts of speech are not only language specific but also construction specific. Consequently, notions of grammatical relations and
parts of speech cannot be transferred from one language description to
another, since each language consists of its own inventory of constructions and relations between constructions. This of course does not prevent
constructions, in genetically or areally related languages, from being identifiable as formal and semantic analogs of each other, as is the case with
the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Germanic. It only precludes us from
transferring facts about a construction in one language to the description
of an equivalent construction in another language.
Radical Construction Grammar aims at representing language and
grammar in a typologically and psycholinguistically realistic way. It is a
usage-based full entry model in which redundant information about
constructions is stored at all levels (cf. Goldberg 1995: 74; Langacker
1988, 2000). Radical Construction Grammar makes use of taxonomic
links in the constructional hierarchy (Croft 2001: 25–29, Croft and Cruse
2004: 283–289), which in essence means two things. First, utterances
are instantiations of di¤erent (parental) constructions, so mir ist kalt in
(1b) above is both an instance of the Obl–V–(XP) argument structure
construction and the ordinary Active declarative construction. Second,
constructions are stored at di¤erent levels of schematicity, ranging
from highly schematic skeletal constructions to concrete lexically- and
semantically-filled instantiations, with various intermediate levels of schematicity in between the two (cf. Bar¶dal 2001a, 2006/2007; Croft 2003).
This is a consequence of speakers’ ability to organize constructions into
categories, exactly as all other linguistic entities.
Radical Construction Grammar is a non-reductionist theory which
takes the clausal construction as a whole to be the primitive of language
and thus takes all other categories, such as syntactic roles and parts of
speech, to be derived from the whole. Radical Construction Grammar
does away with syntactic relations, and posits instead syntactic roles,
semantic relations and symbolic relations.
More generally, semantic relations correspond grossly to argument
linking rules in other current theories, symbolic relations correspond
grossly to general semantic interpretation rules, whereas syntactic roles
correspond to syntactic relations. Constructions are, moreover, formally
accounted for by specifying a semantic/functional level (SEM-part) and
76
J. Barðdal
Figure 3. The semantic and symbolic relations between the parts of a construction
Figure 4. Part–whole relations vs. part–part relations
a syntactic/formal level (SYN-part). The semantic relations hold between
the components of the SEM-part. The symbolic relations (cf. Langacker
1987, 1991) hold between the SYN-part and the SEM-part of a construction, and between the individual elements of the SYN-part and the individual components of the SEM-part. This can be illustrated as in Figure
3, where the dashed lines, labeled s, stand for the symbolic relations between the individual elements and components of the SYN- and the
SEM-parts and between the SYN- and the SEM-parts as a whole. The
solid line, labeled r, stands for the semantic relation holding between the
components of the SEM-part.
There is, however, a fundamental di¤erence between syntactic roles and
syntactic relations. The notion of syntactic relations entails that there is a
direct relation between two syntactic elements of an utterance (part–part
relation), whereas the notion of syntactic roles entail that there is a relation between one part of an utterance to the utterance as a whole (part–
whole relation) (cf. Kay 1997). This is illustrated in Figure 4.
The larger boxes represent ordinary argument structure constructions,
labeled C, whereas the smaller boxes represent the parts. The leftmost
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
77
figure illustrates that a part a has a certain role or function in the construction C as a whole, whereas the rightmost figure illustrates that there
is a relation between parts a and b, irrespective of the construction C
which the parts instantiate. The leftmost figure gives the Radical Construction Grammar view of grammatical relations (as syntactic roles),
while the rightmost figure illustrates the traditional view of grammatical
relations (as syntactic relations).
More specifically, the Transitive construction has two arguments and
a verb, thus it has three parts: A, B and C. How do we know what the
grammatical relations between these parts are? In most current theories
it is assumed that the relations are as follows: [A [B–C]], where B is the
predicate, C is the object and A is the subject. The only problem with
this analysis is that it is based on semantic grounds and not syntactic.
Consider the following possibility: [[A–B] C]. How do we know which
two parts belong closer together syntactically than the others? We cannot
derive the answer to this question with the aid of syntax, but only with
the aid of semantics (cf. Croft 2001: ch. 4). Therefore, since this information can be derived from the semantic and the symbolic structure, it does
not need to be represented in the syntax. The word order of an ordinary
argument linking construction is captured by assuming part–whole relations as the following: [[A]–[B]–[C]]. The utmost square brackets represent the construction as a whole, and the inner square brackets around
each part represent that it is a part within this whole. Thus, part–whole
relations is all that is needed to represent the internal order of the elements, together with an inventory of the constructions of the language,
and the categorization mechanism required to recognize the parts across
related constructions.
Radical Construction Grammar assumes that the behavior of the parts
of a construction is specific to, and thus specified for, each construction.
This is a consequence of the fact that in real language use parts of a specific construction only occur in constructions and not in isolation. Thus,
grammatical relations like the subject and the object relation cannot be
defined irrespective of constructions. They are construction specific and
are thus best accounted for as syntactic roles. This is supported by the
fact that the so-called ‘‘subject tests’’ only measure a certain syntactic argument’s occurrence and behavior in language-specific constructions (as
the subject tests are themselves constructions of their own).
Abstracting away from di¤erent technical definitions across frameworks, the underlying assumption within most current linguistic theories
is that a label like ‘‘subject’’ entails a relation between the so-called subject and the predicate, and a label like ‘‘object’’ entails a relation between
the verb and the object, i.e., part–part relations. However, since Radical
78
J. Barðdal
Figure 5. The behavior of the parts across di¤erent constructions
Construction Grammar only employs part–whole relations and not part–
part relations the syntactic representation within RCG di¤ers drastically
from these. Subjects and objects, within Radical Construction Grammar,
are syntactic roles and thus di¤erent kinds of relations, which emphasize
the language-specific and construction-specific properties of utterances
(and will thus be represented with upper-level letters in the remainder of
this article). This entails that an ordinary Intransitive active declarative
clause construction has a Verb and a Subject, and in languages like German and Icelandic the Subject precedes the Verb in the linear order. For
the Topicalization construction and the Question construction in Icelandic and German, however, the Subject and the Verb invert with each
other. This word order is independently specified for these constructions.
Therefore, if a speaker knows his/her language, s/he also knows the inventory of constructions in that language, and how the constructions are
related to each other, including how the various parts can be identified
across constructions. This can be illustrated as in Figure 5.
Therefore, in a grammar consisting of an inventory of constructions,
together with specifications on how the constructions are related to each
other and how the various parts behave in these constructions, the behavior of the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German
can easily be accounted for. Such an account would contain a link from
the relevant predicates, like grauen ‘fear’ and gefallen ‘like, be to sb’s liking, to please,’ to the Obl–V–(XP) argument structure construction and
then a link from that argument structure construction to the various
word order and sentence type constructions they can instantiate. The
same holds for the Nominative subject construction. The verbs occurring
in that construction are linked to it, like for instance the simple verb kommen ‘come,’ with a subsequent link to the various word order and sentence type constructions.
The di¤erence between the Obl–V–(XP) and the Nominative subject
construction is that their distribution in certain Coordinating, Control
and Telegraphic style constructions is not the same. In this way, Radical
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
79
Figure 6. The distribution pattern of a network representation
Construction Grammar can accurately model the linguistic knowledge of
German speakers without postulating either universal grammatical relations, or even language-specific grammatical relations, which wrongly
predict that the behavior of the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP)
construction should either be identical to the nominative of the Nominative subject construction, or be like that of Objects. Such a model is illustrated in Figure 6 for German.
In a network model, the general property of the Nominative subject
construction, to occur in all kinds of sentence type constructions, is
captured by a link between the Nominative construction and these
constructions. Thus, this broad generalization is captured by links in the
model. The lower-level generalization, that a certain subclass of predicates in German occurs with an Oblique Subject, is captured by a link between these predicates and the Obl–V–(XP) construction. Moreover, the
subject-like behaviors of the subject-like oblique, such as the property to
invert with the verb, to control reflexivization, etc. are captured with relevant links. Conversely, the lack of prototypical subject behavior is captured by not positing a link between the Obl–V–(XP) construction and
the ordinary Control and Conjunction reduction constructions. The fact
that conjunction reduction seems to be sensitive to both syntactic roles
and morphological case is captured by a weak link (dashed lines) from
the Obl–V–(XP) construction to, not the Conjunction reduction construction itself, but to a subconstruction of it involving a subject-like
oblique. Figure 7 is a detail of Figure 6, showing the two subconstructions
of the Conjunction reduction construction, i.e., the Nominative subject
80
J. Barðdal
Figure 7. The Conjunction reduction construction and its subconstructions in German
construction and the Obl–V–(XP) construction, which are partially
instantiated by di¤erent verbs in German. Verbs occurring in the Nominative subject argument structure construction occur in the leftmost subconstruction whereas verbs selecting for the Obl–V–(XP) argument structure construction occur in the rightmost subconstruction in Figure 7.
Returning to Figure 6, the bold-faced box around the Nominative subject construction shows that this construction is more entrenched (in the
sense of Bybee 1985, 1995, 2001; Bybee and Thompson 1997; Langacker
1988, 2000) in the minds of speakers than the Obl–V–(XP) construction,
as more verbs occur in it than in the Obl–V–(XP) construction. Thus,
generalizations across constructions, both general and lower level, are
captured by the network model and links between constructions. A model
of the grammar of Icelandic speakers would be similar to the one illustrated in the figures above for German speakers except that the links
that are weak or missing in German are present in Icelandic. To exemplify, consider Figure 8 below. Since omission in second conjuncts in
Icelandic is not restricted to predicates having the same morphological
case on the Subject, no subconstructions need to be modeled. Instead, the
highest schematic construction, with no restrictions on the morphological
case of the Subject, captures the facts of conjunction reduction in Icelandic.
Figure 8. The conjunction reduction construction in Icelandic
On a Radical Construction Grammar account nominative arguments of
the Nominative subject construction and subject-like obliques of the
Obl–V–(XP) construction are both analyzed as Subjects, as the behavior
of the subject-like oblique is in fact much more similar to the nominative
of the Nominative subject construction than the accusative or the dative
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
81
of Nom–V–Acc or Nom–V–Dat constructions in both Icelandic and
German, although the category of subject in RCG is based on construction-specific behavioral properties, and is neither a universal nor a language-specific category.
The fact that the distribution of the Obl–V–(XP) argument structure
construction across sentence-type constructions in German di¤ers from
the distribution of the Nominative subject construction in German and
Icelandic and from the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic confirms
that an approach like that of Radical Construction Grammar is prompt.
It is needed to adequately account for the fact that there are subject-like
non-nominative arguments of specific argument structure constructions
in certain languages which neither behave fully like ordinary subjects of
these languages nor like objects. This is achieved by abandoning, not
only the postulation that grammatical relations are universal, but also
the postulation that there is a uniform subject category across argument
structure constructions within one and the same language. Moreover, the
dichotomy between subjects and objects is departed from without that
leading to a need to stipulate additional categories of the type found for
instance in Relational Grammar, labeled I-nominals by Moore and Perlmutter (2000). In this sense, the present account is not only more parsimonious than the RG account but it is also descriptively more accurate
than that. It is also descriptively more accurate than the LFG account
suggested by Zaenen et al. (1985) and the GB account argued for by
Sigur¶sson (1989), since both of these assign object status to the subjectlike oblique. Moreover, the various theoretical explications recently
suggested by Fanselow (2002), Stepanov (2003), Bayer (2004), Haider
(2005) and Wunderlich (to appear) have not led either to the empirical insights gained by the present study, namely that Obl–V–(XP) predicates
can indeed restrictively occur in both Conjunction reduction and Control
constructions in German.
6. The more extensive question
One of the main empirical results of the research presented in this article
is that the di¤erence in the distribution/behavior of the subject-like
oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German is
much smaller than predicted by theories that posit universal categories
of subjects and objects. In fact, my comparison has revealed that the similarities are greater than the di¤erences: Subject-like obliques in both languages occur in first position in ordinary Active declarative clause constructions and in Subordinate clause constructions, and both invert with
the verb in the Topicalization construction, assuming that function and
82
J. Barðdal
intonation can be used to di¤erentiate between the two in German (see
Section 3.1). Subject-like obliques in both languages are ‘‘raised’’ to subject in ‘‘subject-to-subject raising,’’ both can be embedded under certain
‘‘subject-to-object raising’’ verbs and both must control clause-bound reflexivization. In neither language does the subject-like oblique carry nominative case or control verb agreement, nor can Obl–V–(XP) predicates
occur in the Imperative construction.
The di¤erences found between the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German thus only involve conjunction reduction, certain control
infinitives, and occurrences in telegraphic style. I have, furthermore, illustrated that conjunction reduction is sensitive to both morphological case
and syntactic roles, and thus that the subject-like oblique of an Obl–V–
(XP) predicate can correspond to the argument left unexpressed in second
conjuncts on identity with the first Subject given that they have the same
morphological case. I have also presented examples of Obl–V–(XP) predicates occurring in control constructions, examples which demonstrate beyond doubt that, at least for some German speakers, subject-like obliques
can be left unexpressed on various types of identity relations. Thus, there
is no motivation for analyzing the relevant Icelandic subject-like obliques
as subjects and the German ones as objects. It is more natural to analyze
them as Oblique Subjects as they fill the syntactic role of Subject in Obl–
V–(XP) constructions in both Icelandic and German. Having established
that, a more extensive question that arises is why the distribution of Obl–
V–(XP) predicates across sentence types should be more restricted in
German than in Icelandic, given the structural and lexical similarities of
the two languages.
To the best of my knowledge, the most prominent answer to this question found in the literature so far has been that one is a subject and the
other is an object.13 This analysis has been put forth only at the cost
of the behavioral similarities between the Nominative Subject and the
Oblique Subject in German. Therefore, a Radical Construction Grammar
solution, in which the similarities, as well as the di¤erences, in the behavior of the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German are acknowledged, generates di¤erent kind of research
questions and di¤erent answers. I now turn to these questions.
The first question is what the constructions, in which the behavior of
the Oblique Subjects in Icelandic and German di¤er, have in common.
Consider the overview in Table 7. The di¤erence between the constructions numbered 1–6 and those numbered 7–10 is that the last four
are all ‘‘elliptic’’ in the sense that the Subject is left unexpressed. The
question is thus whether it isn’t a descriptively more adequate generalization to claim that the di¤erence between Icelandic and German is not one
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
Table 7.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
83
Syntactic similarities and di¤erences in the behavior of Oblique Subjects in Icelandic and German
First position in declarative clauses
Subject-verb inversion
First position in subordinate clauses
Subject-to-object raising
Subject-to-subject raising
Reflexivization
Conjunction reduction
Control infinitives
Deletion in telegraphic style
Deletion in imperatives
Icelandic
German
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
*
*
*
*
*
of grammatical relations but rather a di¤erence in the ability to be ‘‘elliptic?’’ That is, Obl–V–(XP) predicates in German di¤er from their Icelandic counterparts in being reluctant to occur in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions,
such as conjunction reduction, control infinitives, telegraphic style and
imperatives. Obl–V–(XP) predicates in Icelandic do not share this reluctance, at least not to the same degree. In Icelandic, Obl–V–(XP) predicates cannot occur in all control constructions (see examples [46] below),
and they cannot occur in the Imperative construction, for di¤erent reasons, however (see Section 3.2). This is the main di¤erence in the syntactic
behavior of Oblique Subjects in Icelandic and German.
A follow-up question is why Oblique Subjects should be more reluctant
to be ‘‘elliptic’’ in German than in Icelandic. One possible answer is that
when the Oblique Subject is left unexpressed important morphological/
semantic information is lost. This was acknowledged by Thráinsson
(1979: 470) in a discussion on Icelandic and the fact that many Icelandic
speakers prefer Obl–V–(XP) predicates embedded in subordinate clauses
than in control constructions. Thus, many speakers prefer (45a) over
(45b):
(45)
Icelandic
a. Ég vonast til a¶
mér
ver¶i hjálpa¶.
I hope
for that me.dat will-be helped
‘I hope that I’ll be helped.’
b. Ég vonast til a¶
ver¶a
hjálpa¶.
I hope
for to pro.dat will-be.inf helped
‘I hope to be helped.’
This preference of Icelandic speakers is certainly unexpected given the
fact that control constructions like (45b) are always discussed as being
84
J. Barðdal
perfectly grammatical in Icelandic. This raises the question whether all
possible examples of Obl–V–(XP) predicates embedded under control
verbs are equally acceptable in Icelandic. This is not the case. I have, in
my research, come across attested examples which are not grammatical
in my language. Three such examples are given in (46).
(46)
a.
b.
c.
Hlutfall
nemenda ı́
5.–10. bekk sem eru frekar
proportion students in 5–10
grade who are rather
e¶a mjög sammála vı́ a¶
ykja
vænt
or
very agreeing it
to pro.dat feel.inf a¤ection
um
skólann sinn,
about school their
a¶ samskipti nemenda og fullor¶inna séu gó¶ ı́ skólanum og a¶
krakkarnir ı́ bekknum séu gó¶ir vinir.
‘The proportion of students in 5–10 grade who agree [with
the statement] that they care about their school, that the interaction between the teachers and the students is good in the
school, and that the children are on friendly terms with each
other.’
(www.rvk.is/upload/files/Bornin_i_borginni_lokaskyrsla.pdf )
Ég átti nú egar heimili me¶ mömmu sem ótti vænt um mig og
tvo bræ¶ ur sem ég gat leiki¶ mér vi¶, og a¶ra hvolpa sem stoppu¶ u stundum vi¶, stöldru¶u vi¶ um stund, og fóru sı́¶an sı́na
lei¶. Mig langar ekki a¶ fara neitt anna¶.
Loksins kom ég a¶ húsi
essara indæla eldra
finally
came I
to house these
lovely older
fólks
og
au gáfu mér a¶ bor¶a og
reyndu
people and they gave me to eat
and tried
a¶
ykja
vænt um
mig . . .
to pro.dat feel.inf care about me
‘I already had a home with my mother who loved me and with
my two brothers whom I could play with, and the other puppies who stopped by occasionally for a while, before they went
their way. I don’t want to go anywhere else. Finally, though, I
came to the house of this lovely older couple and they fed me
and tried to care about me . . .’
(www.shihtzu-in-iceland.com/soguhornid.html, 2003)
En svona ı́ alvöru tala¶ á er ekkert sni¶ ugt a¶ ér skuli lı́¶a
svona illa . . . ú ert me¶ svo margt spennandi framundan og
sı́¶an ertu lı́ka svo sæt og skemmtileg!!!
Ég veit!
hættu
bara a¶
lı́¶a
illa . . .
I know! stop-you just to pro.dat feel.inf bad
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
85
‘But seriously, it is not a good thing that you feel so bad . . .
There are so many exciting things ahead of you, and you’re
also so sweet and fun to be with!!! I know! Just stop feeling
bad . . .’
(kaninka.net/halla/005637.html, 2003)
The fact that I find these examples unacceptable provides motivation for
carrying out a questionnaire survey like the German one (described in
Section 4.3), among native speakers of Icelandic. Such a survey, with the
three examples above, reveals that not all speakers agree on their acceptability (cf. Bar¶dal and Eythórsson 2005: 15–20). Table 8 gives the acceptability judgments, collected from 36 university students, majoring in
English and Icelandic at the University of Iceland, all native speakers,
yielding a total of 87 observations:
Table 8.
Native-speaker judgments of attested examples of control infinitives in Icelandic
good/OK
46a a¶ ykja
46b a¶ ykja
46c a¶ lı́¶a
Total
N
%
16
5
2
57.1
17.8
6.5
23
26.4
strange
N
bad/wrong
Total
%
N
%
N
%
7
8
9
25.0
28.6
29.0
5
15
20
17.9
53.6
64.5
28
28
31
100
100
100
24
27.6
40
46.0
87
100
The acceptability rates range from 6.5 percent to 57 percent, with the first
example in (46) judged best and the last one judged worst ( p < 0:000). In
fact, 64.5 percent of the participants judged (46c) as unacceptable. This
shows that documented control constructions involving Obl–V–(XP)
predicates are not unanimously judged well-formed in Icelandic. In fact,
exactly as with German, there is a statistically significant correlation between acceptability rates and field of study at university, with students
majoring in Icelandic being more restricted in their judgments than those
majoring in English ( p < :002). This is shown in Table 9.
Moreover, exactly as in German, there is a correlation between acceptability rates and register, as example (46a) stems from a formal register,
(46b) from a less formal register and (46c) from an informal register. Observe also that the controller in the matrix clause is a relativized argument
in (46a), but a nominative personal pronoun in the two other examples.
These parallels in the behavior of Oblique Subjects in German and Icelandic suggest an implicational hierarchy for types of identity relations
86
J. Barðdal
Table 9. Acceptability rates across field of study at university
good/OK
strange
bad/wrong
Total
N
%
N
%
N
%
N
%
English
Icelandic
11
12
45.8
19.0
9
15
37.5
23.8
4
36
16.7
57.2
24
63
100
100
Total
23
26.4
24
27.6
40
46.0
87
100
on the basis of which an Oblique Subject can be left unexpressed in Control constructions:
(47)
The Control Construction’s Identity Relation Hierarchy:
relative pron. < PP < noun < generic pron. < context-based ref. <
nom. pers. pron.
The Control construction’s identity relation hierarchy predicts that if an
Oblique Subject can be left unexpressed on identity with a nominative
personal pronoun of a matrix clause, then it can also be left unexpressed
on all the other identity relations in that language, in an ascending order.
And, as its corollary, the ability to be left unexpressed on identity with a
relativized argument in a language does not imply an ability to be left unexpressed on the other identity relations lower on the scale. This implicational hierarchy is based on comparative data from Germanic only, which
of course means that further research is needed to establish its wider
validity.
Returning to the examples in (46) above, observe that the control predicates in (46b–c) are both purposive, while the one in (46a) is stative. This
may further contribute to the unacceptability of these examples as Obl–
V–(XP) predicates are known for being low on the agentivity scale and
for lacking an ability to be construed as conveying intentionality of the
referent denoted by the Oblique Subject (cf. Bar¶dal 2001a: 53–58,
2001b: 35–39, 100–101, 2004; Bar¶dal and Eythórsson 2005: 29–31).
They are thus incompatible in meaning with purposive control predicates
(and some of the most prototypical control verbs discussed, for instance,
by Jackendo¤ and Culicover 2003 for English).
Furthermore, Barnes (1986: 26–27) reports that Faroese speakers also
di¤er in their acceptability judgments of Obl–V–(XP) predicates in both
the Conjunction reduction and the Control construction in Faroese. The
following examples of control infinitives, for instance, were judged only
marginally possible by Barnes’ informants:
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
(48)
87
Faroese
a. ??Eingin
bey¶
sær til at
dáma
no-one.nom o¤ered self for to pro.dat like.inf
hana.
her
‘No one o¤ered to like her.’
b. ?At
skorta
mat er ræ¶ uligt.
to
pro.dat lack.inf food is terrible
‘To lack food is terrible.’
Observe that the matrix clause in (48a) is both purposive and contains a
nominative pronoun as a controller, while the example in (48b) is generic
non-purposive, with the Oblique Subject being left unexpressed on identity with a referent retrievable from the context. Recall that nominative
reference and context-based reference are dispreferred identity relations,
according to the Control construction’s identity relation hierarchy in (47)
above. Therefore, these facts show that not only German speakers vary in
their acceptability judgments of Obl–V–(XP) predicates in Control constructions, such lack of agreement on acceptability is also found in both
Icelandic and Faroese.
In conclusion, the di¤erences between Icelandic and German regarding
the behavior of the Oblique Subject in Control constructions are not as
gross as suggested in the literature: In German the Oblique Subject can
be left unexpressed in certain Control constructions, though not in all. In
Icelandic the Oblique Subject cannot be embedded under purposive control verbs. It is therefore clear that research on the distribution of Obl–V–
(XP) constructions in a language cannot be confined to their occurrence
with purposive control verbs, as for instance in Moore and Perlmutter in
their investigation of certain Obl–V–(XP) constructions in Russian (2000:
398), but has to take other less agentive Control constructions into consideration. In fact, the findings of the present article call for a much more
thorough research on Control constructions in both Icelandic and German, and other languages, than hitherto undertaken in the literature.
What is more, these findings call for a revision of the Subject construction hierarchy suggested by Croft (2001: 155–157), both the simplified (49)
and the full version (50):
(49)
The Simplified Subject Construction Hierarchy:
behavioral constructions < coding constructions
(50)
The Subject Construction Hierarchy:
coordination < purposive < relativization < verb agreement < case
marking
88
J. Barðdal
The Germanic data do not support the internal order between the Conjunction reduction construction and the Control construction in (50), (assuming that Croft is really referring to the general category of Control
constructions and not only to the subcategory of Purposive control constructions). In contrast, the evidence from Germanic suggests that Control
constructions (perhaps with the exception of purposive constructions) and
conjunction reduction seem to have the same status in Germanic. They
seem to be equally well- or ill-formed in Icelandic, German and Faroese.
Thus, from the behavioral and coding properties of Oblique Subjects in
Germanic, the following Subject construction hierarchy emerges:
(51)
The Germanic Subject Construction Hierarchy:
other behavioral constructions < ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions < coding
constructions
In other words, behavioral constructions must be divided into two categories, ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions and others, as Oblique and Nominative Subjects in Germanic clearly show distinct behavior with regard to these two
types of argument tracking constructions.
Let us now return to the hypothesis that Oblique Subjects resist being
left unexpressed in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions in German because of the
morphological/semantic information encoded by the Oblique Subject.
This hypothesis is sustained by the fact that the Oblique Subject can
only be left unexpressed on identity with another Oblique Subject in German Conjunction reduction constructions, as shown in (33c), repeated
here for convenience:
(33)
c.
German
Mir
wird(’s) schlecht und
graut(’s)
me.dat is-it
bad
and Ø.dat fear-it
der Zukunft.
the future
‘I feel sick and fear for the future.’
vor
for
Thus, the morphological/semantic information is maintained in the
Oblique Subject in the first conjunct. With regard to Control constructions in German, all the participants of the questionnaire survey reported
on in Section 4.3 who gave a reason for rejecting the relevant control constructions did so on the basis of morphological case marking, arguing
that the examples were bad because the dative was lacking. This is a clear
indication that not only Conjunction reduction but also Control constructions in German are sensitive to morphological case.
There is in fact independent evidence for the assumption that the reluctance of Obl–V–(XP) predicates to occur in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions in
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
89
German may be due to their morphological case marking. Bayer et al.
(2001), for instance, argue that there is a requirement in German that
dative case must be morphologically overt. They present examples of
non-inflecting nominals and topic drop, amongst others, in favor of this
argument. The following examples show that sentences in which the dative is represented by a non-inflected nominal are ungrammatical (52a),
whereas corresponding sentences with an overt and visible dative are
grammatical (52b) (Bayer et al. 2001: 473):
(52)
German
a. *Otto hat allerlei Unsinn
widersprochen.
Otto has a-lot nonsense contradicted
b. Otto hat allerlei solchem
Unsinn
widersprochen.
Otto has a-lot such.dat nonsense contradicted
‘Otto has contradicted a lot of (such) nonsense.’
German also allows topic drop of topical arguments as long as they are
not in the dative case. The examples in (53) below show that a preposed
Accusative Object may undergo topic drop, while a preposed Dative Object may not:
(53)
a.
b.
Das
the
Geburtstagsgeschenk hat Peter gut
gefallen,
birthday-present
has Peter good ge-fallen
hat er gemocht.
Ø.acc has he liked
‘The birthday present was really to Peter’s liking, he loved
(it).’
Dem Peter hab’ ich an seinem Geburtstag eine
the
Peter have I
at his
birthday
a
Freude
gemacht, *
hab’ ich ein Buch gegeben.
pleasure made
Ø.dat have I
a
book given
Intended meaning: ‘Peter, I made happy on his birthday,
I gave (him) a book.’
Furthermore, in a recent experiment on relative clauses in German, Vogel
and Frisch (2003) have shown that in free relative clauses where the morphological case assigned by the matrix verb does not coincide with the
morphological case assigned by the subordinate verb, German speakers
show statistically significant variation in which case form they prefer as
overtly marked. Generally, they are more accepting of examples in which
the dative overrides the accusative than of examples where the accusative
overrides the dative. Thus, German speakers favor examples where the
dative is morphologically spelled out. These facts of non-inflecting nominals, topic-drop and free relative clauses in German all suggest that there
90
J. Barðdal
is a requirement in German that dative case must be visible. They, thus,
provide further support for my hypothesis that Obl–V–(XP) predicates in
German may be reluctant to occur in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions because the
Oblique Subject must be visible.
Why, then, is there no such requirement in Icelandic that datives must
be morphologically overt? If facts of German are due to dative being
more marked than nominative and accusative, or lower in the universal
case hierarchy, as Vogel and Frisch suggest, datives should be equally
‘‘low’’ in the case hierarchy in Icelandic. This is not the case, however,
as Oblique Subjects in Icelandic are much more at ease with being ‘‘elliptic’’ than their German counterparts. I believe that this di¤erence reflects
a di¤erence in the entrenchment of the construction between the two
languages, in that the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic is much
more entrenched in the minds of speakers than the German Obl–V–
(XP) construction, as both its type and its text frequency is higher in Icelandic. As already mentioned in Section 2 above, the types occurring
in the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic are approximately 900 (700
Dative Subject types and 200 Accusative Subject types), whereas Obl–V–
(XP) predicates in contemporary German are relatively few in number,
perhaps between 80–100 in total (cf. Bar¶dal 2001b: 136, 2004: 109–
110). This count includes both simple Dat–V–Nom verbs and compositional predicates, like those with sein ‘be’ together with adjectives or
nouns (like in [1] above). Verbs selecting for Dative Objects in the active
form, like mótmæla and widersprechen ‘contradict,’ are also higher in type
frequency in Icelandic than in German: According to Maling (2002: 2),
transitive verbs selecting for Dative Objects are at least 750 in Icelandic,
whereas they are only approximately 140 in German. This count of
German, however, includes at least some Obl–V–(XP) predicates since
subject-like obliques have traditionally been considered to be objects.
Therefore, the amount of true Dative object verbs is probably somewhat
lower.
Moreover, certain Obl–V–(XP) predicates are high in text frequency in
Icelandic: Oblique Subjects have been measured as 5.5 percent of Subjects
in some written genres, and their text frequency is even higher in spoken
genres, i.e., 7 percent (Bar¶dal 2001b: 89). About their type and text frequency in German, Seefranz-Montag states (1984: 541):
Only a few relics of ‘‘subjectless’’ constructions (with es-variants) are still unrestrictedly acceptable in contemporary standard German: mich friert, mir graut,
mich ekelt, mir schwindelt. However, even these relics are in the process of being
contextually restricted. They are increasingly confined to written elevated style,
they are used mainly by elder speakers and only in some regional varieties of
German. In colloquial spoken German, on the other hand, and especially in
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
91
substandard varieties of the language, ‘‘subjectless’’ expressions are almost completely eliminated: Younger speakers prefer ich friere, ich hab kalt to mich friert
and even to mich friert es, they would hardly use mir graut, but ich hab’n Horror
vor, not mich gelüstet (arch.) but ich hab Lust auf, not mir schwindelt but ich bin
schwindlig/ich hab’n Drehwurm, not mir gefällt das but ich finde das gut/da fahr
ich drauf ab and similar (slang) expressions . . . (Seefranz-Montag 1984: 541)
The fact that it is easier for Icelandic speakers to leave the Oblique Subject unexpressed in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions than for German speakers falls
directly from the assumption that the Obl–V–(XP) construction is more
deeply entrenched in Icelandic than in German. This is a natural conclusion within grammatical models based on language use, in which frequency is assumed to be one of the main determinants of the structure of
the language system (Barlow and Kemmer 2000; Bar¶dal 2001a–b, 2003;
Bar¶dal and Eythórsson 2005; Bybee 1985, 1995, 2001; Bybee and Hopper 2001; Bybee and Thompson 1997; Haspelmath 2004; Langacker 1987,
1988, 1991, 1999, 2000). On a usage-based account the language system is
an emerging and dynamic system, based on non-linguistic experience,
sensitive to and shaped by the frequency of the input. This language system can change and evolve during the life span of a speaker. On a usagebased account the Obl–V–(XP) construction is much more integrated
into the Icelandic system, due to its higher type and text frequency, than
in the German language system, where it is low in type frequency. Thus it
can also occur in a wider range of ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions in Icelandic.
The di¤erences in the behavior of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German are therefore expected on a usage-based account.
On a bottom-up approach, the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic
can be assumed to exist at three di¤erent levels of schematicity. First,
it exists at the level of verb-specific constructions (in Croft’s 2003 terminology) which contains all the individual predicates that select for the
Obl–V–(XP) argument frame. This is the lowest level of schematicity,
given in Figure 9 below, and thus the level filled with the most lexical material and the most specified semantic information. Second, the Obl–V–
(XP) construction in Icelandic also exists at the level of verb-subclass
specific constructions, as emotive verbs can be divided into the following
six subclasses of verbs of emotion, cognition, perception, idiosyncratic attitudes, bodily states and verbs denoting changes in bodily states (listed in
Section 2 above). This is the second lowest level given in Figure 9 below.
Finally, the construction can also be assumed to exist one level higher,
i.e., on the level of verb-class specific constructions, where the larger
subclass of verbs of emotion is on par with the other seven verb-class specific constructions of verbs denoting personal properties, gain, success/
92
J. Barðdal
performance, failure/mistake, decline, existence and verbs of social interaction, respectively. This is the third lowest level in Figure 9 below
(which, by the way, is only meant to give an overview of the structure
of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic, thus several details are
omitted).
Figure 9. Levels of schematicity of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic
Observe that the vertical axis of Figure 9 represents the lexicality vs.
the schematicity levels of constructions. That is, lower level constructions
exist in the network as lexically-filled instantiations, whereas higher-level
constructions are more abstract and schematic, and thus less filled with
lexical and semantic material. The levels of schematicity at which each
construction is assumed to exist, is a function of the construction’s type
frequency and semantic coherence (cf. Bar¶dal 2006/2007). Hence the
existence of the Obl–V–(XP) construction at the three lowest levels of
schematicity reveals a relatively high degree of entrenchment of the
construction in Icelandic, at least compared to German. This is further
supported by psycholinguistic evidence showing that the construction displays a low degree of productivity in Icelandic, as it is extendable to
nonce verbs with similar meanings (Bar¶dal 2000b).
In German, in contrast, Obl–V–(XP) predicates are only 80–100 and
although Figure 2 in Section 2 shows that there are predicates in German
which fall into the subclasses of verbs denoting changes in bodily states,
personal properties, gain, success/performance, failure/mistake and verbs
of decline, the instances in each class are extremely few, only one or two
at most. It is thus doubtful whether these instances make up a subclass of
their own in the minds of German speakers. It is clear, however, that the
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
93
Figure 10. Levels of schematicity of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German
construction in German exists as a verb-subclass specific construction as
the majority of German Obl–V–(XP) predicates fall into the larger subclass of verbs of emotion. This is illustrated in Figure 10.
As the construction is much lower in type frequency in German, and
the instances make up much fewer semantic classes, the construction exists at a lower level of schematicity in German. Hence, the construction is
also less entrenched in German than in Icelandic.
Consider now, for the sake of the argument, the English forms methinks and me-seems. These are two frozen idiomatic instances of an obsolete Obl–V–(XP) construction in English, not being in a synchronic
relation to anything else in the grammar. They, thus, only exist at the
lowest level of schematicity in the minds of those English speakers who
still have passive knowledge about them, and the Subject slot is also lexically filled. This can be represented as in Figure 11.
Figure 11. Levels of schematicity of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in English
Given that me-thinks is a lexicalized relic in English, no-one would expect it to occur in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions. In fact, if me-thinks only exists
as a verb-specific frozen instance of an obsolete Obl–V–(XP) construction its occurrences in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions where the Subject is left
unexpressed is ruled out, simply because the me-part is a lexicalized, and
thus an obligatory, part of the expression. However, the Obl–V–(XP)
construction in German di¤ers from me-thinks in English as the Oblique
Subject in German can occur in all person/number forms, and not only
in first person singular. The Obl–V–(XP) construction is also much
higher in type frequency in German than in English (80–100 vs. 2). Thus,
the construction exists as a verb-specific and a verb-subclass specific construction. As the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic exists at an even
higher and more schematic level in speakers’ minds than in German, the
construction is also less ‘‘lexical’’ in Icelandic than in German. In other
words, the Oblique Subject in German is more dependent on its Obl–V–
(XP) predicate than in Icelandic, where it exists as a more schematic
entity less dependent on its concrete lexically-filled instantiations. In that
94
J. Barðdal
sense, the Obl–V–(XP) template or schema is built into the Icelandic system at a higher level, with less need for overt case marking because of the
overall stronger entrenchment of the construction in the system. That is
the reason, I believe, for why Oblique Subjects are more easily ‘‘elliptic’’
in Icelandic than in German.
The present analysis predicts that Oblique Subjects’ ability to be left
unexpressed correlates with the type frequency of the construction in a
language. Further research is of course needed to establish a wider typological validity of this prediction than only for the languages discussed
here. It is a fact, however, that the type frequency of the construction is
also low in Modern Faroese (Bar¶dal 2004: 110). A count based on the
examples and the lists in Petersen (2002) and Eythórsson and Jónsson
(2003) reveals only 50–60 Obl–V–(XP) predicates as being in use in contemporary Faroese. The prediction of the present analysis is thus borne
out for Modern Faroese.
To summarize, the status of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in German
is at an intermediate level between Icelandic and English. In Icelandic, the
construction is relatively high in type frequency compared to German,
thus it exists as a fairly schematic construction, maintaining the ability
to occur in various ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions in Icelandic. In German, however, the Obl–V–(XP) construction is closer to falling into disuse. It exists
as verb-specific lexically-filled low-level instantiations of the construction,
and as a verb-subclass specific construction of emotion verbs, which in
turn restricts its occurrence in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions. Finally, in English,
the construction is only found in a couple of frozen expressions, thus it is
expected to be incompatible with occurring in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions.
These data show that there is a correlation between the type frequency
of predicates instantiating the Obl–V–(XP) construction in a language
and the occurrences of these predicates in ‘‘elliptic’’ constructions. Such
a correlation is predicted on a usage-based approach to language and
grammar.
7.
Summary
In this article I have compared the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic
and German to the Nominative subject construction in these languages,
and I have compared the Obl–V–(XP) construction across Icelandic
and German. I started by giving a survey of the conventional subject
tests used in these languages, a survey which revealed great inconsistencies, exemplifying both cross-linguistic methodological opportunism and
language-internal methodological opportunism. Cross-linguistic methodological opportunism is manifested as di¤erent criteria being used for
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
95
defining subjects in di¤erent languages, whereas language-internal methodological opportunism manifests itself as some properties being assigned
the status of being criterial in a particular language without a principled
way of making the choices. This comparison supports the position that
grammatical relations do not exist as universal categories.
I have also presented examples of Reflexivization, Conjunction reduction and Control constructions in German which have not figured in the
earlier literature, examples which show that the di¤erence between the
Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German is much smaller than
assumed in the literature, and lesser than predicted by the analysis that
the subject-like oblique is a subject in Icelandic but an object in German.
Thus, the typological distinction between Icelandic and German assumed
in the literature is unfounded. However, analyzing the subject-like
oblique in German as a subject will also yield wrong predictions about
its behavior, since it is not identical to the behavior of the nominative
in the Nominative subject construction in German. I have suggested a
Radical Construction Grammar solution to this problem, in which
universal grammatical relations of subjects and objects are systematically abandoned. The behavior of the subject-like oblique in the Obl–V–
(XP) construction can be captured by assuming that constructions are
language-specific and that syntactic roles are construction-specific. Radical Construction Grammar accounts for the grammatical knowledge of
speakers by assuming that constructions form a network in which both
broad generalizations and lower-level generalizations are captured with
links in the network model.
Finally, liberating oneself from the yoke of the subject–object dichotomy allows for di¤erent kind of research questions, such as what the German sentence-type constructions have in common in which the Obl–V–
(XP) construction is reluctant to occur. This shift in research focus has
revealed that the main di¤erence in the syntactic behavior of the Oblique
Subject in Icelandic and German is that it is more reluctant to be ‘‘elliptic’’ in German than in Icelandic. There are certainly some restrictions on
their occurrence in Icelandic but to a much lesser degree than in German.
Particularly with regard to Control constructions, there are several factors that seem to influence their well-formedness in Germanic, such as
lexical factors, register, di¤erences in identity relations and speakers’ field
of study at university. Finally, Oblique Subjects’ ability to be ‘‘elliptic’’
correlates with the frequency of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic and German, a fact predicted by theoretical models based on language use, i.e., models which take frequency to be one of the most important determinants of the language system. The status of the Obl–V–(XP)
construction in German takes an intermediate position between the status
96
J. Barðdal
of the construction in Icelandic, where it still has high enough type
frequency to be recognized as an integrated part of the system, and English, where the construction is a relic only found in a couple of frozen
expressions.
Received 6 December 2004
Revision received 10 October 2005
University of Bergen, Norway
Appendix
Please read the following text and answer the questions below:
(1) Mir geht es in Bezug auf die erotische Liebe ähnlich wie ‘‘Liddle Sister’’. Mit meinen drei Ex-Freundinnen hab ich nur Probleme.
Die erste hat mich wahrscheinlich verarscht. Die zweite auch. Ich war bei
ihr zu ‘‘besuch’’ :naughty: :D Ihr hab ich das von der ersten vorher erzählt.
Wir haben n bisschen rumgemacht. Am nächsten Tag hat sie in der Schule
vor Freunden geleugnet, dass wir zusammen wären, mir hat sie aber weiter
die Freundin vorgegaukelt. Ich Idiot hab auch nicht auf meine Freunde gehört, die haben mir das vom leugnen gesagt, und ich wollt es nicht glauben.
Jedenfalls hab ich jetzt Probleme ne Frau anzufassen, ohne an sie zu denken
und übel zu werden (also im Magen).
Die dritte, das war meine Schuld, ich hab mich nicht gemeldet. Letztens
hab ich gehört, sie will mich schlagen, weil ich sie ‘‘Dorfmatratze’’ genannt
haben soll. Ich weiß aber ganz genau, dass ich Ex-Freundinnen im Nachhinein nicht beleidige. Das hat keinen Stil. Zum Glück hab ich sie bisher noch
nicht wiedergetro¤en . . .
und danach war gar nichts mehr . . .
Does the text in (1) represent idiomatic German?
How do you feel about the infinitive with übel werden?
Does übel werden take a dative in your language?
Does that a¤ect your answer, if so how?
(Please use the back of this sheet to elaborate on your answer if you need
to!)
(2) Hi Noti, diesen PB-Code kann VB nie packen. Sonst hätte ich eine VBCode dazu gemacht. Comþ ist mit solchen multiblen Objects, die rein vom
OS herrühren ziemlich überfordert. DlgListDir wird in VB fehlschlagen,
auch dann wenn Form und Listbox definitiv deklariert sind und vorhandene
Objekte darstellen.
Ich brenne ja darauf widersprochen zu werden ------ Cu
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
97
(3) Glück im Horror
Obwohl er zunächst ganz anders aussieht, ist dies ein Film über das Glück.
Er beschreibt, wie Glück daraus entstehen kann, dass man sich dem reinen
Horror aussetzt. Folgt man dieser Geschichte von Vergebung und Erlösung,
dann gilt die paradoxe Weisheit: Man muss seine Familie hinter sich lassen,
um seine Familie zu gründen. Man muss vergeben können, um vergeben zu
werden. Denn selbst der Henker ist ein Opfer.
(4) Die Übergänge sind fließend und die Betriebstreue—wie er es nannte—
ist für beide gleichermaßen gegeben. ‘‘Mit diesen Fristen sollen sie uns nur
kommen . . .’’, sagte er. O¤ensichtlich macht ihm die Flut der dann anstehenden Kündigungsschutzklagen wenig Angst. Peter Werner von der IG
Metall kündigte Sammelklagen an. Kündigungen sind nicht da, um angenommen zu werden. Kündigungen sind da, um widersprochen zu werden.
Und die Chancen bei einem Widerspruch stehen keinesfalls schlecht.
(5) Mitglied werden
Was bedeutet es für mich, Mitglied zu sein? Mitglied bei uns zu sein bedeutet, sich in unserer Gemeinschaft wohlzufühlen. Mitglied bei uns zu sein bedeutet aber auch, das Gefühl zu haben, geholfen zu werden. Mitglied bei
uns zu sein bedeutet, jemandem zu helfen, egal ob das ein paar aufmunternde Worte sind oder einen Käfermotor wieder zum knattern zu bringen.
Interessengemeinschaft bedeutet, jedes Mitglied setzt sich für den Erhalt
luftgekühlter Volkswagen ein.
(6) Verzeiht mir, ich habe mich ein wenig in meinen Worten verloren . . .
Zurück zur Geschichte. Samhir, die Zeit des Gleichgewichtes von Morua
und Silior, ging jedoch allmählich dem Ende zu. Niemand weiß genau,
warum, doch irgendwann begannen die beiden Urmächte miteinander zu
konkurrieren . . . Auf eine Zeit des Überflusses folgte eine Zeit wüster Zerstörung, und viele Geschöpfe wurden dahingera¤t. Dann kam es erneut zu
einer Zeit, in der das Leben selbst aufzubegehren schien, nur um wieder
von einem Massensterben an düsteren Tagen und stockdunklen Nächten
gefolgt zu werden. Samhir war vorüber, nun tobte ein Krieg zwischen
Mächten, gegen die niemand etwas ausrichten konnte–außer die Große
Mutter selbst . . .
(7) Der folgende Ausschnitt aus dem Interview mit einem freien Drehbuchautor verweist auf diese ‘‘Einsamkeit des Respondenten’’: Wie war das
für dich, diese Fragen? (lange Pause) Ja, ich meine, es ist interessant. Ich
denke, ich werde selten so mal gefragt und hab die Möglichkeit, mich dazu
zu äußern, unwidersprochen.’’
Nicht unterbrochen und nicht widersprochen zu werden bedeutet in diesem Falle auch, kaum eine Reaktion zu erhalten. Man muss schon Spaß
98
J. Barðdal
am Monolog haben, um dies—wie im obigen Ausschnitt—positiv zu
wenden und als im Vergleich zum normalen Gespräch größere Entfaltungsmöglichkeit zu interpretieren.
(8) Krankheit—Rechte und Pflichten des Arbeitnehmers
Wer krank ist, ist eigentlich schon unglücklich genug dran. Für viele ist
es außerordentlich lästig, daß sie, wenn sie krank sind, noch zusätzliche
Pflichten gegenüber ihrem Arbeitgeber haben. Trotzdem sollte man diese
Pflichten unbedingt erfüllen, damit man keine Rechtsnachteile erleidet.
Wer sich nicht an die gesetzlich vorgeschriebenen Regeln hält, riskiert,
keine Lohnfortzahlung zu bekommen oder evtl. gar gekündigt zu werden.
Bitte beachten Sie daher im Falle Ihrer Erkrankung:
(9) ‘‘Ich bin nichts, der Herrgott ist alles. Ich will weder Geld noch Gold,
was ich will und kann, ist, allen Menschen helfen und heilen. Wer den Herrgott verleumdet, ist es nicht wert, geholfen zu werden.’’ Das schrieb Bruno
Gröning (1906–1959) im Jahr 1949 über sich selbst. Er sah sich als Vermittler göttlicher Botschaften, durch die er heilen könne. Solange der
Mensch die göttlichen Gesetze befolge, erfahre er nur Gutes wie Gesundheit, Zufriedenheit, Freude und Glück.
Notes
*
This article is based on an earlier working paper (Bar¶dal 2002); it appears here in a
substantially altered version. First, I thank Werner Abraham, Katrin Axel, Balthazar
Bickel, Hans Boas, Ute Bohnacker, Miriam Butt, Bill Croft, Ulrike Demske, Tonya
Kim Dewey, Edith Ekberg, Sam Featherston and his assistant at Tübingen University,
Stefan Huber, Ulrike Jaeckel, Carsten Jopp, Jóhannes G. Jónsson, Haralampos Kalpakidis, Thomas Klein, Knud Lambrecht, Valéria Molnár, Reimar Müller, Jens Neumann, Falco Pfalzgraf, Christer Platzack, Günter Radden, Háj Ross, Halldór Á. Sigur¶sson, Kendra Willson, the editor, Adele Goldberg, and two reviewers, Jan-Ola
Östman and an anonymous reviewer, for comments, discussions and/or judgments.
Second, I thank Werner Abraham in Vienna, Doris Schönefeld in Bochum, Ulrike
Demske in Saarbrücken and Beate Hampe in Jena for running the German version of
the control-infinitive questionnaire in their classes in April–May 2004, Jóhannes G.
Jónsson, Sigrı́¶ur Sigurjónsdóttir and Matthew Whelpton for running the Icelandic
version of it in their classes in April–May 2005, and Christer Johansson for help with
the relevant statistics. Third, I am indebted to the audiences at the RCG workshop at
the 7th ICCL in Santa Barbara, 27 July 2001, the Linguistics Circle Meeting, Dept. of
Germanic Studies, UTAustin, 25 January 2002, the Linguistics Circle of Denton,
UNT, 22 February 2002, the Research Seminar at the Dept. of German, Lund University, 29 April 2003, the Noon Colloquium, Dept. of German, UCBerkeley, 7 October
2005 and the audience at the Linguistics Colloquium, Dept. of Linguistics, University
of British Columbia, 21 October 2005. Finally, I thank my friend and colleague, Thórhallur Eythórsson, for traveling with me along this thorny, yet rewarding, ‘‘oblique
subject’’-path, and for inspiring research collaboration and endless support during
these last years. The research presented in this article is funded in part by STINT
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
1.
2.
3.
4.
99
(The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education) during my a‰liation at the Department of Scandinavian Languages, Lund University. Author’s email address: [email protected]
In the linguistic literature, the German Dat–V–Nom predicate gefallen is usually translated into English as either ‘like’ or ‘please.’ Since the meaning of gefallen seems to
cover the semantic range from ‘like’ via ‘be to sb’s liking’ to ‘please,’ I will consistently
gloss it here as ge-fall in the glossing (second) line but give the appropriate English
translation in the translation (third) line.
One exception to this is found with alternating predicates which can occur either in
the Dat–V–Nom or the Nom–V–Dat argument structure construction in both Icelandic and German (cf. Bar¶dal 2001a; Eythórsson and Bar¶dal 2005).
There is, however, one exception to this, namely with alternating predicates when the
nominative is a first or second person pronoun (cf. Eythórsson and Bar¶dal 2005:
860–865).
My definition of ‘‘raising to subject’’ with scheinen ‘seem’ in German does of course not
include constructions in which the subject-like dative is selected by scheinen itself, as in
the examples below, but only constructions where scheinen occurs with no arguments
of its own, as in example (16). The same pattern holds for vir¶ast, the Icelandic equivalent of scheinen:
(i) Mir
scheint als ob . . .
me.dat seems as if
(ii) Mér
vir¶ist sem . . .
me.dat seems as-if
‘To me it seems as if . . .’
5. There are nevertheless some alleged di¤erences in agreement between Icelandic and
German in that German always displays agreement with the nominative in Dat–V–
Nom constructions while Icelandic deviates from that when the nominative object is a
first or second person pronoun (cf. Sigur¶sson 2002a). However, as argued by Bar¶dal
and Eythórsson (2003a) and Eythórsson and Bar¶dal (2005: 860–865), Dat–V–Nom
constructions are ungrammatical anyway in Icelandic when the nominative is a pronominal first or second person argument because of a person restriction blocking nominative first or second person pronominal arguments as objects, not because of the agreement. This analysis is supported by two facts: (i) Examples of first and second person
nominative objects are also ill-formed with default agreement, which is otherwise a
structural possibility in Icelandic. That is unexpected if their ungrammaticality is only
due to restrictions on first or second person agreement, as Sigur¶sson argues. (ii) There
is another class of Dat–V–Nom predicates in Icelandic, namely alternating predicates,
not discussed by Sigur¶sson (2002a), which shows the same agreement pattern as in
German. In such examples, indeed, the nominative behaves as a syntactic subject in
Icelandic and not as an object.
6. For a critical discussion of the ideas suggested and defended in Cole et al. (1980), see
Eythórsson and Bar¶dal (2005).
7. In order to distinguish control infinitives from raising infinitives I gloss the missing argument of control infinitives as pro in this article. This has no theoretical implications
from my side but only signals which argument of a finite clause the missing argument
corresponds to.
8. One of my discussants has even gone so far as to argue that the German speakers who
formulated these sentences must be ‘‘partially illiterate.’’ To this I can only respond
100
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
J. Barðdal
that if Immanuel Kant and Prof. H. J. Jung-Stilling were ‘‘partially illiterate,’’ there is
not much German data left for linguistic research.
In fact Keller et al. estimated in 2002 that the English part of the Web might be approximately 330–980 times larger than BNC which is 100 million words, and my guess
is that it has grown explosively since then.
I realize that these instructions probably made the participants particularly attentive to
the fact that the predicates in question are Obl–V–(XP) predicates. Therefore, if this
particular language use is not in conformity with prescriptive standards, I will unfortunately have made the participants aware of that (and risked lower rates for the acceptability judgments as a consequence). However, in order to find out whether the reluctance of these predicates to occur embedded under control verbs is related to case
marking, it was necessary to formulate the instructions in this way.
The statistics reported on in this article were calculated using Pearson Chi-Square. As
all the categories here are nominal (except for ‘‘judgment’’ which is ordinal, however
with three values only), non-parametric tests are the only relevant tests. Other nonparametric tests yield similar p-values for all the variables discussed here and the
same level of significance.
It could now be argued that the German speakers, formulating and accepting the control infinitives discussed here, may use these verbs with a subject-like oblique in all utterances except those which require the subject to be covert, as in control infinitives. In
those cases, then, the same German speakers use these verbs with a(n invisible) nominative subject. Such an assumption, however, would be highly controversial, and if accepted it would simply (and erroneously) lead to the exclusion of control infinitives as a
subject test not only in Icelandic but in all other languages as well. The whole linguistic
argument of control infinitives has indeed evolved around showing that the unexpressed argument in control constructions corresponds to a subject-like oblique in
finite clauses. This has been shown with case agreement in secondary predicates in, at
least, Icelandic (Sigur¶sson 1991), Russian (Franks and Hornstein 1992) and Hungarian (Tóth 2000, here cited by Landau 2004). Therefore, if the scenario outlined above
would be regarded as plausible, it means that uncontroversial evidence from secondary
predicates in various language families must be disregarded, leaving us with dubious
analyses of Icelandic and all other languages which are considered by the contemporary linguistic community as having oblique subjects. Also, one would expect native
speakers to realize themselves if they are using these verbs with two di¤erent case constructions. However, from all the comments I have gathered no sign of such ‘‘complementary case assignment’’ is evident, which again severely undermines the creditability
of the analysis. Finally, such an analysis is only a logical possibility within formal theoretical models which assume that the unexpressed argument has an invisible casemarked representation in the sentence and that it is this invisible representation which
bears (an equally invisible) case. On less formal accounts, like the present one, where
the unexpressed argument is understood on the basis of the predicate’s argument structure, analyzing the unexpressed argument of Obl–V–(XP) predicates as a nominative
in control constructions only is not a possibility (as these verbs do not occur in the
nominative subject construction in finite clauses in the language of these speakers).
For di¤erent kind of generative analyses, however, recently suggested in the literature,
see Fanselow (2002), Stepanov (2003), Bayer (2004), Haider (2005) and Wunderlich (to
appear). Fanselow argues against categories like subjects and objects but suggests
instead that the di¤erence between Icelandic and German lies in di¤erent structural positions of the subject-like oblique. It is not clear how the variation found in Control
constructions in German, documented in 4.3 above, would be satisfactorily accounted
Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects
101
for in his model. Presumably, di¤erent speakers have subject-like obliques of di¤erent
verbs occurring in di¤erent positions, and even the same speaker would have the
subject-like oblique of the same verb occurring in di¤erent positions, depending on
registers or the nature of the controller in the matrix clause. On such an account, the
original generalization supposedly captured by the two di¤erent positions Fanselow assumes is lost anyway.
Stepanov (2003) argues that the di¤erence between Icelandic and German lies in the
fact that the unexpressed argument of Control constructions (PRO in his terminology)
must be ‘‘lexical’’ in Icelandic but ‘‘non-lexical’’ in German. Observe that this is intuitively the opposite of my proposal below that the subject-like oblique in Icelandic is
less ‘‘lexical’’ than it is in German since it exists at a higher level of schematicity, due
to the higher type frequency of the Obl–V–(XP) construction in Icelandic. Because of
that, they are also more integrated in the grammar of Icelandic speakers and can thus
more easily be left unexpressed in Icelandic than in German.
Bayer (2004) argues that the subject-like oblique is not a syntactic object in German,
but a ‘‘non-subject external argument,’’ as opposed to Icelandic where it is both a syntactic subject and an external argument. This proposal is similar to the RG account in
Moore and Perlmutter (2000) in that it departs from the subject–object dichotomy only
by stipulating additional argument categories, a category which in this case is of a
rather unclear syntactic status.
Both Bayer (2004) and Haider (2005) suggest that the existence of oblique subjects in
a language is related to the OV–VO word order parameter, and that German does not
have oblique subjects as it is an OV language, as opposed to Icelandic which is a VO
language. This analysis raises the question of how to analyze subject-like obliques in
languages which have acquired either a uniform OV structure, like German, or a uniform VO structure, like Icelandic, as both these languages have not been uniformly
one or the other throughout their recorded histories. It seems on this analysis that the
subject-like oblique would be a subject in VO-clauses in Old Icelandic and Old High
German but an object in OV-clauses.
Wunderlich (to appear), in his optimality-inspired account, reduces the notion of
subject to ‘‘argument ranking’’ and ‘‘nominative case’’ in order to account for the paradox in the behavior of the dative and the nominative of Dat–V–Nom predicates in
German, as either argument posits some subject-like behavior. On my approach, the
notion of subject can be maintained as a language-specific and construction-specific
notion and the ‘‘alternating’’ behavior of Dat–V–Nom predicates is captured by acknowledging the fact that we are indeed dealing with two argument structure construction, namely the Dat–V–Nom and the Nom–V–Dat construction, and not only one
argument structure construction as Wunderlich assumes (cf. Eythórsson and Bar¶dal
2005).
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