Encyclopaedia of German diatheses

Second revised edition

Michael Cysouw

Prepublication draft, do not cite!

January 31, 2024

Open Germanic Linguistics 4


[0.1] Errors and omissions are unavoidable in scientific writing. They are the writer’s equivalent of statistical Type I and Type II errors, respectively. And just as with statistical data, I have worked hard to keep all errors and omissions to a minimum in relation to the number of justified statements and judgements. Still, I need to start with a major disclaimer: this book is a work in progress. The current version undoubtedly contains numerous errors, omissions, inaccuracies and wrong generalisations. I can say this with certainty because I have been changing, adding and deleting details up to the last moment before publication of the current version of this book. And I do not expect it to stop here. Actually, the work-in-progress status is intended to be taken quite literally: I plan to update and revise this book regularly in the future. Any progress can be followed online at github.com/cysouw/diathesis. I welcome any suggestions for improvement, which can be submitted as an “issue” on that website, or, even better, as a “pull request” including proposed changes and corrections.

[0.2] This book is about German grammar, but the book is written in English. These two decisions have a purely personal background. First, the idea to write about German grammar arose in the context of me teaching German grammar at the Philipps-University in Marburg. Actually, the diversity of diathesis could, and should, be investigated in the same depth in other language besides German. Second, the book is written in English first and foremost because I personally feel more comfortable writing in English than in German. Also, I think that the current approach to diathesis is also of interest to readers that do not care too much about all minute details of German grammar. And for the readers that are interested in those details of the German language, I assume that they both have a working knowledge of English (so they can read this text) and of German (so they can understand the German examples). For that reason I decided to omit any interlinear glossing of the examples. Most examples are simple enough to be understood even with just an approximate understanding of German. Adding interlinear glossing throughout would be an enormous undertaking, which I think is not worthwhile given the intended readership.

[0.3] This book is written in Pandoc Markdown. Markdown (commonmark.org) allows for clean and readable raw text, while Pandoc (pandoc.org) provides easy transformations of the text into beautiful output, for example in formats like XeLaTex/PDF or HTML. I have used various extensions for Pandoc (“filters” in Pandoc-parlance), for example to format and number linguistic examples. More information on these filters can be found on the GitHub webpage mentioned above.

[0.4] The many lists, examples and subsections of this book make it a serialised database, and I have included many cross references to connect related parts throughout. To read the resulting hypertext I would urge the reader to try out an electronic version, either PDF or HTML. I personally have become really enamoured with the HTML version as it allows for easy searching and for quick forward-and-backward jumping through the text using our already internalised muscle-memory from web browsing. Also, the advances in CSS-styling have progressed to such an extend that the layout of HTML is almost approaching LaTeX sophistication, while adding a responsive/adaptive design (Marcotte 2010). The HTML version of this book is prepared as a single standalone file that can be used offline. This file will be opened in a web browser, even when the file is saved locally. It just uses the web browser as a text-rendering engine.

[0.5] Many thanks to Martin Haspelmath, Simon Kasper, and especially to Jens Fleischhauer for extremely helpful comments and detailed suggestions. The proofreaders at the Language Science Press did magnificent work: many thanks to Agnes Kim, Annemarie Verkerk, Elliot Pearl, Felix Kopecky, Jeroen van de Weijer, Katja Politt, Lea Schäfer, Lisa Schäfer, Patricia Cabredo Hofherr, Yvonne Treis and one additional anonymous proofreader. Of the many students that have participated in my lectures and seminars (and had to endure my work-in-progress) I would like to explicitly thank Annika Besser, Dennis Beitel, Franziska Beyer, Patricia Bier, Katja Daube, Milena Gropp, Eric Ilten, Jens Jakob, Christina Jann, Vanessa Lang, Katrin Leinweber, Rieke Hänche, Philip Ossowski, Nico Reinicke, Kristina Splanemann and Stella van den Berg. They wrote very useful term papers related to the topics discussed here and provided valuable suggestions, feedback and corrections. And finally I would like to thank all people at the Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (DWDS) as listed at dwds.de. Such easy-access resources are reinvigorating linguistic research enormously.

1 Setting the scene

1.1 The daunting diversity of diathesis

[1.1] The quintessential example of German diathesis, discussed in every grammatical description of this language, is the werden+Partizip passive construction (1.1 a). The crucial characteristic that makes this a diathesis is that the state-of-affairs as described by the passive is fundamentally the same as in the corresponding active (1.1 b). Yet, while the circumstances remain the same, the grammatical structure and the communicated perspective differ between the two expressions.

(1.1) a. Das Gemälde wird von einem Künstler gemalt.
b. Der Künstler malt ein Gemälde.

[1.2] This general approach to diathesis, viz. alternating sentence structures that express approximately the same state-of-affairs, is applicable to a large number of grammatical phenomena in German. All in all, almost 250 different German diatheses are described in this book, some highly productive, some only attested for a handful of verbs. The main goal of this book is to present this wealth of grammatical possibility in a unified manner, while at the same time attempting to classify and organise this diversity. I will make no attempt to fit all the hundreds of constructional possibilities of the German language into any specific grammatical framework, although the collection of diatheses presented here might be taken as a modelling-challenge for your favourite grammatical theory.

[1.3] It might come as a surprise that there are so many different diatheses in German, but my impression is that in this respect German is no exception among the world’s languages. I expect that all languages have a similar abundance of different ways in which to construe a sentence around a lexical predicate. In a sense, a diathesis allows for the expression of a distinct perspective on the event described, something that is arguably a common desire of any language user.

[1.4] By way of an introduction, consider the following five illustrative examples of diathesis. Many examples in this book contain masculine nouns, not because of laziness on my behalf, but because their definite articles overtly show the different German cases (der, des, dem, den). Notwithstanding this grammatical preference, I will try to use examples with as much diversity as possible throughout this book. Some verbs, like beginnen ‘to start’ (1.2 a), allow for a passive-like construction without any werden auxiliary, often called “anticausative”. Other verbs, like schießen ‘to shoot’ (1.2 b), allow for an alternation between an accusative and a prepositional phrase, often called “antipassive”. Further, there are many different kinds of diathesis marked by a reflexive pronoun, like the reflexive antipassive with beklagen ‘to lament’ (1.2 c). Diathesis is also frequently marked by a prefix, like the applicative between stammen aus and entstammen ‘to descend from’ (1.2 d). Lastly, many light-verb constructions show diathesis, for example the sein+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv passive, as illustrated below with the main verb lösen ‘to solve’ (1.2 e).

(1.2) a. Der Diktator beginnt den Krieg.
Der Krieg beginnt.
b. Der Jäger schießt den Bären.
Der Jäger schießt auf den Bären.
c. Der Lehrer beklagt den Lärm.
Der Lehrer beklagt sich über den Lärm.
d. Der Kandidat stammt aus einem Adelsgeschlecht.
Der Kandidat entstammt einem Adelsgeschlecht.
e. Der Ermittler löst den Fall.
Der Fall ist für den Ermittler leicht zu lösen.

1.2 Defining diathesis

[1.5] A diathesis is defined here as special kind of alternation between two different clause constructions. To properly define diathesis, I will first define “alternation” in general. The definition of “clause alternation” will then be established on that basis. Finally, a diathesis will be defined as a special kind of clause alternation.

[1.6] Hidden in these succinct definitions there are various grammatical concepts that will be expanded upon in the subsequent sections. The more general aspects of clause alternation are discussed in this chapter, directly below the following definitions, while the details of the analysis and the classification of diathesis are postponed to the next chapter.


[1.7] An alternation (or simply “grammatical marking”) is defined as follows:

[1.8] Alternations include basic morphological oppositions, like singular vs. plural (1.3 a) and in general comprise any opposition of grammatical forms, like synthetic present vs. analytic perfect (1.3 b). Alternations also exist in syntax as oppositions between different sentence structures, like a plain transitive nominative+accusative structure alternating with an intransitive reflexive anticausative with obligatory adverbial (1.3 c).

(1.3) a. Ein Haus.
Zwei Häuser.
b. Das Kind schläft.
Das Kind hat geschlafen.
c. Ich verkaufe das Buch.
Das Buch verkauft sich gut.

[1.9] There is a thought-provoking and almost philosophical issue here, which I will not further explore, namely whether the basis of grammatical analysis are the constructions themselves or the alternations between constructions. The approach taken here is that the alternations are the more crucial entities. I consider alternations as the morphosyntactic equivalent to phonological minimal pairs. Alternations are also useful in the practice of grammatical description. The meaning/function of a construction by itself is often hard to describe in full, while the meaning/function of an alternation can simply be described by the difference in meaning between the alternants. Only the crucial facets that are added by the alternation need to be captured – a task that often is already difficult enough. Similar intuitions about the importance of alternations have led to the development of syntactic transformations (cf. Harris 1957).

Clause alternation

[1.10] Based on the above definition of an alternation, a clause alternation is defined as follows:

[1.11] Clause alternations are widespread when auxiliaries are introduced, like modal müssen ‘have to’ (1.4 a), see Sec­tion 11.4.7. However, clause alternations are attested with many more different kinds of marking, like the verb particle auf‑ marking completeness of the action (1.4 b), see Sec­tion 6.7.9, or the somewhat mysterious “free” reflexive sich with verbs like ansehen ‘look at’ (1.4 c), see Sec­tion 7.4.4. Arguably, the special word order in German subordinate clauses (viz. with the finite verb in clause-final position) can also be regarded as a clause alternation (1.4 d).

(1.4) a. Er erledigt seine Hausaufgaben.
Er muss seine Hausaufgaben erledigen.
b. Ich esse den Apfel.
Ich esse den Apfel auf.
c. Er hat das Haus angesehen.
Er hat sich das Haus angesehen.
d. Er erledigt seine Hausaufgaben.
(Ich hoffe, dass) er seine Hausaufgaben erledigt.


[1.12] Based on the notion of a clause alternation, a diathesis (sometimes also known as “valency alternation”) is defined as follows:

[1.13] The prototypical example of a diathesis is the werden+Partizip passive as in (1.5 a), see Sec­tion 10.5.15. Also widely acknowledged is the bekommen+Partizip dative passive as shown in (1.5 b), see Sec­tion 10.5.21. However, the diversity of diatheses in German goes well beyond such light-verb constructions. There is also, for example, a passive-like diathesis marked with a reflexive pronoun as shown in (10.8 c), see Sec­tion 7.5.7, or an applicative diathesis marked with a prefix be‑ as shown in (1.5 d), see Sec­tion 8.8.9.

(1.5) a. Der Schreiner lackiert den Tisch.
Der Tisch wurde von dem Schreiner lackiert.
b. Der Lehrer nimmt dem Schüler das Handy ab.
Der Schüler bekommt das Handy von dem Lehrer abgenommen.
c. Der Preis empört den Kunden.
Der Kunde empört sich über den Preis.
d. Der Tourist steigt auf den Berg.
Der Tourist besteigt den Berg.

1.3 Definitional details

1.3.1 Monoclausality and coherence

[1.14] Diatheses are defined here as alternations between clauses with the same main verb. However, a single clause in German can contain multiple verb forms, for example when auxiliaries are used. It is crucial to strictly distinguish between expressions in which a multi-verb construction is monoclausal and when it is not. Only monoclausal constructions will be considered in this book.

[1.15] To define monoclausality, I will use the fact that the finite verb in German is placed at the end of a subordinate clause. The dummy main sentence Es ist bekannt, dass ‘it is known that’ will be used to force such a subordinate construction. The position of the finite verb in the subordinate clause can then be used to identify the boundary of the clause. Concretely, everything that can occur before the finite verb still belongs within the clause. In contrast, everything that has to come after the finite verb belongs to a different clause. For example, the sentence in (1.6 a) will turn into (1.6 b) in a subordinate construction. The finite verbform gehe now occurs at the end of the sentence. In this example it is not possible for anything to follow after this finite verb, as shown by the ungrammaticality of (1.6 c). So, the original sentence in (1.6 a) is a single clause.

(1.6) a. Ich gehe morgen nach Hause.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich morgen nach Hause gehe.
c. * (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich gehe morgen nach Hause.

[1.16] Sentences with this characteristic will be called (syntactically) coherent, following Bech (1955; see also Kiss 1995 for an in-depth discussion). This usage of the term “coherence” is slightly confusing, because it is used here as a technical term from the syntactic literature, completely independent from the pragmatic usage of the term “coherence” for contextual interconnectedness. Coherent constructions are considered to be monoclausal. For example, coherence is attested in auxiliary constructions with participles (1.7) and infinitives (1.8). Such constructions are thus monoclausal.

(1.7) a. Ich habe gestern ein Haus gekauft.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich gestern ein Haus gekauft habe.
c. * (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich gestern gekauft habe ein Haus.
(1.8) a. Ich will morgen ein Haus kaufen.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich morgen ein Haus kaufen will.
c. * (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich morgen kaufen will ein Haus.

[1.17] In contrast, constructions with zu and an infinitive are sometimes coherent, e.g. (1.9) with the finite verb geben ‘to give’, and sometimes non-coherent, e.g. (1.10) with the finite verb behaupten ‘to claim’. The coherent construction in (1.9 a) is thus monoclausal, while the non-coherent construction in (1.10 a) consists of two clauses.

(1.9) a. Der Protest gibt ihr zu denken.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) der Protest ihr zu denken gibt.
c. * (Es ist bekannt, dass) der Protest gibt ihr zu denken.
(1.10) a. Der Sportler behauptet den Wettkampf zu gewinnen.
b. * (Es ist bekannt, dass) der Sportler den Wettkampf zu gewinnen behauptet.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) der Sportler behauptet den Wettkampf zu gewinnen.

[1.18] All diatheses in this book are monoclausal (by definition). Besides trying to list all German diatheses, I will also catalogue all monoclausal alternations without any change in role marking (i.e. without diathesis). Such alternations will be called epitheses. This book can thus also be read as a collection of all German monoclausal constructions, with or without role remapping. Somewhat unexpectedly, the number of alternations with role remapping (i.e. diathesis) is about twice as large as the number of monoclausal alternations without changes in role marking (i.e. epithesis).

[1.19] When the above definition of monoclausality is strictly followed, then there turn out to be dozens of verbs that can be used as the finite “auxiliary” in a coherent multi-verb clause. When used as finite auxiliaries, these verbs are grammaticalised, i.e. they shed much of their lexical meaning when used in a multi-verb construction. Such grammaticalised verbs are classified into different groups and referred to by many different names in the German grammatical literature, for examples Hilfsverb, Kopulaverb, Modalverb, Modalitätsverb, Halbmodalverb (Eisenberg 2006a), Nebenverb (Engel 1996: 406), Funktionsverb (Polenz 1963 cited in Kamber 2008: 34), Strukturverb (Weber 2005), or Stützverb (Seelbach 1991 cited in Kamber 2008: 34). I will not pursue the question here how to classify these verbs into different kinds. I will simply refer to the whole group of these auxiliary verbs as light verbs. The same English term “light verb” has recently also been used as a translation of the German term Funktionsverb (Fleischhauer & Gamerschlag 2019; Fleischhauer 2021; Fleischhauer & Hartmann 2021). Actually, both that use and my use of the term “light verb” are instances of a more general overarching concept. The Funktionsverb can be specified as a “light verb with a nominal main predicate”. In contrast, in this book the term “light verb” is used for a “light verb with a verbal main predicate” (cf. Sec­tion 13.2.4). All light verbs that will be discussed in this book are shown in alphabetical order in (1.11).

(1.11) German verbs that can be used as light verbs
aussehen, bekommen, bleiben, brauchen, bringen, drohen, dürfen, erscheinen, fahren, finden, fühlen, geben, gehen, gehören, gelten, glauben, haben, halten, heißen, helfen, hören, kommen, kriegen, können, lassen, legen, lehren, lernen, liegen, machen, mögen, müssen, nehmen, pflegen, riechen, scheinen, schicken, sehen, sein, setzen, sollen, spüren, stehen, suchen, tun, vermögen, versprechen, verstehen, werden, wirken, wissen, wollen

1.3.2 Grammaticalisation of lexical meaning

[1.20] It is not always immediately clear whether a verb remains the same verb in a clause alternation. For example, the verb trinken means ‘to drink’ when used as a transitive verb (1.12 a). In contrast, when used intransitively it contains a strong insinuation that the drinking includes too much alcohol, so it might better be translated as ‘to be an alcoholic’ (1.12 b). In effect, the transitive and the intransitive use of trinken have a different meaning. However, in this case, the special intransitive meaning is probably best analysed as a conversational implicature because the suggestion of alcoholism can be suppressed given the right context (1.12 c).

(1.12) a. Er trinkt einen Orangensaft.
b. Er trinkt.
c. Er trinkt hastig, weil er durstig ist.

[1.21] In general, when the same lexical verb is used in different alternating constructions, then there is (of course) a difference in meaning between the two occurrences. However, ideally this difference is completely induced by the alternation and not by the lexical verb itself. Yet, it is extremely common for the combination of a lexical verb with the surrounding construction to grammaticalise into a new meaning. For example, the verb auftreten means something like ‘to act’ as an intransitive (1.13 a), but ‘to kick open’ as a transitive (1.13 b). Both meanings originate as metaphorical extensions from the meaning ‘to step on something (by foot)’.

(1.13) a. Er ist in der Oper aufgetreten.
b. Er hat die Tür aufgetreten.

[1.22] Likewise, historical processes can lead to current homophony of two different lexemes. For example, this appears to be the case with the verb abhauen, which has a transitive meaning ‘to cut off’ (1.14 a). However, it has attained another usage during the course of the 20th century as an intransitive meaning ‘to run away’ (1.14 b), probably based on a southern German dialectal meaning of hauen ‘to go, to walk’. Pfeiffer (1993), entry hauen at https://www.dwds.de/wb/etymwb/hauen, accessed 12 December 2018.

(1.14) a. Er hat den Ast abgehauen.
b. Er ist abgehauen.

[1.23] In between those extremes (i.e. conversational implicature as with trinken and different lexicalisation as with abhauen) there are various intermediate stages of semantic separation. For example, the verb hängen ‘to hang’ can be used as a regular intransitive verb with a location (6.9 a). However, the specific combination with the preposition an can also have a special meaning ‘being emotionally attached to something’ (1.15 b). In this case it seems most appropriate to interpret the combination hängen an as a separate lexicalisation, although the path of the grammaticalisation to this new interpretation can still be intuitively grasped.

(1.15) a. Er hängt an einem Seil.
b. Er hängt an seinem Teddy.

[1.24] As with all grammaticalisation, it is often difficult to decide where to draw the line on the continuum between implicature (trinken), metaphorical extension (auftreten), contextual lexicalisation (hängen an) or completely different lexicalisation (abhauen). I tend to be rather lenient in allowing slightly different meanings still to be counted as diatheses of the “same” verb. However, I will exclude clear examples of grammaticalised lexicalisation and treat those as separate verbs.

1.3.3 Lexeme-specific lexical roles

[1.25] A crucial aspect of diathesis is that the lexical roles of a specific verb do not change, only the grammatical encoding of the roles is modified. For example, the verb füllen ‘to fill’ occurs in various monoclausal constructions (1.16) but the roles of (i) filler, (ii) filled container and (iii) filling substance remain the same. The different grammatical forms that are used to express these roles are indexed with the corresponding subscripts in the examples below.

(1.16) a. [Der Koch]i füllt [den Topf]ii [mit dem Reis]iii.
b. [Der Koch]i füllt [den Reis]iii [in den Topf]ii.
c. [Der Reis]iii füllt [dem Koch]i [den Magen]ii.
d. [Der Koch]i füllt sich [den Magen]ii.
e. [Der Blumentopf]ii füllt sich [mit Wurzeln]iii.

[1.26] Already from this example it becomes clear that it is often really difficult, if not impossible, to attach a specific valency to a verb. Given that most (and possibly all) German verbs show some kind of diathesis, I reject the traditional notion of a fixed valency belonging to a specific verb (see Sec­tion 2.2 for a more extensive discussion). Alternatively, I propose that it is possible to list all lexeme-specific roles (or equivalently lexical roles) as a fixed characteristic of each lexical verb. The following three criteria will be used to determine the lexical roles of a verb.

[1.27] First, each role that is case-marked in at least one clause alternant is a lexeme-specific role. In the example of füllen in (1.16), each of the three roles is marked as nominative, accusative or dative in at least one of the alternants, so all three roles are lexeme-specific. Various exceptions and stipulations to this criterion are discussed in Sec­tion 5.2.

[1.28] Second, all obligatory prepositional phrases are lexeme-specific roles. There are different kinds of such lexeme-specific prepositional phrases. First, some verbs obligatorily require such a location, like sich befinden (1.17), see Sec­tion 6.3.3. Second, some diatheses introduce an obligatory location, like the caused-motion diathesis with waschen (1.18), see Sec­tion 6.8.8. This diathesis turns an accusative object Hose ‘trousers’ (1.18 a) into an obligatory location (1.18 b,c).

(1.17) a. Der Stuhl befindet sich im Wohnzimmer
b. * Der Stuhl befindet sich.
(1.18) a. Ich wasche meine Hose.
b. Ich wasche den Fleck aus meiner Hose.
c. * Ich wasche den Fleck.

[1.29] Third, there is a large class of lexeme-specific prepositional phrases that I will call governed prepositions, like with arbeiten an ‘to work on’ (1.19 a). These prepositional phrases are not obligatorily present (1.19 b). However, the intuition behind governed prepositions is that these prepositions are lexically determined by the verb and often strongly grammaticalised both semantically and structurally. For example, the preposition an with the verb arbeiten ‘to work’ (1.19 a) is semantically strongly bleached with none of its local meaning remaining. Syntactically, the prepositional phrase in arbeiten an can be paraphrased with a complement clause of the form daran, dass (1.19 c). The possibility of such a syntactic paraphrase will be used as the main characteristic to identify governed prepositions. Various exceptions and stipulations to this criterion are discussed in Sec­tion 6.2.

(1.19) a. Ich arbeite an meinem Buch.
b. Ich arbeite hart.
c. Ich arbeite daran, dass das Buch bald fertig wird.

[1.30] Under this approach, there are a few lexical roles that appear to be very widespread, up to the point of seemingly being universally applicable to all verbs. If that would be the case, then it would defeat the idea of lexeme-specific roles. However, on closer inspection it appears that there are no roles that apply to all verbs. The closest contender is, arguably, the role of causer, which can be introduced to almost any German verb by using the lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis (1.20), see Sec­tion 11.6.2. However, there is a small group of verbs that do not allow for this diathesis, like gefallen ‘to like’ (1.21). This shows that even virtually universal roles are still lexically determined in German.

(1.20) a. Der Student arbeitet an einer Aufgabe.
b. Der Professor lässt den Studenten an einer Aufgabe arbeiten.
(1.21) a. Dein Haarschnitt gefällt mir.
b. * Er lässt mir seinen Haarschnitt gefallen.

[1.31] Such lexeme-specific roles are called “verb-specific semantic roles” in Van Valin (2004) and “microroles” in Hartmann et al. (2014). The obvious next step (as discussed in both these papers) is to group such microroles into clusters of semantic/thematic meso­roles, i.e. widespread roles like agent, patient, experiencer, etc. Such semantic roles are used constantly in contemporary linguistics, but they are surprisingly ill-defined. For example, given a random German verb like füllen as exemplified at the start of this section, it is not clear at all what should be its semantic roles, and what criteria should be used to determine them. Hartmann et al. (2014) and Cysouw (2014) use cross-linguistic data to approach this problem. However, such an approach does not allow for language-specific definitions, which is the problem here.

[1.32] As a solution, I propose to use the applicability of a diathesis as a criterion for the language-specific determination of semantic mesoroles. For example, a “German patient” might be defined as the group of those lexical roles that are changed from accusative to nominative in the werden+Partizip passive diathesis. Note that this definition is not supposed to satisfy all intuitions that surround the notion “patient” in linguistics. Quite to the contrary, the proposal is to define a semantic role like “patient” on the basis of applicable diatheses and adapt any intuitions to that definition (or, if that feels too radical, simply use a different name for the newly defined semantic role, like Leidtragende). Even more general, a semantic role could also be defined by the cross section of multiple diatheses. The determination of suitable (combinations of) diatheses to define semantic roles for German will not be pursued here, but left for a follow-up investigation.

1.3.4 Domain of application and verb classes

[1.33] A widespread assumption in linguistic analysis is that most alternations (including diatheses) have a sensible domain of application. This is the idea that there is some rationale, often a kind of semantic characterisation, explaining which roots allow for a specific kind of linguistic marking (e.g. only transitive verbs allow for a werden passive). For example, compare the infamous sentence on the first page of Levin (1993: 1) “the behavior of a verb, particularly with respect to the expression and interpretation of its arguments, is to a large extent determined by its meaning”. In contrast to that claim, Levin in practice uses form to establish classes of verbs, not meaning. That practical approach is also taken here. Although I also believe that many alternations, including diatheses, mostly behave sensibly, I would advise not to expect too much (semantic) regularity to be hidden in grammatical structure. Many grammatical regularities have unexpected exceptions, be it because of haphazard diachronic change or through creative analogical extension. Even stronger, some grammatical marking appears to be almost completely without (semantic) rationale, like the assignment of plural allomorphy in German. If that can happen in morphology, it can also happen in syntax.

[1.34] As a practical approach to determine the domain of application (say, which verbs allow for the werden+Partizip passive) I propose to always first enumerate as many examples as possible. In other words, first empirically establish a verb class of those verbs that happen to be possible with an alternation. In this book, I will not be satisfied with four or five cases that suggest a neat semantic characterisation for a specific diathesis. In contrast, I will list as many as possible further examples, idiosyncratic as they may be. Only after such a formal listing of the domain of application (which ideally needs much more corpus research than I have been able to perform here) is it possible to investigate the presence of any (semantic) rationale. In many cases there might be a (partial) rationale for the attested group of verbs, but it is just as likely (and just as interesting) to have to conclude that there apparently is none.

[1.35] Taking this principle one step further, I propose to define the domain of application by the concrete listing of all examples. Any (semantic) characterisation is then always a post-hoc generalisation, not a definition. This radically lexicalist interpretation is the approach that I will follow in this book. For each diathesis I will list as many example verbs as possible that take part in the diathesis (for some I will reverse the approach and list verbs that are not possible). These lexical lists (i.e. the empirical verb classes) are the definition of the domain of application. For some diatheses I will speculate about semantic generalisations, but I consider these generalisations always to be secondary to the concrete listing of examples. My semantic generalisations are thus never a causal explanation.

[1.36] This principle of definition by listing even holds for questions of productivity. For example, when somebody would propose a nonce-verb like flurchten to be a new verb for the German language in an experimental setting, then its meaning is partially defined by stipulating what kind of diatheses it can take part in. For example, the following constructions might, or might not, be chosen in examples that contextualise the new verb. The choices made will strongly influence the interpretation of the new verb.

(1.22) a. Ich flurchte den Gärtner.
b. Ich flurchte auf den Gärtner.
c. Ich flurchte mich vor den Gärtner.
d. Der Gärtner flurchtet.
e. Der Gärtner flurchtet sich.

1.3.5 Functional analysis

[1.37] Intimately connected to the domain of application (i.e. which verbs allow for which diathesis) is the question as to the meaning/function of a specific diathesis. In essence, this question asks for a description of the difference in meaning between the two alternants of a diathesis. For example, what is the difference between the transitive schließen (1.23 a) and the corresponding reflexive anticausative sich schließen (1.23 b), cf. Sec­tion 7.5.2. Although the answer might seem obvious for some diatheses, it turns out to be extremely difficult to give a concise description of such differences for most diatheses, and I will regularly refrain from trying to provide such a descriptions. Each diathesis is actually its own research project, preferably investigated using predictive corpus analysis (cf. the large literature on the English dative alternation, or for German De Vaere, De Cuypere & Willems 2018).

(1.23) a. Ich schließe die Tür.
b. Die Tür schließt sich.

[1.38] There are two empirical pieces of information that are crucial for such a functional analysis of a diathesis. The first key data point is the actual list of verbs that allow for a specific diathesis (i.e. the verb class as defined by a diathesis, see the previous Sec­tion 1.3.4). The second important consideration is any restriction on the kind of nominals that can be used to fill the roles of a diathesis (i.e. nominal classes as defined by a diathesis). Both these classes can be established empirically by collecting and analysing a corpus of examples of a specific diathesis.

[1.39] The problem of a functional description for a diathesis becomes even larger with the realisation that there are many dozens of diatheses, often highly similar to each other. For example, it is really difficult (cf. Schäfer 2007; Kurogo 2016) to characterise the difference between the reflexive anticausative, like with schließen above in (1.23), and the unmarked anticausative, like with kochen in (1.24), see Sec­tion 5.5.5.

(1.24) a. Ich koche den Kaffee.
b. Der Kaffee kocht.
c. * Der Kaffee kocht sich.

[1.40] The problem of providing a concise functional description for a grammatical construction is not restricted to diatheses. Clause alternations that do not have any role-remapping are also in need of a functional description (see Chapter 4 for a survey). An example is the phenomenon of “free” reflexives, illustrated with ansehen in (1.25), see Sec­tion 7.4.4. Although there is no role-remapping in this alternation (and thus no diathesis), it turns out to be really difficult to describe the difference between (1.25 a) without reflexive and (1.25 b) with reflexive. All clause alternations, with or without role-remapping, are in need of a functional analysis, and most such analyses will need substantial further research.

(1.25) a. Ich habe das Haus angesehen.
b. Ich habe mir das Haus angesehen.

1.4 Method

[1.41] Methodologically, I regard the approach in this book as an attempt to unify grammatical research with lexicographic research, two aspects of linguistics that are often considered to be separate inquiries. In contrast to such a separation, I would like to propose a view of linguistics that might be called grammar of the lexicon (cf. Levin 1993: 2–4, but one might just as well include all of construction grammar here). In this approach, each grammatical phenomenon should always be linked to individual occurrences, either types (lexicon) or tokens (corpus). It is my experience from compiling the current compendium of diatheses that identifying and characterising a specific grammatical structure is really just “step one” of grammatical research. Only by trying to find more examples, with different lexemes and in different contexts, it becomes clear how prominent and varying a grammatical structure really is.

[1.42] As as rule-of-thumb, I propose the 10-in-10-rule as “step two” of grammatical research. If you think that a particular construction is widespread, or maybe even typical for a specific class of words (e.g. typical for intransitives), then take 10 minutes to search for examples, either using your own intuitions or in one of the many online databases or corpora. Resources like the Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (DWDS), the various online offerings of the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS), or just a Google “exact search” are literally just a click away and completely rejuvenate linguistic research. If you are not able to list 10 examples in 10 minutes, then go back to the drawing board and reconsider your intuitions.

[1.43] Such quick-and-dirty 10-minute surveys of course still only represent a preliminary step of grammatical analysis. It is this level of detail that I have aimed for in this book (although I have often spend way more than 10 minutes searching for examples of a specific diathesis). Each sub-subsection about an individual diathesis lists lexemes that can be used with this diathesis. It includes examples of the diathesis, either from my own intuitions or from any of the above mentioned databases. I plan to expand and fine-tune these lists in future revisions of this book.

[1.44] However, the real research is only yet to come. “Step three” would be the in-depth investigation of individual diatheses by sampling examples from corpora and formulating predictive parameters to explain their usage. For example, De Vaere et al. (2018) investigate the dative antipassive (see Sec­tion 6.7.12) for just the single verb geben ‘to give’. Now, there are hundreds of diatheses and hundreds of verbs listed in this book, so there are tens of thousands of similar research projects just waiting to be tackled.

1.5 Previous research

[1.45] The current attempt to present an all-encompassing survey of German diatheses builds on a rich scholarly tradition (with many scholarly precursors to be cited in appropriate places throughout this book). An early precursor is Hans Conon von der Gabelentz (1861), which includes an astonishlingly modern take on the typological diversity of passive-like constructions. A direct inspiration for the current work is the highly influential survey of diathesis for English by Levin (1993), followed by a similar attempt for German by Sauerland (1994). A recent cross-linguistic survey of valency and diathesis in this tradition is edited by Malchukov & Comrie (2015), which also includes data on German (Haspelmath & Baumann 2013). A recent pan-Germanic survey of different kinds of diathesis is available in Kasper (2023).

[1.46] Mostly independently from this comparative work, there is a long tradition in the German grammatical literature to investigate diathesis, e.g. as “Konversenverhältnis der Aktanten(Eroms 1980: 24; cf. Heringer 1968). An early attempt at a survey of various diatheses is presented by Höhle (1978). Basic summaries of German diathesis in the context of valency can be found in Eroms (2000: Ch. 10) or Ágel (2000: Ch. 6). There also are a few monographs about specific German diatheses (e.g. Leirbukt 1997; Holl 2010; Jäger 2013) and recently some corpus studies into the effect of specific diatheses on individual verbs have appeared (De Vaere, De Cuypere & Willems 2018; Imo 2018; Dux 2020: Ch. 6).

[1.47] Diathesis is of course closely linked to the concept of valency, so the groundbreaking valency dictionary for German by Helbig and Schenkel (1969) deserves mentioning. They identify the problem that certain verbs can be used in different constructions, but diatheses are not investigated consistently in their dictionary. Another highly influential valency dictionary for German, edited by Schumacher (1986; also the precursor Engel & Schumacher 1978), discusses passive diatheses for all verbs that are included. I regard the current survey of German diatheses as a next step to extend such valency dictionaries into even more all-encompassing dictionaries that discuss all possible clause constructions for each verb.

1.6 Structure of this book

[1.48] The structure of this book is somewhat unusual for a scholarly monograph. It is not a narrative with a painless beginning, a sturdy middle and a satisfying conclusion. Rather, this book is open ended, and it does not have a gratifying closure at the end. That is by design. It is an encyclopaedia after all.

[1.49] The book consists of three different parts. First, Chapters 1 and 2 discuss the major theoretical considerations that guide the collection and organisation of the data. This is the part to read for insights into the nature of diathesis and sundry topics. Second, Chapters 3 and 4 are the closest to what this book has to offer in the way of a conclusion. Each of these chapters presents an astonishingly long list of grammatical constructions, summarising a selection of the major linguistic structures as identified in the remainder of this book. These summaries are intended to be a quick entry into the actual German language data, with ample cross-references to the following encyclopaedia. Finally, Chapters 5 to 13 make up the actual encyclopaedia, with separate sub-subsections about individual phenomena. Each of these sub-subsections is a fragment of a research project, sometimes mundane, but often full of surprising avenues for future research.

[1.50] Going through the chapters in more detail, this first chapter summarised the basic definitional properties of clauses and clause alternations. The next Chapter 2 describes in detail how diatheses are analysed and classified. Chapter 3 presents a summary of the about 80 major German diatheses and proposes German names for those structures. As a small extra, Chapter 4 summarises the about 40 major epithetical structures and provides an unconventional approach to the analysis of verbal categories of German.

[1.51] Chapters 5 to 13 are the core part of this book. These chapter are database-like texts, discussing each clause structure separately. All of these chapters have exactly the same internal structure. Sometimes certain sections are empty, because there is no grammatical structure in that category. However, the headers of those empty sections have been preserved for the sake of parallel numbering across chapters. The following structure is used in all data chapters:

[1.52] In these data chapters, each diathesis has its own sub-subsection with a unique section header that can be used as a name to refer to the diathesis (e.g. Sec­tion 10.5.15 on the “werden+Partizip Passive”). Many of these unique names are quite boring, but hopefully descriptively useful for future reference. More imaginative German names are only added for the major diatheses. Individual verbs are listed with each diathesis to show the extent of its applicability. Often a section with further examples is added to illustrate the diathesis. Neither these lists of verbs nor the examples are intended to be exhaustive in any way. Sometimes an additional section with notes is provided to discuss idiosyncrasies of individual verbs. All this information should be read as a first step towards a more in-depth research into individual diatheses and into the constructional possibilities that are available to individual verbs.

2 The structure of a diathesis

2.1 Analytical dimensions

[2.1] The central concepts to analyse the structure of a diathesis are valency (Sec­tion 2.2), voice (Sec­tion 2.3) and diathetical operation (Sec­tion 2.4). These concepts will be discussed extensively in this chapter. Two new concepts are introduced as well, namely stacking (Sec­tion 2.5) and chaining (Sec­tion 2.6). Finally, I will present an extensive discussion about naming diatheses at the end of this chapter (Sec­tion 2.7).

[2.2] A diathesis (as defined in Sec­tion 1.2) is an alternation between two different clausal construction. Each of the alternants show a different mapping of (grammatical) expressions onto (semantic) roles. Such an alternation is what is called a “diathetical operation” in Zuñiga & Kittilä (2019: 4), in contrast to the term “diathesis” being used for each individual mapping between expressions and roles. However, because I will only consider diathetical operations between an unmarked basic clause and a marked alternant, I have decided to simplify the terminology in this book. Both the alternation itself (Zuñiga & Kittilä’s “diathetical operation”, e.g. “causativisation”) and the derived alternant (Zuñiga & Kittilä’s “diathesis”, e.g. “causative”) will be referred to here simply as a diathesis, from Greek διάθεσις ‘placement in order, (re)arrangement’.

[2.3] A side-effect of this approach is that “active” is not a diathesis, but simply the unmarked counterpart of a diathetical operation. Even stronger, I will refrain from using the term “active” because it immediately conjures up “passive” as its antithesis. This opposition is too much of an oversimplification as “passive” is just one of the hundreds of possible diatheses. Also, the “active” does not necessarily describe an action, so content-wise this term is also ill-fitting.

[2.4] As an alternative to “active”, I will use the term basic clause as the unmarked base of comparison for all clause alternations. A basic clause is a clause with a single finite verb from, either in the German Präsens or Präteritum tense. Strictly speaking, a basic clause can also be a clause with a single finite verb in the Konjunktiv I or Konjunktiv II. However, because these are rather rare nowadays I have hidden this possibility in this footnote. All other verb forms, including the Perfekt and the other traditional German tense-aspect distinctions, are all derived clauses, i.e. the result of some kind of clause alternations. A diathesis is a special instance of a derived clause that also exhibits a diathetical operation. In constrast to a diathesis, a derived clause without any diathetical operation will be called epithesis, from Greek ἐπίθεσις ‘placement upon, imposition’. Epithesis is grammatical marking “on top of” a basic clause. There appears to be a rarely used alternative meaning of the term “epithesis” in linguistics to indicate the addition of a sound to the end of the word, i.e. a special kind of epenthesis, see for example http://www.websters1913.com/words/Epithesis, accessed 23 December 2022. A summary of all major epithetical constructions will be presented in Chapter 4.

[2.5] The actual linguistic marking of a diathesis (for example using verbal morphology or auxiliaries) is called grammatical voice. The crux of this term is that a voice is the language-specific linguistic expression used to mark the diathesis. For example, a diathesis in German can be “voiced” by a reflexive pronoun (Chapter 7) or by a light verb with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (Chapter 12), and so on. The different kinds of grammatical voice in German are used here as the central organisational characteristic for the separation of the data chapters. An overview of the different German voices is given in Sec­tion 2.3.

[2.6] A major objective of research into diathesis is to describe the connection between a diathetical operation and its semantic effects on the meaning of the clause. Somewhat confusingly, Zuñiga and Kittilä (2019: 3) use the term “transitivity” (following Hopper & Thompson 1980) for such semantic effects. However, the effects of diathetical operations seem to far surpass differences in transitivity. For example, when an accusative argument is remapped onto a prepositional phrase (“antipassive”) this often implies less involvement of the participant. The details of such semantic effects for each of the hundreds of diatheses in this book is an important and fascinating topic, for which I can currently offer only limited insights throughout. In practice, I assume that each diathesis as described here has some kind of semantic/pragmatic effect. However, the concise specification of these effects needs much more detailed research, which has to be provided by subsequent work. Wherever I can, I will observe tendencies and propose hypotheses for such future research.

[2.7] Lastly, I prefer to use the term “diathesis” over the frequently attested term “valency alternation”, although in practice both terms can mostly be used interchangeably. There is only a difference when using a highly simplistic interpretation of the term “valency”, namely as indicating the number of arguments of a verb. There are many diatheses in which the number of arguments does not change between the alternants. For example, in (2.1) both sentences have the same (surface) valency, having three arguments: a nominative case, an accusative case and a prepositional phrase. Yet, there clearly is a role-remapping between both sentences. Strictly speaking, “number-of-arguments” valency alternations are then just a subset of all possible diatheses.

(2.1) a. Ich schmiere Salbe auf die Wunde.
b. Ich beschmiere die Wunde mit Salbe.

2.2 Valency

2.2.1 Utterance valency and lexical roles

[2.8] Valency is traditionally interpreted as a fixed constructional characteristic of a lexical verb, e.g. the verb geben ‘to give’ is said to be ditransitive. A central thesis of this book is that this conception of valency is too limited. Individual verbs can (and normally will) be used in many different constructions with different valency (i.e. most verbs show some kind of diathesis). Consider for example the verb wehen ‘to blow’. Such weather verbs are often considered to have zero valency, which in German is characterised by an obligatory non-phoric es pronoun (2.2 a). However, the same verb can just as well be used as an intransitive (2.2 b,c), as a transitive with an accusative object (2.2 d), or even as a ditransitive with a dative and accusative object (2.2 e). Note that the prepositional phrases in (2.2 c,d,e) cannot be left out and their obligatory presence might be used to argue for argument-status of these prepositional phrases. The example in (2.2 e) then will be an example of the verb wehen with a valency of four.

(2.2) a. Heute weht es.
b. Gestern wehte kein Lüftchen.
c. Der Rosenduft weht ins Zimmer.
d. Der Sturm weht den Schnee von den Dächern.
e. Der Fahrtwind weht mir die Mütze vom Kopf.

[2.9] There is a recurrent tendency in the literature to try and reduce such variation to a single valency per verb (viz. its “real” or “underlying” valency), and various strategies are employed to arrive at such a prototypical valency (see e.g. Welke 2011: Ch. 9 for a survey). That will not be the approach taken here. Instead, valency is proposed to be a characteristic of a specific utterance, not of a specific verb. So, the examples in (2.2) can simply be assigned an utterance valency from zero (2.2 a) to four (2.2 e) even though they all use the same lexeme wehen as their main verb.

[2.10] As a replacement of the traditional lexeme-specific notion of valency (e.g. geben is ditransitive), I propose to use the notion of lexeme-specific lexical roles (e.g. geben has lexical roles “giver”, “givee”, “given object”, etc.). Lexical roles are participants that are treated as an argument of utterance valency in at least one of the possible diatheses of a verb (see the next section for the complete definition of such arguments). The existence of such lexical roles is solely determined by the verb and does not change with different sentence constructions around the verb. Looking back at the example in (2.2 e), the following lexical roles of the German verb wehen ‘to blow’ can be established:

  1. blower: the blowing air, Fahrtwind ‘headwind’.
  2. blowee: Object affected by the blowing air, Mütze ‘cap’.
  3. blowing location: Location affected by the blowing air, Kopf ‘head’.
  4. blowing location possessor: Possessor of the locational object, in (2.2 e) the dative mir ‘my’. This role is necessarily the possessor of the location Kopf ‘head’ affected by the blowing.

[2.11] Additionally, it is of course possible to define a notion of lexeme valency. A straigtforward approach would be to take the utterance valency of a basic clause (cf. paragraph 2.4) as the definition of lexeme valency. However, in general lexeme valency has to be a much more complex construct. For example, lexeme valency can be defined as the collection of all attested utterance valencies for a specific lexeme. To be precise, this lexeme valency also has to include an indexation of the lexical roles across all arguments. This addition is important to distinguish between, for example, the lexical valency of kochen ‘to cook’ (2.3) and essen ‘to eat’ (2.4). Both can occur with a transitive and intransitive utterance valency, but the lexical roles that can be used in the intransitive differ. Specifically, the patient-role “eaten object” of essen cannot be used as nominative subject in the intransitive (2.4 c), which is different from kochen (2.3 c). In effect, these verbs have a different lexeme valency.

(2.3) a. Der Chef kocht den Fond.
b. Der Chef kocht immer noch.
c. Der Fond kocht immer noch.
(2.4) a. Der Chef isst den Fond.
b. Der Chef isst immer noch.
c. * Der Fond isst immer noch.

2.2.2 Arguments of utterance valency

[2.12] The lexical roles of a specific verb are defined as those participants that are treated as argument in at least one of the possible utterance valencies of this verb. So, to identify lexical roles, a strict definition of the arguments of utterance valency is needed. The following four kinds of arguments can be identified. First, all case marked noun phrase constituents are arguments, with a few exceptions that will be discussed in Sec­tion 5.2. Basically, case-marked arguments (2.5 a) can be questioned by the question pronouns wer or was, including their case forms wem, wen and wessen (2.5 b,c). Further, case-marked arguments can be pronominalized by personal pronouns (2.5 d) or the indefinite pronouns (irgend)jemand or (irgend)etwas (2.5 e).

(2.5) a. Der Löwe sieht einen Vogel.
b. Wer sieht einen Vogel?
c. Was sieht der Löwe?
d. Er sieht ihn.
e. Jemand sieht etwas.

[2.13] Second, prepositional phrases (2.6 a) are arguments of an utterance when they can be paraphrased by a complement clause of the form da(r)+preposition, dass (2.6 b). All details of the difficult question when to treat prepositional phrases as arguments in German are discussed in Sec­tion 6.2.

(2.6) a. Der Weltreisende wartet auf einen Zug.
b. Der Weltreisende wartet darauf, dass ein Zug kommt.

[2.14] Third, there exist obligatory prepositional phrases, though they are not very widespread in German and mostly designate a location. Some verbs always expect such a location-role, like sich befinden ‘to be located’ (2.7 a,b), see Sec­tion 6.3.3 and 7.3.4.

(2.7) a. Der Stuhl befindet sich im Wohnzimmer
b. * Der Stuhl befindet sich.

[2.15] More widespread are diatheses that introduce an obligatory local role, like with brechen ‘to break’ (2.8), see Sec­tion 6.8.8. This example crucially shows that arguments should be determined as part of the clause structure, not the lexeme structure. It is perfectly possible to use the verb brechen without a prepositional phrase (2.8 c), but only with a different lexical role in the accusative, viz. Felsen takes the role “broken object”, while Loch has the role “location where the breaking took place”.

(2.8) a. Ich breche ein Loch in den Felsen.
b. * Ich breche ein Loch.
c. Ich breche den Felsen.

[2.16] Finally, all complement clauses are arguments (2.9 a,b). Complement clauses can be questioned by was (2.9 c) and pronominalised by a definite pronoun es (2.9 d) or an indefinite pronoun (irgend)etwas (2.9 e). Complement clauses are thus syntactically highly similar to case marked noun phrases. Caution should be taken when interpreting pronominalised examples like (2.9 d,e), because it is not immediately obvious whether the pronouns are replacing a case-marked noun phrase or a complement clause. For example, with the verb hoffen (2.9 e) it is not possible to replace the pronoun es with a noun phrase, though a governed prepositional phrase with auf is possible (2.9 f). The impact of such complement-clause arguments has not (yet) been thoroughly investigated in this book.

(2.9) a. Er hofft, dass er rechtzeitig kommt.
b. Er hofft rechtzeitig zu kommen.
c. Was hofft er?
d. Er hofft es.
e. * Er hofft eine gute Note.
f. Er hofft auf eine gute Note.

2.2.3 es Arguments

[2.17] A further kind of utterance-valency argument can be instantiated by es, the 3rd person nominative/accusative pronoun in the neuter gender. There are four uses of this pronoun that have to be distinguished, the last of which is particularly important for the analysis of diathesis. First, the most obvious use of the pronouns es is for anaphoric reference (phoric es). The next two uses do not have argument-status (viz. correlative and position-simulating es). Most interestingly in the current context, the fourth usage of es does not have anaphoric reference, but will still be counted as an argument (viz. valency-simulating es). I will illustrate these four options below.

[2.18] First, es can be used for anaphoric reference to neuter nouns, typically with gender agreement as shown in (2.10). There are many variants of such phoric usage, extensively discussed by Czicza (2014: Ch. 2).

(2.10) Das Mädchen weint.
Ich tröste es.

[2.19] Second, another kind of referential es occurs with some non-finite complement clauses. By definition, a complement clause replaces an argument (2.11 a), but in some examples a pronoun es remains in place of the original argument, side by side with the complement clause (2.11 b). This is known as a correlative es (Czicza 2014: 79ff.).

(2.11) a. Ich vergesse [meine Aufgaben].
Ich vergesse [schnell zu laufen].
b. Ich hasse [meine Aufgaben].
Ich hasse es [schnell zu laufen].

[2.20] Third, the pronoun es is also used to fill the first sentence position in front of the finite verb (Vorfeld in the German grammatical terminology), because there is a strong regularity in German that this position cannot be left empty (except in imperatives and in yes/no questions). Word order is rather flexible in German, and it is often possible to have no lexical content in the Vorfeld. In such sentences, the pronoun es has to be used to fill the Vorfeld, as shown in (2.12 b). This is known as a position-simulating es (Czicza 2014: 115).

(2.12) a. Ein Mädchen weint.
b. Es weint ein Mädchen.

[2.21] Finally, there are also constructions that obligatorily include the pronoun es in the sentence as part of the valency of the utterance. The main reason for such a pronoun es is that there is a strong regularity in German that a nominative subject has to be present in each sentence (with very few exceptions, see below). Note that “subject” is defined here strictly for German as the nominative noun phrase that shows agreement with the finite verb. When there is no such subject available, then the pronoun es is used to fill this gap. This is known as a valency-simulating es (Czicza 2014: 115). In the analysis of diatheses in this book, such valency-simulating es is alway explicitly noted.

[2.22] In constructions with a valency-simulating es, as exemplified in (2.13 a,b), the pronoun es can occur in the Vorfeld (2.13 a), seemingly parallel to the position-simulating usage (11.72 b). However, when another constituent is placed in the Vorfeld, the pronoun es in (2.13 a) cannot be dropped, but has to occur elsewhere in the sentence, typically immediately after the finite verb (2.13 b). This post-verbal retention of the pronoun es is a typical sign for the valency-simulating use.

(2.13) a. Es stinkt hier sehr.
b. Hier stinkt es sehr.

[2.23] In a very limited set of constructions the expected valency-simulating es is not present, resulting in sentences without any formal nominative subject. Some of these examples are historical idiosyncrasies (2.14), see Sections 6.5.3 and 5.9.3, respectively.

(2.14) a. Heute ist mir kalt.
b. Dem Arzt graut vor Blut.

[2.24] However, there are a few impersonal diatheses that completely remove the subject but still have no valency-simulating es. Specifically, the following diatheses result in sentences that do not have any nominative subject.

(2.15) a. Im Bett wird geschlafen.
b. An der Ernsthaftigkeit der Aussage lässt sich zweifeln.
c. Mit einem neutralen Deutschland ist schwer leben.
d. Mit ihm ist nicht zu spaßen.

[2.25] There are also a few rare cases in which there is a valency-simulating es in what appears to be an accusative case (2.16), see Sections 6.3.5 and 9.7.3, respectively. These constructions need a more in-depth investigation.

(2.16) a. Ich belasse es bei einer Warnung.
b. Ich meine es ernst.

2.2.4 Adjuncts

[2.26] Adjuncts, the counterparts of arguments, are phrases that are not specifically induced by the main verb of a clause. Typically, such adjuncts are adverbial prepositional phrases, see Sec­tion 6.2.2. Just like with arguments, adjunct status should not be linked to a lexical verb itself, but to the clause construction in which it is used.

[2.27] For example, the verb tanzen ‘to dance’ is typically considered to be an intransitive verb with optional (adjunct) location prepositional phrases (2.17 a,b). However, there is a crucial difference between the two locations in these two examples, see Sec­tion 6.8.1. The static location im Saal ‘in the hall’ (2.17 a) remains optional in the perfect (with auxiliary haben), see (2.17 c,d), while the dynamic location in den Saal ‘into the hall’ becomes obligatory in the perfect (with auxiliary sein), see (2.17 e,f). So, the obligatory location in (2.17 e) is an utterance argument (and as a consequence, the role of “path” is a lexical role of such verbs of movement like tanzen).

(2.17) a. Ich tanze (im Saal).
b. Ich tanze (durch den Saal).
c. Ich habe im Saal getanzt.
d. Ich habe getanzt.
e. Ich bin durch den Saal getanzt.
f. * Ich bin getanzt.

[2.28] Adjuncts are, by definition, optionally present, so there is a natural connection to them being unexpressed. A central unanswered problem is whether there is a crucial distinction between constructions in which a participant is obligatorily absent (i.e. impossible to express) vs. optionally absent (i.e. possibly not expressed). In most diatheses that involve absence, the whole point is that there is an alternation between absence and presence of a lexical role (e.g. in all diatheses that involve a drop or addition). The problematic cases are differences like passive vs. anticausative, which by definition are distinguished by possibility vs. impossibility for the agent to be expressed. This difference is highly volatile, i.e. it often differs from lexeme to lexeme whether it is possible or just dispreferred for an agent to be expressed.

2.3 Voice

[2.29] The formal linguistic marking of a diathesis, for example by verbal morphology or auxiliaries, is called grammatical voice (following Zúñiga & Kittilä 2019: 4). The different kinds of grammatical voice in German establish the basic organisational framework of this book. Each of the data chapters discusses a specific kind of grammatical voice, listing all diatheses using that “voicing”. The nine data chapters can be grouped into four kinds of grammatical voices:

[2.30] The first two chapters deal with diatheses that are not overtly marked as such, i.e. they deal with covert diatheses. Because there is no marking on either of the two alternants, it is often difficult to discern a direction in such equipollent alternations. In Chapter 5 I will discuss diatheses that only differ in the marking of case, for example unmarked anticausatives like (2.18). Chapter 6 deals with unmarked diatheses in which at least on of the alternants is a prepositional phrase, for example unmarked antipassives like (2.19).

(2.18) a. Er verbrennt den Tisch.
b. Der Tisch verbrennt.
(2.19) a. Ich schlürfe meinen Tee.
b. Ich schlürfe an meinem Tee.

[2.31] The contribution of reflexive pronouns for the marking of diathesis is discussed in Chapter 7. A central claim in this chapter is that ‘self-inflicting’ reflexive reference (2.20) does not count as diathesis in German. In contrast, there are various other diathetical constructions in German that use reflexive pronouns without such self-inflicting reflexive reference, like the antipassive in (2.21). In such diatheses the presence of a reflexive pronoun is the actual marking of the diathesis, it is not signalling that subject and object are the same participant. An important generalisation about diatheses with reflexive pronouns is that they are always demotions.

(2.20) a. Ich wasche das Auto.
b. Ich wasche mich.
(2.21) a. Ich fürchte den Tod.
b. Ich fürchte mich vor den Tod.

[2.32] In Chapter 8 I will turn to preverbs, i.e. verbal prefixes that in German grammar are known as Verbpräfixe and Verbpartikeln. Syntactically, these are different kinds of elements, but from the perspective of diathesis they appear to function rather similar. The most widespread diathesis marked by such preverbs is an applicative, like with be‑ in (2.22). Because of the bound morphological structure, these diatheses show a strong tendency to grammaticalise into a large variety of different kinds of diathetical operations. A central generalisation of the diatheses discussed in this chapter is that the resulting sentence structures after a preverb diathesis is mostly transitive (especially nominative+accusative).

(2.22) a. Ich steige auf den Berg.
b. Ich besteige den Berg.

[2.33] Closely related to preverbs are resultative preverbials that induce diathesis, like the applicative with leer‑ in (2.23). There exist also diatheses induced by evaluative adverbials, like the reflexive anticausative with a manner specification gut in (2.24). Although these two kinds of elements, resultatives and evaluatives, occur in rather different kinds of diathesis, for convenience both phenomena are combined into a single chapter on adverbial-like diatheses in Chapter 9.

(2.23) a. Ich habe in dem Teich gefischt.
b. Ich habe den Teich leergefischt.
(2.24) a. Ich fahre den Lastwagen.
b. Der Lastwagen fährt sich gut.

[2.34] A large number of diatheses use light verbs in combination with a non-finite form of the lexical verb. A somewhat surprising insight is that light-verb diatheses always involve a role-change of the nominative subject. I distinguish four different kinds of light verb constructions, to be discussed in four different chapters. Chapter 10 discusses light verb construction with participles, like the infamous werden+Partizip passive (2.25).

(2.25) a. Ich habe einen Brief geschrieben.
b. Der Brief wurde geschrieben.

[2.35] The next three chapters describe different combinations of light verbs with lexical verbs in the infinitive. Chapter 11 discusses light verbs with straight infinitives, like the lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv causative (2.26).

(2.26) a. Ich wasche meine Kleider.
b. Sie lässt mich meine Kleider waschen.

[2.36] Chapter 12 investigates light verbs with zu plus an infinitive, like for example the sein+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv passive (2.27). The combination of zu with an infinitive is arguably completely grammaticalised and is considered here to be yet another non-finite verb form of German, alongside Partizip and In­fi­ni­tiv. I propose to call it the zu-In­fi­ni­tiv.

(2.27) a. Ich führe einen Hund an der Leine.
b. Ein Hund ist an der Leine zu führen.

[2.37] Finally, Chapter 13 looks at the combinations of prepositions, article and an infinitive, like the halten+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv causative (2.29). In such constructions, the preposition and article are obligatorily fused (an+dem>am) and this fused combination cannot be separated from the infinitive. Such completely grammaticalised constructions appear to be rather recent in German and are often considered substandard. Only a few of such combinations pass all the tests for complete grammaticalisation. When all tests apply, then I consider the combination of preposition+article+infinitive to be yet another non-finite verb form of German, alongside Partizip, In­fi­ni­tiv and zu-In­fi­ni­tiv. I propose to call it the Präpositions­in­fi­ni­tiv.

(2.28) a. Das Feuer brennt.
b. Der Wind hält das Feuer am Brennen.

2.4 Diathetical operations

2.4.1 Abbreviations used

[2.38] A diathetical operation is a change that happens to the marking of the participants in a diathesis. One of the central definitional properties of a diathesis is that the coding of at least one of the participants has to change, for example a participant erstwhile coded with an accusative turns into a prepositional phrase. Because the role of the participant remains the same (again, by definition), such a change amounts to the mapping of a role onto a different grammatical form. I will call this process role-remapping.

[2.39] In the analysis of diathetical operations in this book I will use the following abbreviations, as summarised in Figure 2.1. First, grammatical expressions, i.e. actual grammatical forms as identified in traditional German grammar, are abbreviated with single letters, shown at the right side of the figure. For case-marked noun phrases I will use the easily recognisable capital letters nadg for nominative, accusative, dative and genitive respectively. As argued earlier (see Sec­tion 2.2.2) there are also prepositional phrases that express lexically determined roles. These will also be abbreviated with capital letters: l for obligatory locations and p for governed prepositional phrases.

Grammatical Macroroles Grammatical Expressions Arguments Subject SBJ N Nominative Subject Objects Cased Objects OBJ A Accusative Object D Dative Object G Genitive Object Prepositional Objects PBJ P Governed Preposition L Obligatory Location Re exive Objects a Accusative Referential Re exive Pronoun d Dative Referential Re exive Pronoun Adjuncts Expressed ADJ p Non-governed Preposition g Adnominal Genitive Unexpressed Ø Omi tt ed
Figure 2.1: Abbreviations used to describe role-remapping

[2.40] Lower-cased letters are used for non-argument participants in the clause: ‘p’ for non-governed prepositional phrases and ‘g’ for adnominal genitives. Adnominal genitives become relevant because in some diatheses a newly introduced participant is inherently the possessor of another participant (see paragraph 2.133). Absence of a specific role will be indicated by a dash. Lower-cased ‘a’ and ‘d’ are only used in Sec­tion 7.4 to indicate accusative and dative reflexive pronouns in referential usage. As described in much detail in that chapter, it is important to distinguish between reflexive pronouns in German that refer to a lexical role (i.e. “referential” or “real” reflexive constructions) and reflexive pronouns that mark a diathesis without referring to a separate role themselves. Only the former reflexive pronouns, those that are (doubly) marking a role, are abbreviated by lowercased ‘a’ or ‘d’.

[2.41] Besides single-letter abbreviations I will also use capitalised three-letter abbreviations for a more abstract level of analysis. As summarised at the left side of Figure 2.1, the grammatical expressions are grouped into sets of grammatical macroroles, mostly along familiar lines. However, it is crucial to realise that these macroroles are defined here as a superset of language-specific German grammatical expressions. There is no abstract metalinguistic (universal) definition assumed. The current grouping is not necessarily the best or most optimal grouping, but this grouping has emerged to be useful to organise the large diversity of diatheses in this book.

[2.42] The notion subject (sbj) is used for nominative phrases that show agreement with the finite verb. There are various other nominatively marked phrases in German grammar which are not included under this heading, e.g. the nominative in nominal or equational predication like der Täter in Er ist der Täter. The other case-marked governed phrases are combined as cased objects (obj). The cased objects together with the prepositional objects (pbj) form a superclass of objects. Non-governed phrases are separated in overtly expressed adjuncts (adj) and unexpressed roles omitted (ø). Although I will use this five-way distinction throughout this book (sbj, obj, pbj, adj, ø), the five steps are not equidistant. The macroroles obj and pbj are rather closely related, and likewise are adj and ø intimately linked. Collapsing these pairs results in the traditional subject-object-adjunct distinction.

[2.43] There are some indications that the group of cased objects (obj) might be fruitfully separated into core (accusative) and non-core (dative/genitive). This would simplify the analysis of case change in object chains (Sec­tion 2.7.5), the antipassive hierarchy (Sec­tion 6.7) and the case-marking of the reflexive pronoun (Sec­tion 7.3). However, in the majority of diatheses all three cases seem to behave as a uniform group, so I did not consistently pursue this separation.

[2.44] It is imperative to realise that the macroroles are defined in a language-specific way for German grammar as groupings of language-specific German expressions (e.g. adj is defined as being either a non-governed prepositional phrase or an adnominal genitive). The names that are used (e.g. “object” or “adjunct”) deliberately conjure up general cross-linguistic associations, but it remains to be seen whether similar definitions as used here are also useful for other languages. I will refrain from any cross-linguistic speculation in this context here.

2.4.2 Remapping of roles

[2.45] All diatheses in this book will be organised and categorised in various levels of abstraction using the abbreviations as summarised in Figure 2.1. The following levels of abstraction will be used to arrange the diatheses in each chapter.

[2.46] level 1: diathesis. On the lowest level, each diathesis is summarised in its own sub-subsection. The establishment of an individual diathesis is not always obvious, and each diathesis in this book is already a conscious categorisation (which could be wrong). It has actually been a voyage of discovery in the preparation of this book to decide when to consider a set of examples to be a single diathesis. Very often erstwhile single diatheses turned out to be better analysed by a separation into various different diatheses, and vice versa. Although I am rather confident in the quality of the current decisions, I expect that further refinements are necessary in the future.

[2.47] level 2: remapping pattern. The role-remapping of each diathesis is analysed using the single-letter abbreviations (nadgpl pgad‑) from Figure 2.1. A remapping is specified as an ordered listing of grammatical expressions for roles, both before and after the diathesis. For example, [na | ‑n] is a diathesis that involves two roles that are marked N(ominative) and A(ccusative) before the diathesis but unexpressed (“–”) and N(ominative) after the diathesis, respectively. Because there are many diatheses with this same pattern, this characterisation is already an (implicit) classification.

[2.48] level 3: local group. Groups of diatheses with similar remapping and similar semantics within each chapter can be grouped together as a local group. These groups are rather ad-hoc and mainly represent a useful summary to streamline the presentation. Local groups are indicated by similar names for the diatheses.

[2.49] level 4: macrorole pattern. The remapping of each local group is structurally analysed in terms of the three-letter macroroles (sbj, obj, pbj, adj, ø) from Figure 2.1. For example, the remapping from above [na | ‑n] includes both a change from n to being omitted (i.e. sbj › ø) and a change from a to n (i.e. obj › sbj). These two macrorole changes can be combined into a single macrorole pattern obj › sbj › ø.

[2.50] level 5: promotion/demotion. On the most abstract level, all diatheses are separated into chapter-subsections of either demotion or promotion (with only very few diatheses being symmetrical exchanges). Basically, each remapping is evaluated on the macrorole hierarchy (2.29) with role-remapping upwards being promotion and role-remapping downward being demotion. Note that there is a crucial additional criterion necessary, because the majority of diatheses consist of chains of two coinciding remappings (see Sec­tion 2.6 on the notion of “chains”). In such chained remappings, the largest jump on the macrorole hierarchy defines a diathesis as being demotion or promotion. When both jumps are equally large, then the diathesis is symmetric.

(2.29) Macrorole Hierarchy
sbj » obj » pbj » adj » ø

[2.51] For example, the diathesis in (2.30) is analysed as a remapping pattern [na | ‑n], see Sec­tion 7.5.2. This should be read as follows: there is an alternation between a clause with na arguments (nominative, accusative) and a clause with only n marking (nominative). The relative order of these letters is crucial, as the order of the roles remains fixed in this notation, e.g. the second letter on the left (a for accusative) corresponds to the second letter on the right (n for nominative). The dash on the right indicates that the corresponding n on the left is not expressed. Note that the actual linear arrangement of the letters is flexible, as long as both sides of the alternation remain in the same order, i.e. [an | n‑] would be the same remapping pattern as [na | ‑n]. The pattern [na | ‑n] is an implicit categorisation, because there are many other diatheses that have exactly the same pattern (see e.g. Sec­tions 5.5.5, 9.5.2, 10.5.12).

(2.30) a. Ich schließe die Tür.
b. Die Tür schließt sich.

[2.52] Although there is a reflexive pronoun in (2.30 b), this pronoun is not included with a lower-cased ‘a’ in the remapping pattern [na | ‑n], because this reflexive pronoun does not refer to a separate role. The verb schließen ‘to close’ implies at least two different roles, the “closer” and the “closed object”, expressed as nominative and accusative in (2.30 a), respectively. In (2.30 b) only the role of “closed object” is expressed as nominative. The reflexive pronoun does not refer to any other role. I interpret the reflexive pronoun in (2.30) as a marker of the diathesis itself (see Chapter 7 for an extensive discussion), so there is actually an overt direction in the markedness from unmarked (2.30 a) to reflexive-marked (2.30 b). The vertical bar “ | ” in the middle of the remapping pattern [na | ‑n] implies this direction in markedness from left to right, i.e. left side describes the unmarked alternant and the right side the marked alternant. Reordering the remapping pattern around the vertical bar would result in a completely reversed diathesis [‑n | na].

[2.53] The diathesis in (2.30) is one of various examples of a local group that are all called “reflexive antipassive”. Other diatheses in this group include examples like (2.31) with an additional governed preposition, analysed here with the remapping pattern [nap | ‑np], see Sec­tion 7.5.6. All diatheses in this local group have the same macrorole pattern, namely obj › sbj › ø, i.e a cased object is turned into nominative subject, which is omitted (i.e. unexpressed).

(2.31) a. Das Lied erinnert den Mann an den Krieg.
b. Der Mann erinnert sich an den Krieg.

[2.54] This diathesis is a combination of two different remappings obj › sbj and sbj › ø, with the first being a promotion on the macrorole hierarchy and the second a demotion. Crucially, because the demotion part (sbj › ø) is a larger jump on the hierarchy than the promotion part (obj › sbj), the complete combination is categorised as a demotion.

[2.55] So, in summary, the role-remapping of the diathesis (2.31) is categorised as summarised below. This information also informs the place in the book where this diathesis will be discussed: Reflexive voice is Chapter 7, demotion that includes the subject in the macrorole pattern is always Section 5 within each chapter, and consequently, this diathesis can be found with the heading obj › sbj › ø named “reflexive antipassive” in Sec­tion 7.5.6.

  1. diathesis: reflexive antipassive+governed preposition
  2. remapping pattern: [nap | ‑np]
  3. local group: reflexive antipassive
  4. macrorole pattern: obj › sbj › ø
  5. promotion/demotion: demotion
  6. voice: reflexive marking

2.5 Stacking

2.5.1 Combining diatheses

[2.56] Different clause alternations (both diatheses and epitheses) can be applied one after the other, forming stacks of diatheses and/or epitheses. The term “stacking” is introduced here explicitly in opposition to “subordinating”. Subordination leads to non-coherent multi-clause constructions, while stacks always remain coherent and thus monoclausal. My impression is that much of modern syntactic theory could be drastically simplified by strictly distinguishing between stacking and subordinating.

[2.57] Stacked diatheses can lead to convoluted role-remappings. A beautiful example of such stacking of diatheses is given by Dixon (2014: 252) for the Amazonian language Paumarí. Here, the root noki‑ ‘to see’ is transparently related to the meaning ‘to show’ through a series of derivational diatheses, viz. noki‑ ‘to see’, noki-a‑ ‘to be visible’, na-noki-a‑ ‘to become visible’, and finally na-noki-a-hi‑ ‘to make become visible’ i.e. ‘to show’.

[2.58] German does not have that many morphologically bound mechanisms for diathesis, though there are incidental examples that come close. For example, the verb liegen ‘to lie’ changes with ablaut to legen ‘to lay’ (see Sec­tion 5.6.3), which in turn can take a preverb to form be-legen ‘to cover’ (see Sec­tion 8.7.13). However, when the perspective is broadened beyond bound morphology and all different kinds of German diathesis are considered, then it turns out that stacking of diatheses is extremely widespread.

[2.59] In many cases, the different steps in a stack can be easily disentangled by carefully observing the formal marking of the diathesis. For example, the construction in (2.32 c) includes both a preverb be‑ and a reflexive pronoun sich and it turns out that these are applied in turn to make a stack of two diatheses. Starting with the verb antworten ‘to answer’ with a governed preposition auf (2.32 a), the applicative preverb be‑ changes the prepositional phrase to an accusative (2.32 b), see Sec­tion 8.8.9. Subsequently, the reflexive anticausative turns the accusative into a nominative and drops the nominative agent (2.32 c), see Sec­tion 7.5.2.

(2.32) a. Der Lehrer antwortet auf deine Frage.
b. Der Lehrer beantwortet deine Frage.
c. Deine Frage beantwortet sich von selbst.

[2.60] Clause alternations are applied one after the other, i.e. the order of the alternations in a stack is of crucial importance in most examples (unordered stacks exist, but are unusual, see Sec­tion 2.6.4). Basically, a stack is just a list of clause alternations applied one after the other. Syntactically this is just a linear sequence of application, i.e. there is no branching possible with stacking. Semantically this means that each subsequent clause alternation has scope over the previous one.

[2.61] A stack can be written down using a symbol like +> to indicate the additive (+) and sequential (>) nature of the combination. The stack above (2.32) can then be analysed as: (2.32 a) +> be‑ applicative +> reflexive anticausative = (2.32 c). This notation leads to concise analyses, as shown for example in (2.33) for the difference between the sentences (2.33 a,b) and (2.33 c,d).

(2.33) a. Der Lehrer hat die Aufgabe lösen wollen.
b. Basic clause: Der Lehrer löst die Aufgabe.
+> wollen modal (cf. 11.4.7)
    = Der Lehrer will die Aufgabe lösen.
+> haben perfect (cf. 10.4.1)
    = Der Lehrer hat die Aufgabe lösen wollen.
c. Der Lehrer will die Aufgabe gelöst haben.
d. Basic clause: Jemand löst die Aufgabe für den Lehrer.
+> beneficiary dative (cf. 6.8.10)
    = Jemand löst dem Lehrer die Aufgabe.
+> haben dative passive (cf. 10.5.22)
    = Der Lehrer hat die Aufgabe gelöst.
+> wollen modal (cf. 11.4.7)
    = Der Lehrer will die Aufgabe gelöst haben.

[2.62] With unmarked (“covert”) diatheses such stacks can sometimes be tricky to tease apart. As an example, consider the arguably somewhat artificially constructed example in (2.34) using the verb schneiden ‘to cut’. It starts off in (2.34 a) as a basic transitive construction with a nominative and accusative argument. Yet, after various twists and turns it ends up on (2.34 f) with a nominative, an accusative, a dative and an obligatory location prepositional phrase, while the original agent Arzt is not even expressed.

(2.34) a. Der Arzt schneidet den Nagel des Patienten.
b. Der Arzt schneidet in den Nagel des Patienten.
c. Der Arzt schneidet dem Patienten in den Nagel.
d. Der Arzt schneidet dem Patienten einen Schlitz in den Nagel.
e. Der Arzt schneidet dem Patienten einen Schlitz in den Nagel mit dem Fräser.
f. Der Fräser schneidet dem Patienten einen Schlitz in den Nagel.

[2.63] Teasing this stack apart, there are five different diatheses, concurrently showing that the verb schneiden has at least five different lexeme-specific roles. As defined in Sec­tion 2.2.2, each role that appears as a case-marked constituent in at least one diathesis is a lexeme-specific role, and all of the following participants are case-marked in the stack of diatheses (2.34):

[2.64] The five diatheses (and the corresponding role-remappings) are the following:

2.5.2 Fixed stacks

[2.65] There are a few examples of diatheses that look like stacks of two diatheses, but on closer inspection it turns out that the intermediate construction does not exist. A few major examples of such fixed stacks are exemplified below.

[2.66] There is an infamous anticausative diathesis that needs a reflexive pronoun, which is attested for a large, but restricted group of verbs like schließen ‘to close’ (2.35 a,b), see Sec­tion 7.5.2. A completely different group of verbs also has an anticausative diathesis with a reflexive pronoun, but only with an additional evaluative adverbial. This is for example attested with verkaufen ‘to sell’ (2.35 c,d), see Sec­tion 9.5.2. In this case, the diathesis is marked by both the reflexive pronoun and the presence of an adverbial, and neither is possible without the other. Such a combination of two obligatorily co-occurring formal marking strategies is called a fixed stack.

(2.35) a. Ich schließe die Tür.
b. Die Tür schließt sich.
c. Ich verkaufe das Buch.
d. Das Buch verkauft sich gut.

[2.67] Various diatheses between a verb, like fassen ‘to grasp’ (2.36 a), and its pre­verb-alternant, like befassen ‘to be concerned with’ (2.36 b), additionally need a reflexive pronoun, see Sec­tion 8.7.4. So here we have a fixed stack of a reflexive pronoun and a preverb together that mark the diathesis.

(2.36) a. Ich fasse einen Entschluss.
b. Ich befasse mich mit dem Entschluss.

[2.68] Also some light verb alternations show fixed stacks. For example, there is a very widespread causative diathesis using the light verb lassen with an infinitive (2.37 b), see Sec­tion 11.6.2. Additionally, the combination of lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv and a reflexive pronoun leads to a passive alternation (2.37 c), which does not make sense as being derived from the causative (2.37 b). It seems better to consider the combination of lassen+Infinitiv+Reflexiv as a fixed stack, see Sec­tion 11.5.5.

(2.37) a. Der Schüler löst die Aufgabe.
b. Der Lehrer lässt den Schüler die Aufgabe lösen.
c. Diese Aufgabe lässt sich (von den Schülern) lösen.

2.6 Chaining

2.6.1 Beyond solitary remapping

[2.69] Many diatheses just remap a single role. Such diatheses are called isolated diatheses here. However, there are also many diatheses in which more than one role is remapped. I distinguish the following kinds of combined role-remappings, of which only the first is frequently attested.

[2.70] Chained diatheses are surprisingly frequent in German, and my impression is that this pervasiveness extends to many other languages beyond German. In a chained diathesis the result of the first remapping is the start of the second remapping. This can be conceptualised as a “push” or “pull” chain in which one remapping induces another. The prevalence of such chains is probably caused by two general tendencies of language structure, namely distinctness and default marking. These tendencies are formulated here as hypotheses for language structure in general, beyond the specifics of German.

[2.71] First, the tendency for distinctness causes language to disprefer multiple constituents with the same structure in a single clause. For example, the German languages tends to prevent two accusatives in the same clause. In effect, if a diathesis would gives rise to such a duplication, then the duplicated constituent is preferably “pushed” out to another kind of marking. Second, the principle of default marking induces languages to mark at least one of its constituents as the “default” in each clause. For example, in German the nominative subject has to be present in almost every clause. As a result, if a diathesis removes this preferred constituent, then another constituent is typically “pulled” into this kind of marking. It remains to be further investigated whether these two forces really exist, and whether the two tendencies can be teased apart.

2.6.2 Chained diatheses

[2.72] In German, chained diatheses typically occur when the nominative subject is involved in the diathesis. There can only be a single nominative subject in a German clause, and it is highly unusual to have a sentence without a nominative subject. This implies that any diathesis involving the nominative subject typically includes two remappings, namely one from something else to nominative and a second remapping of the erstwhile nominative to something else.

[2.73] A prototypical example of a chained diathesis involving the nominative subject is the werden passive (2.38). Here, the erstwhile accusative Kuchen ‘cake’ is turned into a nominative, while the erstwhile nominative Lehrling ‘apprentice’ is removed (or optionally retained as a von prepositional phrase). So, we have a chain consisting of the role-remappings obj › sbj and sbj › adj.

(2.38) chained diathesis (obj › sbj › adj)
a. Der Lehrling backt den Kuchen.
b. Der Kuchen wird gebacken (von dem Lehrling).

[2.74] Diatheses without involvement of the nominative subject are more flexible, in that both isolated and chained diatheses are common. A typical example of a chained diathesis is an object exchange induced by the preverb be‑ (2.39). In this example, a prepositional phrase für ihre Freundin ‘for her friend’ is remapped to an accusative (adj › obj) while the erstwhile accusative Essen ‘food’ is turned into a prepositional phrase (obj › adj).

(2.39) chained diathesis (adj › obj › adj)
a. Sie kocht kubanisches Essen für ihre Freundin.
b. Sie bekocht ihre Freundin mit kubanischem Essen.

[2.75] Among the chained diatheses there is a group of frequently recurring remapping patterns. Because of their frequency, it is highly useful to give them specific names. Such names are widespread in the literature, e.g. anticausative for obj › sbj › ø or passive for obj › sbj › adj. A survey of the various names used in this book will be pursued in Sec­tion 2.7.

2.6.3 Multi-chained diatheses

[2.76] multi-chained diatheses consist of combinations of more than two role-re­map­pings that occur in a sequence. This occurs frequently as the result of a stack of multiple diatheses, but only very rarely in a single diathesis. As an example arising from a stack of multiple diatheses consider taking a verb like lesen ‘to read’ (2.40 a) and applying a stack of two diatheses (2.40 b,c). This leads to a chain of three role-remappings. First, the preverb diathesis with vor‑ (2.40 b) leads to the addition of a dative argument dem Jungen, i.e. a role-remapping ø › obj, see Sec­tion 8.8.8. On top of that, the bekommen dative passive (2.40 c) promotes this dative to subject and removes the original subject, i.e. a role-remapping obj › sbj › ø, see Sec­tion 10.5.21. Combined, these two diatheses lead to a multi-chained role-re­map­ping ø › obj › sbj › ø.

(2.40) multi-chained diathesis (ø › obj › sbj › ø)
a. Der Vater hat ein Buch gelesen.
b. Der Vater hat dem Jungen ein Buch vorgelesen.
c. Der Junge bekommt ein Buch vorgelesen.

[2.77] Such multi-chained diatheses that are the result of diathesis-stacking are widespread. However, I know of only two diatheses with a multi-chain that cannot be decomposed into a stack of separate diatheses. Both these “fixed” multi-chain diatheses appear to occur with just a few idiosyncratic verbs, so this phenomenon really seems to be dispreferred in German.

[2.78] First, the preverb diathesis from erben ‘to inherit’ to enterben ‘to disinherit’ (2.41), see Sec­tion 8.6.14, contains three linked role-remappings for (i) the originator of the inheritance Vater ‘father’ (adj › sbj), (ii) the receiver of the inheritance Junge ‘boy’ (sbj › obj) and (iii) the inheritance Schreibtisch ‘desk’ (obj › ø).

(2.41) multi-chained diathesis (adj › sbj › obj › ø)
a. Der Junge erbt den Schreibtisch von seinem Vater.
b. Sein Vater enterbt den Jungen.

[2.79] Second, the verb schmecken ‘to taste’ (2.42), see Sec­tion 6.5.6, allows for two different constructions with three linked role-remappings for (i) the tasted substance Pfefferminze ‘peppermint’ (obj › adj), for (ii) the tasted dish Suppe ‘soup’ (adj › sbj) and for (iii) the taster Koch ‘cook’ (sbj › ø).

(2.42) multi-chained diathesis (obj › adj › sbj › ø)
a. Der Koch schmeckt die Pfefferminze in der Suppe.
b. Die Suppe schmeckt nach Pfefferminze.

2.6.4 Disjunct diatheses

[2.80] disjunct diatheses consist of a combination of multiple role-remappings that are not linked to each other. Just as with the multi-chained diatheses from the previous section, disjunct diatheses regularly occur as the result of stacking of diatheses. In contrast, they are very rare in individual diatheses.

[2.81] When multiple diatheses are stacked, i.e. when they are applied sequentially on top of each other, they are sometimes structurally independent (and thus unordered). For example, the verb waschen ‘to wash’ (2.43 a) can be used in a object-exchange diathesis (2.43 b) in which the role of washee Hemd ‘shirt’ is turned from an accusative into a location (obj › pbj) and a new accusative object is introduced for the role of the object to be removed Fleck ‘stain’ (ø › obj), see Sec­tion 6.8.8. Independent of this chained diathesis, the possessor of the object Nachbar ‘neighbour’ can be raised to genitive (2.43 c), i.e. a possessor applicative (adj › obj), see Sec­tion 6.8.13.

(2.43) disjunct diathesis (ø › obj › pbj + adj › obj)
a. Ich wasche das Hemd des Nachbarn.
b. Ich wasche den Fleck aus dem Hemd des Nachbarn.
c. Ich wasche dem Nachbarn den Fleck aus dem Hemd.

[2.82] There are only a few incidental examples of such disjunct diatheses without stacking. The following four examples all only occur with a very limited number of verbs. First, the verb deuten can be used both to mean ‘interpret’ (2.44 a) and ‘forebode’ (2.44 b) with a rather transparent connection between the two. However, the role-remappings are quite complex, see Sec­tion 6.5.11.

(2.44) disjunct diathesis (ø › pbj + obj › sbj › ø)
a. Ich deute den Traum.
b. Der Traum deutet auf nichts Gutes.

[2.83] Second, some preverbs lead to disjunct diatheses, like with schweigen ‘to remain silent’ and verschweigen ‘to conceal’ (2.45), see Sec­tion 8.8.16.

(2.45) disjunct diathesis (adj › obj + pbj › obj)
a. Ich schweige zu dir über meinen Besuch.
b. Ich verschweige dir meinen Besuch.

[2.84] Further examples are a few verbs of naming like schimpfen ‘to scold’ (2.46), see Sec­tion 6.8.6. The disjunct diathesis in (2.47) is less clear, as it might be better analysed as a stack, see Sec­tion 6.5.3.

(2.46) disjunct diathesis (ø › obj + adj › obj)
a. Sie schimpft auf mich.
b. Sie schimpft mich einen Narren
(2.47) disjunct diathesis (ø › obj + sbj › adj)
a. Der Sommer ist kalt.
b. Mir ist kalt im Sommer.

[2.85] The only more widespread disjunct diathesis is the caused-motion construction that can arise with some apparently intransitive verbs like schwitzen ‘to sweat’ (2.48). This diathesis introduces two roles at once: a result of the sweating Fleck ‘stain’ and an obligatory location of the result Hemd ‘shirt’, see Sec­tion 6.8.3.

(2.48) disjunct diathesis (ø › obj + ø › pbj)
a. Ich schwitze.
b. Ich schwitze einen Fleck in mein Hemd.

2.7 Naming

2.7.1 Names for macrorole patterns

[2.86] Throughout the introductory chapters I have used various names for diatheses, like passive, antipassive, applicative or causative. These names have a long history in the typological grammatical literature (cf. Mel’čuk 1993; Wunderlich 1993; Wunderlich 2015; Dixon & Aikhenvald 2000; Dixon 2014; Haspelmath & Müller-Bardey 2004; Kulikov 2011; Malchukov 2015: 96ff.; Zúñiga & Kittilä 2019). Although I have been using these terms as if their meaning is clear, this is often far from the truth. Many different terms and definitions have been proposed in the literature, and different terms have at times been used for the same phenomena. For example, the original proposal for the term “antipassive” is already 50 years old (Silverstein 1972: 395), but the same phenomenon is also known as deaccusative (Geniušė 1987: 94) or antiapplicative (Haspelmath & Müller-Bardey 2004: 1132; Scheibl 2006: 371). Conversely, the term antipassive is also attested referring to a slightly different phenomenon of the drop of an object (Scheibl 2006: 372–373).

[2.87] In this section I will describe in more detail how these names are used and defined in the current book about German diatheses. The names for diatheses will here always refer to a macrorole pattern, i.e. to the highly abstract classification of a diathesis in terms of sbj, obj, etc. as defined in Sec­tion 2.4.2. For example, the term “anticausative” will be used as a name for the macrorole pattern obj › sbj › ø. Such macrorole patterns are strictly defined here in a language-specific way for German, so care should be taken when applying the same names to different languages.

[2.88] One widespread term that I will avoid is the term “middle” (and likewise the Latinate equivalent term “medium”). This term for a diathesis is already attested as μεσότης in the oldest known Greek grammatical text, the τέχνη γραμματική of Dionysius Thrax, and it has become a mainstay in the grammatical literature ever since. Thrax writes: διαθέσεις εἰσὶ τρεῖς, ἐνέργεια, πάθος, μεσότης “there are three diatheses, active, passive and middle” (Uhlig 1883: 48). The phenomena that are called “middle” in the literature are highly variable, and there is no consensus about what kind of diathesis this term is supposed to designate, other than something that is neither active nor passive (see Zúñiga & Kittilä 2019: 168–177 for a thorough summary of the complex philological history of the term middle/medium). Such a broad and ill-defined term is not useful for a detailed analysis of the large variety of attested role-remappings in German. It is of course possible to add yet another definition for the term “middle” to the wide variety of already existing uses (e.g. Inglese 2023), but to me this only increases the confusion.

[2.89] The discussion about the different names for macrorole patterns will be split into four parts. First, the next two sections will present names for diatheses involving the nominative subject. Subsequent sections will discuss diatheses not involving the subject. In both discussions, a central distinction will be made between isolated diatheses and chained diatheses (cf. Sec­tion 2.6).

2.7.2 Isolated subject diatheses

[2.90] Isolated diatheses that involve a nominative subject do not show much variation in German. The most widespread kind is the drop of the subject (sbj › ø), i.e. the complete removal of the role marked as nominative subject without any further accompanying role-remapping or reintroduction of a new subject. This is typically attested with intransitive verbs: after removing the single available role, there is no other role introduced to fill the structural subject position. Semantically, such diatheses put the focus on the activity as described by the verb itself, so I propose to call them insubjective diatheses. Note that there is a strong tendency for every German sentence to formally have a nominative subject with verb agreement. Consequently, such insubjective diatheses regularly (but not always) result in the presence of a valency-simulating nominative pronoun es (see Sec­tion 2.2.3).

[2.91] An insubjective diathesis is attested with verbs like stinken ‘to stink’ (2.49), see Sec­tion 5.5.1. In a sentence like es stinkt the pronoun es can of course simply be an anaphor, like in (2.49 b). In such a sentence, the role of “stinker” is still present and there is no diathesis at all. However, in other contexts (2.49 c) the verb stinken is used without implied subject. This is typically attested in contexts in which some odour is attested, but the originator is not known.

(2.49) insubjective (sbj › ø)
a. Der Müll stinkt.
b. Das schmutzige Tuch, es stinkt!
c. Hier stinkt es.

[2.92] Another example of a insubjective diathesis is illustrated with the verb leben ‘to live’ (2.50), see Sec­tion 9.5.1. Many such intransitive verbs can be used without a subject in a habitual sense, but this is only possible with an obligatory adverbial qualification like gut (2.50 b,c).

(2.50) insubjective (sbj › ø)
a. Ich lebe in diesem Haus.
b. In diesem Haus lebt es sich gut.
c. * In diesem Haus lebt es sich.

[2.93] Also the so-called impersonal passive consisting of werden+Partizip (2.51), see Sec­tion 10.5.1, is an example of a insubjective diathesis, in this case even without any valency-simulating es.

(2.51) insubjective (sbj › ø)
a. Die Jungs tanzen hier.
b. Hier wird getanzt.
c. * Hier wird es getanzt.

[2.94] A different kind of isolated subject diathesis is subject demotion of the nominative subject to a prepositional phrase. An example is the geben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (2.52), see Sec­tion 12.5.4. In this diathesis, the subject is demoted to an optional non-governed prepositional phrase (sbj › adj). The demotion is the only role-remapping that is happening in this diathesis, so I propose to call such a diathesis a desubjective.

(2.52) desubjective (sbj › adj)
a. Wir gewinnen einen Preis.
b. es gibt (für uns) einen Preis zu gewinnen.

[2.95] The other isolated subject diatheses are only attested in incidental examples in German, like a subject demotion to a governed preposition (sbj › pbj) with fehlen shown in (2.53), see Sec­tion 6.5.2.

(2.53) desubjective (sbj › pbj)
a. Das Geld fehlt ihm.
b. Ihm fehlt es an Geld.

[2.96] Isolated subject addition (ø › sbj) is very rare in German, partly because it would need an unmarked construction without any subject to start off with. A possible example is the addition of a subject that seems possible with some weather verbs like donnern ‘to thunder’ (2.54), see Sec­tion 5.6.1.

(2.54) subject addition (ø › sbj)
a. Es donnert.
b. Die Motoren donnerten.

2.7.3 Chained subject diatheses

[2.97] Chained diatheses that involve the nominative subject are widespread in German (in contrast to the infrequent occurrence of isolated diatheses as discussed previously). Figure 2.2 presents an overview of the different terms that I will use for these diatheses. The bold-faced terms are used for widely attested diatheses, while the other kinds of diatheses are only incidentally found. There is currently no evidence in German for the existence of the remappings that are left empty in the figure. There appears to be a preference for various kinds of demotion (i.e. the upper right corner of the figure), which fits nicely with the known typological preference of German for anticausative constructions (Haspelmath 1993: 101; Nichols, Peterson & Barnes 2004: 189).

image/svg+xmlTo Cased Object To Prepositional Object To Adjunct To Unexpressed [ … > SBJ > OBJ ] [ … > SBJ > PBJ ] [ … > SBJ > ADJ ] [ … > SBJ > Ø ] From Cased Object Inversive Conversive Passive Anticausative [ OBJ >SBJ > … ] [ OBJ > SBJ > OBJ ] [ OBJ > SBJ > PBJ ] [ OBJ > SBJ > ADJ ] [ OBJ > SBJ > Ø ] From Prepositional Object Reversed Conversive Preposition Inversive Fabricative [ PBJ > SBJ > … ] [ PBJ > SBJ > OBJ ] [ PBJ > SBJ > PBJ ] [ PBJ > SBJ > ADJ ] [ PBJ > SBJ > Ø ] From Adjunct Reversed Passive Adjunct Commutative Conciliative [ ADJ > SBJ > … ] [ ADJ > SBJ > OBJ ] [ ADJ > SBJ > PBJ ] [ ADJ > SBJ > ADJ ] [ ADJ > SBJ > Ø ] From Unexpressed Novative Novative extended Demotion Novative extreme Demotion Commutative [ Ø > SBJ > … ] [ Ø > SBJ > OBJ ] [ Ø > SBJ > PBJ ] [ Ø > SBJ > ADJ ] [ Ø > SBJ > Ø ]
Figure 2.2: Names for chained macro-role remappings with the subject in the middle of the chain

[2.98] The upper right part of Figure 2.2 are demotions, the lower left part are promotions, and on the diagonal are examples of symmetrical diatheses. I will discuss all types in this order. Demotions

[2.99] The most extreme kind of demotion is an anticausative (obj › sbj › ø). The typical characteristic of an anticausative is the complete removal of the nominative subject that is the causer of the action/state of the clause. Filling the syntactic gap, a case-marked argument (typically the accusative) is promoted to subject. This is a widespread kind of diathesis. An example is the reflexive anticausative with verb like schliessen ‘to close’ (2.55), see Sec­tion 7.5.2.

(2.55) anticausative (obj › sbj › ø)
a. Ich schließe die Tür.
b. Die Tür schließt sich (von alleine).

[2.100] Very similar to an anticausative is the passive (obj › sbj › adj). The main difference between the two (a distinction which is often difficult to delimit) is that for a passive the original subject is still implied and can optionally be overtly expressed (2.56). In contrast, for an anticausative the original subject is completely removed and a phrase like by itself can typically be added. As an example of a passive diathesis in (2.56) is the bekommen Rezipientenpassiv in which a dative is promoted to subject Sec­tion 10.5.21

(2.56) passive (obj › sbj › adj)
a. Ihr Freund kocht ihr eine Suppe.
b. Sie bekommt von ihrem Freund eine Suppe gekocht.

[2.101] A conversive (obj › sbj › pbj) looks similar to a passive, except that the prepositional phrase is a lexically governed preposition, so it has a more object-like grammatical status. An example is the verb empören ‘to appall’ (2.57 a) with the reflexive diathesis sich empören über ‘to be outraged about’ (10.48 b,c), see Sec­tion 7.5.7. The term conversive is adapted from Kulikov (2011: 380).

(2.57) conversive (obj › sbj › pbj)
a. Der Preis empört den Kunden.
b. Der Kunde empört sich über den Preis.
c. Der Kunde empört sich darüber, dass der Preis schon wieder gestiegen ist.

[2.102] For the next diathesis, I propose the term fabricative (pbj › sbj › ø) based on Lat. fabrica ‘plan, trick, workmanship’. This term is used for a diathesis in German in which a fabricated product can be expressed either as a governed prepositional phrase or as a nominative subject. This diathesis occurs for example with various verbs of emotional interactions like überraschen ‘to surprise’ (2.58 a), see Sec­tion 6.5.7. To understand this diathesis, a distinction is needed between the role of the “fabricator” (here: Lehrer, ‘teacher’) and the role of the “fabricated product”, which induces the emotion (here: Aufgabe, ‘assignment’). The mit prepositional phrase that expresses the fabricated product in (2.58 a) is a governed preposition (2.58 c). The diathesis promotes this fabricated product to nominative subject and the fabricator is removed from the expression (2.58 b). The experiencer in the accusative mich remains unchanged.

(2.58) fabricative (pbj › sbj › ø)
a. Der Lehrer überrascht mich mit seiner Aufgabe.
b. Die Aufgabe überrascht mich.
c. Der Lehrer überrascht mich damit, dass er die Aufgabe schon korrigiert hat.

[2.103] A similar kind of diathesis will be called conciliative (adj › sbj › ø) based on Lat. conciliator ‘intermediary, mediator’. In a conciliative an external object (typically an instrument) is promoted to subject (11.69), see Sec­tion 6.5.5. The conciliative and fabricative in German both regularly use a prepositional phrase with mit, but the grammatical status is clearly different. The mit phrase in a conciliative is an optional adjunct (2.59), while the mit phrase in a fabricative is a governed preposition (2.58). This grammatical difference is paralleled by a functional difference in the role that is promoted to subject: a conciliative concerns a (typically tangible) instrument that is used by an agent, while a fabricative promotes a (typically intangible) creation that is produced by the agent.

(2.59) conciliative (adj › sbj › ø)
a. Der Doktor heilt die Wunde mit einer Salbe.
b. Die Salbe heilt die Wunde. Promotions

[2.104] The most widespread promotion to subject attested in German is the diathesis with role-remapping ø › sbj › obj, called novative here (based on Lat. novare ‘renew, refresh’). This role-remapping is best known as “causative”, but this semantic characterisation does not hold for all examples of this diathesis. Various other novative diatheses exist in which the new nominative is not a causer but an experiencer, opinionator, permitter or assistant.

[2.105] Semantically, the most widespread kind of novative adds a new causer to the construction, like with the diatheses between brennen ‘to burn (intransitive)’ and verbrennen ‘to burn (transitive)’ (2.60), see Sec­tion 8.6.1. Such a diathesis is aptly called a causative.

(2.60) causative novative (ø › sbj › obj)
a. Der Tisch brennt.
b. Ich verbrenne den Tisch.

[2.106] The sehen+In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis (2.61), see Sec­tion 11.6.6, adds a new nominative subject and the old nominative is turned into an accusative. This diathesis is thus structurally an example of a novative (ø › sbj › obj). However, the newly added nominative is not a causer. The new role is better described as an experiencer, so this diathesis can semantically be called an experientive. Similar constructions are also attested with light-verbs hören, fühlen, and spüren.

(2.61) experientive novative (ø › sbj › obj)
a. Der Junge putzt den Tisch.
b. Ich sehe den Jungen den Tisch putzen.

[2.107] The finden+Partizip diathesis (2.62), see Sec­tion 10.6.4 also adds a new nominative subject while the old nominative is turned into an accusative. The role of the new nominative is best characterised as somebody having an opinion, so this diathesis can semantically be called an opiniative. The main verb is typically a patientive intransitive predicate like scheitern, ‘to fail’, see Sec­tion 10.2.5. Similar constructions also exist with light verbs wissen, sehen and glauben.

(2.62) opiniative novative (ø › sbj › obj)
a. Das Projekt scheitert.
b. Ich finde das Projekt gescheitert.

[2.108] The lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis (2.63), see Sec­tion 11.6.2 is also structurally a novative (ø › sbj › obj). This diathesis has multiple possible interpretations, among them also a causative reading (2.63). However, in the example in (2.64) the newly added nominative is allowing the action to happen, not causing it, so this diathesis can semantically be called a permissive. This second interpretation typically happens with agentive intransitive predicates like schlafen ‘to sleep’, see Sec­tion 10.2.5. However, note that in both examples the other interpretation is also possible, albeit only is specially crafted contexts.

(2.63) causative novative (ø › sbj › obj)
a. Der Junge schläft ein.
b. Ich lasse den Jungen einschlafen.
(= Ich sorge dafür, dass der Junge einschläft.)
(2.64) permissive novative (ø › sbj › obj)
a. Der Junge schläft.
b. Ich lasse den Jungen schlafen.
(= Ich erlaube, dass der Junge weiter schläft.)

[2.109] Finally, the lehren/helfen+In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis (2.65), see Sec­tion 11.6.12, is a novative in which the role of the new subject is more of an assistant than a real causative. Therefor it is called here an assistive novative. Note that both lehren and helfen can also be used with zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv, but then the constructions are not coherent, so those constructions are not included among the diatheses.

(2.65) assistive novative (ø › sbj › obj)
a. Der Sohn faltet die Wäsche.
b. Der Vater lehrt seinem Sohn die Wäsche falten.

[2.110] The novative with extended demotion (ø › sbj › pbj) is extremely rare in German. The name is adapted from Kulikov (2011: 388) to denote a diathesis in which the demotion accompanying the novative is not just sbj › obj but sbj › pbj. The diathesis between freuen ‘to be pleased’ and erfreuen ‘to please’ (2.66) might be an example because mit is a governed preposition (2.66 c), see Sec­tion 8.6.11.

(2.66) novative with extended demotion (ø › sbj › pbj)
a. Das Geschenk freut mich.
b. Er erfreut mich mit einem Geschenk.
c. Er erfreut mich damit, dass er mich besucht.

[2.111] Slightly more widespread, a novative with extreme demotion (ø › sbj › adj) is a novative diathesis that almost completely removes the erstwhile subject. This is attested in an interesting group of constructions using light verbs like finden with a participle and a transitive main verb like aufheben ‘to preserve’ (2.67), see Sec­tion 10.6.8. With this diathesis, there is a new opinionator introduced, just like with the opiniative above (see paragraph 2.107). However, the erstwhile nominative subject is now demoted to an optional prepositional phrase.

(2.67) novative with extreme demotion (ø › sbj › adj)
a. Das Archiv hebt den Nachlass auf.
b. Ich finde den Nachlass (im Archiv) gut aufgehoben.

[2.112] The remaining types of promotions are extremely rare. A reversed passive (adj › sbj › obj) demotes the subject to object and at the same time promotes a new subject from an erstwhile adjunct role. An example in German is the diathesis from erben ‘to inherit’ to enterben ‘to disinherit’ (2.68 a,b), see Sec­tion 8.6.14. This is semantically very close to a causative ø › sbj › obj in which the newly introduced causer can sometimes be expressed as an adjunct (2.68 c,d). This affinity between a reversed passive and a causative is reminiscent of the affinity between a passive and an anticausative. In both pairs, the difference amounts to a switch between the closely related macro-role of an optional adjunct (adj) and being completely unexpressed (ø).

(2.68) reversed passive (adj › sbj › obj)
a. Ich erbe den Schreibtisch von meinem Vater.
b. Mein Vater enterbt mich.
c. Der Wettkampf endet (durch den Gong).
d. Der Gong beendet den Wettkampf.

[2.113] Finally, a reversed conversive (pbj › sbj › obj) differs from a reversed passive in that the prepositional phrase is a lexically governed preposition, as can be identified by a possible da(r)+Preposition, dass paraphrase. This is for example attested with the diatheses between staunen über ‘to marvel’ and erstaunen ‘to amaze’ (2.69), see Sec­tion 8.6.12.

(2.69) reversed conversive (pbj › sbj › obj)
a. Ich staune über deine Arbeit.
b. Deine Arbeit erstaunt mich.
c. Ich staune darüber, dass du schon fertig bist. Symmetrical subject diatheses

[2.114] Completely symmetrical diatheses involving the subject are rare in German. A perfectly symmetrical inversive (obj › sbj › obj) is a diathesis that switches subject and object. This term is proposed by Malchukov (2015: 99–100) inspired by the so-called “inverse” marking found in Algonquian languages. An inversive diathesis is designated as a “symmetric conversive” by Kulikov (2011: 380). An example of an inversive is the diathesis between wundern ‘to puzzle’ and bewundern ‘to admire’ (2.70), see Sec­tion 8.9.5.

(2.70) inversive (obj › sbj › obj)
a. Dein Verhalten wundert mich.
b. Ich bewundere dein Verhalten.

[2.115] Much more widespread in German are diatheses in which a nominative/accusative construction is inverted into a dative/nominative construction. This is for example attested for the bleiben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis (2.71), see Sec­tion 12.9.1. Because dative and accusative are both classified here as obj, this counts as an inversive diathesis. However, when a separation between core case (accusative) and non-core case (dative/genitive) would be pursued (see paragraph 2.43), then this diathesis would be an example of demotion. There are two remappings, namely down from sbj to non-core-obj and up from core-obj to sbj. When non-core is taken as being lower on the macrorole hierarchy (2.29) then the biggest jump is the jump down, which is the definition of demotion (see Sec­tion 2.4.2). Instead of adding a completely new set of categories I propose to simply split inversive into two subtypes and call this phenomenon a demoted inversive.

(2.71) demoted inversive (obj › sbj › obj)
a. Ich räume den letzten Schrank ein.
b. Dieser letzte Schrank bleibt mir noch einzuräumen.

[2.116] The opposite promoted inversive promotes a dative/genitive into a nominative subject, and demotes the erstwhile nominative to an accusative. This is illustrated with the haben+In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis in (2.72), see Sec­tion 11.9.2.

(2.72) promoted inversive (obj › sbj › obj)
a. Ein Tropfen hängt ihm an der Nase.
b. Er hat einen Tropfen an der Nase hängen.

[2.117] At the other extreme, a commutative (ø › sbj › ø) completely removes the old subject and introduces a completely new role as subject. I propose this term on the basis of Lat. commutare ‘exchange, replace’. A German example of such a diathesis is the geben+Partizip construction (2.73), see Sec­tion 10.9.3. Note that the subjects in the two sentences do not have to be the same participant.

(2.73) commutative (ø › sbj › ø)
a. Das Kind verliert den Ring.
b. Der Vater gibt den Ring verloren.

[2.118] The two other symmetrical diatheses in between the two extremes are even rarer. A preposition inversive (pbj › sbj › pbj) is similar to an inversive, but the exchange is with a governed preposition. This is arguably attested in the diathesis between strahlen ‘to shine’ and erstrahlen ‘to gleam’ (2.74), see Sec­tion 8.9.6.

(2.74) preposition inversive (pbj › sbj › pbj)
a. Die Sonne strahlt auf das Haus.
b. Das Haus erstrahlt in der Sonne.

[2.119] Finally, an example of an adjunct commutative (adj › sbj › adj) is possibly attested with the verb wimmeln ‘to swarm’ (2.75), see Sec­tion 6.9.1.

(2.75) adjunct commutative (adj › sbj › adj)
a. Die Kinder wimmeln auf den Platz.
b. Der Platz wimmelt von Kindern.

2.7.4 Isolated object diatheses

[2.120] The situation with object diatheses is reversed from the previously discussed subject diatheses. With object diatheses, isolated diatheses are much more widespread and they occur with a wide variety of role-remappings, see Figure 2.3. In contrast, chained object diatheses are less widespread and can mostly be analysed as a combination of multiple isolated diatheses.

[2.121] The top right diatheses in Figure 2.3 are demotions, while the bottom left ones are promotions. The bottom right of the figure is left completely empty because these remappings are not diatheses anymore, but simply optional marking. There is a strong tendency for object demotions in German to be either unmarked, or marked by reflexive pronouns, while the object promotions are typically marked by preverbs or resultative preverbials.

[2.122] The exception to this generalisation are the so-called locative and delocative diatheses. With those, promotions (locatives) are formally unmarked, while demotions (delocatives) are typically marked by preverbs or resultative preverbials. A possible explanation for this apparent markedness reversal is that the adding or removing of location phrases should not be seen as a change in valency (“diathetical operation”), but as the marking of the diathesis itself (“voice”). This would be a parallel to the addition/removal of directionals (see Sec­tion 9.2.5).

image/svg+xmlTo Cased Object To Prepositional Object To Adjunct To Unexpressed [ … > OBJ ] [ … > PBJ ] [ … > ADJ ] [ … > Ø ] From Cased Object Case Change Governed Antipassive Antipassive Deobjective [ OBJ > … ] [ OBJ > OBJ ] [ OBJ > PBJ ] [ OBJ > ADJ ] [ OBJ > Ø ] From Prepositional Object Governed Applicative Preposition Change Delocative [ PBJ > … ] [ PBJ > OBJ ] [ PBJ > PBJ ] [ PBJ > ADJ ] [ PBJ > Ø ] From Adjunct Applicative Adjunct Change [ ADJ > … ] [ ADJ > OBJ ] [ ADJ > PBJ ] [ ADJ > ADJ ] From Unexpressed Objective Locative [ Ø > … ] [ Ø > OBJ ] [ Ø > PBJ ]
Figure 2.3: Names for isolated object remappings

[2.123] I will discuss the different role-remappings from Figure 2.3 in four subsections. First, I will summarise the various kinds of applicatives and antipassives (mid left and mid top), then the objectives and deobjectives (top right and left bottom), followed by locative and delocative diatheses (mid bottom and mid right), and finally the symmetrical exchanges (on the diagonal). Applicatives & antipassives

[2.124] Applicatives and antipassives are very similar, though reversed. applicatives (adj › obj) change a prepositional phrase into a case-marked phrase, while antipassives (obj › adj) convert a case-marked phrase into a prepositional phrase. Given this affinity, instead of antipassive it might be better to call such remappings “antiapplicative” (e.g. Haspelmath & Müller-Bardey 2004: 1132) or “deapplicative” (in line with the other names below).

[2.125] By removing or adding an object, applicatives and antipassives change the transitivity of the sentence. However, because case marking in German is nominative/accusative aligned, changes in transitivity are not reflected in the marking of the subject. This is crucially different from languages with ergatively aligned case marking, in which antipassives also include a change in the marking of the subject, namely from ergative to absolutive (and vice versa with applicatives). Terminologically, these two situations might be distinguished by using the term “deapplicative” for nominative/accusative languages and reserve “antipassive” for ergative/absolutive languages. I decided against that distinction and the term “antipassive” will be used throughout in this book with this explicit caveat.

[2.126] Applicatives occur frequently with the addition of a preverb, like in the alternation between steigen auf ‘to climb’ and besteigen ‘to mount’ (2.76), see Sec­tion 8.8.9.

(2.76) applicative (adj › obj)
a. Sie steigt auf den Berg.
b. Sie besteigt den Berg.

[2.127] Antipassives in German are often unmarked (see further below), but an example of an antipassive with a clear markedness direction is the alternation between treffen ‘to meet’ and reflexive sich treffen mit ’to meet with (2.77), see Sec­tion 7.7.3.

(2.77) antipassive (obj › adj)
a. Ich treffe dich.
b. Ich treffe mich mit dir.

[2.128] The object of applicatives and antipassives is typically an accusative, but datives can also be targeted. An example of a dative applicative is the alternation between stammen aus ‘to hail from’ and entstammen ‘to be descended from’ (2.78), see Sec­tion 8.8.14. An example of a dative antipassive is the covert alternation of berichten ‘to report’ (2.79), see Sec­tion 6.7.12.

(2.78) dative applicative (adj › obj)
a. Ich stamme aus einem Adelsgeschlecht.
b. Ich entstamme einem Adelsgeschlecht
(2.79) dative antipassive (obj › adj)
a. Er berichtet dem Vorstand alles.
b. Er berichtet alles an den Vorstand.

[2.129] In the discussion of diatheses in this book I consistently distinguish governed applicatives (pbj › obj) and governed antipassives (obj › pbj) when the prepositional phrase is a governed preposition (see Sec­tion 6.2.1). An example of a governed applicative is the diathesis between arbeiten an ‘to work on’ (with a governed preposition an) and bearbeiten ‘to edit, adapt’ (2.80), see Sec­tion 8.8.10. An example of a governed antipassive is the diathesis between beklagen ‘to lament’ and sich beklagen ‘to complain’ (with a governed preposition über) (2.81), see Sec­tion 7.7.4. However, the differentiation between the governed and non-governed applicative/antipassive does not currently allow for any promising semantic or structural generalisations, so this differentiation might grammatically be unnecessary to explain German sentence structure.

(2.80) governed applicative (pbj › obj)
a. Ich arbeite an dem Text.
(Ich arbeite daran, dass der Text fertig wird.)
b. Ich bearbeite den Text.
(2.81) governed antipassives (obj › pbj)
a. Ich beklage den Lärm.
b. Ich beklage mich über den Lärm.
(Ich beklage mich darüber, dass es so laut ist.)

[2.130] There are a many diatheses with a role-remapping between adjunct and object that do not have any overt indication of a direction. Without explicit marking it is difficult to decide whether such diatheses are cases of (applicative) promotion (adj › obj) or (antipassive) demotion (obj › adj). For the sake of organisation in this book I classify such covert alternations on the basis of (debatable) semantic intuitions and parallels to other overtly marked diatheses.

[2.131] Most covert diatheses with an alternation between prepositional phrases and case-marked arguments are classified here as antipassive, like in the alternation between schießen auf ‘to aim at’ and schießen ‘to shoot’ (2.82), see Sec­tion 6.7.9. This is also widespread with datives (2.83), see Sec­tion 6.7.12. In such examples, I judge the case-marking to be more basic than the prepositional phrase.

(2.82) covert antipassive (obj › adj)
a. Ich schieße den Bären.
b. Ich schieße auf den Bären.
(2.83) covert dative antipassive (obj › adj)
a. Ich schreibe dir einen Brief.
b. Ich schreibe einen Brief an dich.

[2.132] In contrast, there is a widespread alternation between datives and beneficiary für prepositional phrases (2.84) that I classify as an applicative, see Sec­tion 6.8.10. In this example the beneficiary dative seems to be the derived construction.

(2.84) covert applicative: beneficiary raising (adj › obj)
a. Er kocht eine Suppe für mich.
b. Er kocht mir eine Suppe.

[2.133] There is a further kind of covert diathesis with a dative object, conventionally called possessor raising. In such diatheses there is an alternation between a possessor (typically expressed as an adnominal genitive) and a dative (2.85). The dative can alternate with the possessor of a nominative subject (see Sec­tion 5.8.3), an accusative object (see Sec­tion 5.8.4) or an obligatory location (see Sec­tion 6.8.12). Following widespread convention, I classify these diatheses as promotion (adj › obj)

(2.85) covert applicative: possessor raising (adj › obj)
a. Er schneidet meine Haare.
b. Er schneidet mir die Haare.

[2.134] These two covert kinds of dative applicative (viz. beneficiary and possessor applicative) are semantically and structurally clearly distinct. The datives that show a possessive alternation (2.85) are semantically experiencers. In contrast, datives that alternate with für prepositional phrases (2.84) are semantically beneficiaries. In especially crafted context it might be possible to evoke either reading for the same sentence (2.86).

(2.86) a. ? Ich schneide dir (zuliebe) in den (meinen) Finger.
(= Ich schneide für dich in meinen Finger.)
b. Ich schneide dir in den (deinen) Finger.
(= Ich schneide in deinen Finger.) Objectives & deobjectives

[2.135] A deobjective diathesis (obj › ø) is a diathesis that drops an object, i.e. a role cannot be expressed anymore (the term is taken from Haspelmath & Müller-Bardey 2004: 1131). A deobjective drop is illustrated in (2.87) with an alternation from kaufen ‘to buy’ to einkaufen ‘to shop’, see Sec­tion 8.7.2 for an extensive discussion.

(2.87) deobjective (obj › ø)
a. Ich habe gestern ein Buch gekauft.
b. Ich habe gestern eingekauft.

[2.136] A special variant of a deobjective occurs with verbs that apply to the body, like verbrennen ‘to burn’ (2.88). In such constructions, a reflexive pronoun is necessary. This diathesis is called endoreflexive (Haspelmath 1987: 27–28), see Sec­tion 7.7.1 for an extensive discussion.

(2.88) deobjective: endoreflexive (obj › ø)
a. Er verbrennt das Buch.
b. Er verbrennt sich.

[2.137] An objective diathesis (ø › obj) is a diathesis that adds a new object, i.e. a completely new role is introduced in the form of an object. An example of an overtly marked object addition is the alternation from zaubern ‘to perform magic’ to verzaubern ‘to enchant’ (2.89). In this example the new object is simply an added patient to an erstwhile intransitive action. Such object additions are frequently attested with preverbs like ver-, see Sec­tion 8.8.1.

(2.89) objective: added patient (ø › obj)
a. Sie zaubert.
b. Sie verzaubert mich.

[2.138] A semantically special kind of diathesis introduces a new added result object. Such an objective diathesis adds an object that is the result of performing the activity described by the predicate. An overtly marked example is presented in (2.90) with the diathesis between arbeiten ‘to work’ and the inherent reflexive sich etwas erarbeiten ‘to acquire something through work’, see Sec­tion 8.8.6. The result of the work is added as an object in (2.90 b). Here I consciously avoid the term “resultative” for this phenomenon to avoid confusion. First, I already use the term “resultative” in this book for a special class of preverbial adjectives (see Sec­tion 9.2.6). Second, the term “resultative” is also frequently used in the literature for an aspectual concept, namely to indicate a special kind of state induced as the result of performing the predicate (e.g. Nedjalkov 1988).

(2.90) objective: added result (ø › obj)
a. Ich arbeite.
b. Ich erarbeite mir ein Vermögen.
(= Ich arbeite, und das Resultat davon ist, dass ich ich ein Vermögen besitze.)

[2.139] Objectives and deobjectives are frequently attested without any overt marking (cf. ambitransitive/labile verbs), and in such “covert” diatheses it is difficult to establish a direction. As already noted above, for the sake of organisation in this book I classify such covert alternations on the basis of (often debatable) semantic intuitions and parallels with other overtly marked diatheses. For example, the verb stören ‘to disturb’ (2.91) can be used both with and without an accusative object, see Sec­tion 5.7.1. This is classified here as a deobjective diathesis. Such unmarked object drops are also attested with datives, see Sec­tion 5.7.4, and with governed prepositions, see Sec­tion 6.7. The dropping of an object is also often used to put the focus on the action itself, but then it is typically attested with an adverbial, see Sec­tion 9.7.1 for an extensive discussion.

(2.91) covert deobjective (obj › ø)
a. Du störst die Veranstaltung.
b. Du störst.

[2.140] In contrast, the verb stottern ‘to stutter’ is classified here as an example of a covert object addition (2.92), although there is no formal differentiation from the previous example of a covert object drop (2.91). The intuition is that stottern is basically intransitive (and any accusative object is thus added), while stören is basically transitive (and any missing object is thus dropped). Correlated with this proposed difference is the fact that covert object addition with stottern has an added result interpretation (2.92 b). However, it remains to be seen whether there is really a substantive difference between these two kinds of verbs (see Sec­tion 5.8.1 for an extensive discussion).

(2.92) covert objective: added result (ø › obj)
a. Er stotterte.
b. Er stotterte eine Entschuldigung.
(= Er stotterte, und das Resultat davon ist eine Entschuldigung.) Locatives & delocatives

[2.141] A locative diathesis (ø › pbj) is a diatheses that adds an obligatory location phrase to the clause. For example, the transitive befehlen ‘to order’ marks the ordered person as an accusative (2.93 a). With a (directional) locative phrase an die Front ‘to the frontline’ the sentence obtains a caused-motion reading (2.93 b), see Sec­tion 6.8.4. Note that there is no profound association between such a locative diathesis and the widespread phenomenon of a locative case. Both terms simply use the term “locative” to describe the fact that the marking of location is concerned.

(2.93) locative: caused motion (ø › pbj)
a. Ich befehle eine Armee.
b. Ich befehle die Armee an die Front.
(= Ich befehle, und dadurch geht die Armee an die Front.)

[2.142] Even more noteworthy, such a caused-motion diathesis is also possible with many intransitive verbs like schwitzen ‘to sweat’ (2.94 a). With such verbs, a locative diathesis not only adds a location, like in mein Hemd ‘in my shirt’, but also an added-result accusative object, like einen Fleck ‘a stain’ (2.94 b), see Sec­tion 6.8.3.

(2.94) locative: caused motion+added result (ø › pbj + ø › obj)
a. Ich schwitze.
b. Ich schwitze einen Fleck in mein Hemd.
(= Ich schwitze, und dadurch ist ein Fleck in meinem Hemd entstanden.)

[2.143] The reversal of a locative diathesis is a delocative diathesis (pbj › adj). In such a diathesis an obligatory location loses its obligatory status and is often completely dropped. An example of such a diathesis is shown in (2.95) with the alternation between stecken ‘to put into’ and verstecken ‘to hide’. The verb stecken needs an obligatory location (2.95 a,b). Such an obligatory location is classified here as a pbj prepositional object (see Sec­tion 2.2.2). The situation is different with the verb verstecken. With this verb the location is an adj optional adjunct and can be left out (see Sec­tion 8.7.11 for an extensive discussion).

(2.95) delocative (pbj › adj)
a. Ich stecke das Geschenk in den Schrank.
b. * Ich stecke das Geschenk.
c. Ich verstecke das Geschenk in dem Schrank.
d. Ich verstecke das Geschenk. Symmetrical object diatheses

[2.144] Symmetrical object diatheses are rare in German. A case change (obj › obj) is illustrated in (2.96) by the alternation between folgen ‘to follow’ (with dative) and verfolgen ‘to chase’ (with accusative), see Sec­tion 8.9.2.

(2.96) case change (obj › obj)
a. Ich folge dem Auto.
b. Ich verfolge das Auto.

[2.145] A governed preposition change (pbj › pbj) does occur in German, but such diatheses have not been explicitly collected in this book. Possible examples are arbeiten an ‘to work on’ (2.97 a) changing into sich durcharbeiten ‘to work through’ (2.97 b) or sorgen für ‘take care of’ (2.97 c) changing into sich sorgen um ‘to worry about’ (2.97 d).

(2.97) governed preposition change (pbj › pbj)
a. Er arbeitet an den Daten.
b. Er arbeitet sich durch die Daten.
c. Er sorgt für seine Mutter.
d. Er sorgt sich um seine Mutter.

[2.146] An adjunct change (adj › adj) is, according to my definitions, not a diathesis at all, as adjuncts are not lexically specific. However, the change between a possessor dein ‘your’ (2.98 a) and a non-governed prepositional phrase von dir ‘from you’ (2.98 b) can be seen as as a borderline examples, see Sec­tion 6.9.3.

(2.98) adjunct change (adj › adj)
a. Ich erwarte dein Geschenk.
b. Ich erwarte ein Geschenk von dir.

2.7.5 Chained object diatheses

[2.147] Chains of object diatheses (i.e. chains with the object in the middle of the chain) can always be interpreted as a combination of two isolated object diatheses from the previous section. However, not all theoretically possible combinations are attested (see Figure 2.4). The most frequently attested chained object diatheses are the highlighted variants of object exchange (see Sec­tions A few incidental examples of chained case change are also attested (see Sec­tion

image/svg+xmlTo Cased Object To Prepositional Object To Adjunct To Unexpressed [ … > OBJ > OBJ ] [ … > OBJ > PBJ ] [ … > OBJ > ADJ ] [ … > OBJ > Ø ] From Cased Object Double Case Change Antipassive + Case Change [ OBJ > OBJ > … ] [ OBJ > OBJ > OBJ ] [ OBJ > OBJ > PBJ ] [ OBJ > OBJ > ADJ ] [ OBJ > OBJ > Ø ] From Prepositional Object Filled Holonym Emptied Holonym [ PBJ > OBJ > … ] [ PBJ > OBJ > OBJ ] [ PBJ > OBJ > PBJ ] [ PBJ > OBJ > ADJ ] [ PBJ > OBJ > Ø ] From Adjunct Applicative + Case Change [ ADJ > OBJ > … ] [ ADJ > OBJ > OBJ ] [ ADJ > OBJ > PBJ ] [ ADJ > OBJ > ADJ ] [ ADJ > OBJ > Ø ] From Unexpressed Parted Meronym Joined Meronym [ Ø > OBJ > … ] [ Ø > OBJ > OBJ ] [ Ø > OBJ > PBJ ] [ Ø > OBJ > ADJ ] [ Ø > OBJ > Ø ] Object Exchange
Figure 2.4: Names for chains of object diathesis Object exchange

[2.148] The highlighted diatheses in Figure 2.4 are collectively called object exchange because as part of the role-remapping the accusative marking is exchanged from one role to another. These diatheses are used with verbs that involve some kind of part/whole relation between the two roles involved. A typical example (2.99) is the diathesis between schmieren ‘to smear’ and beschmieren ‘to spread’ (discussed in detail in Sec­tion 8.7.13). In this example an auf prepositional phrase turns into a new accusative, while the old accusative is turned into a mit prepositional phrase. So, syntactically the role marked as an accusative object is exchanged from Salbe ‘ointment’ to Wunde ‘wound’. Semantically, the Wunde is the “whole” to which the Salbe is applied.

(2.99) object exchange
a. Ich schmiere eine Salbe auf die Wunde.
b. Ich beschmiere die Wunde mit einer Salbe.

[2.149] Different variants of such object exchange show an astonishingly strong correlation between syntactic structure and semantic interpretation. Basically, promotions have the effect that the new object role is a part of the old object role (i.e. the new object is a meronym), while demotions have the reverse effect in that the new object role encompasses the old object role (i.e. the new object is a holonym). To appreciate this generalisation it is important to recall how demotions and promotions are defined for chained diatheses. This definition is not trivial because chained diatheses are always a combination of both a promotion and a demotion. So the question is which of the two “wins”.

[2.150] By definition (cf. Sec­tion 2.4.2), a chained diathesis is deemed to be an overall demotion when the demotion-part is stronger than the promotion-part, and vice versa. The strength is measured as the size of the “jump” on the macrorole hierarchy, repeated here in (2.100). Additionally, the overall chain exhibits varying intensity: the larger the difference in jump size between demotion-part and promotion-part, the more extreme the overall chain.

(2.100) macrorole hierarchy
sbj » obj » pbj » adj » ø

[2.151] Concretely, the promotion of an object exchange can be either an objective (ø › obj) (“three steps up”), an applicative (adj › obj) (“two steps up”) or an oblig­a­tory-loc­ation applicative (pbj › obj) (“one step up”). In reverse, the demotion can be either a deobjective (obj › ø) (“three steps down”), an antipassive (obj › adj) (“two steps down”) or an oblig­a­tory-loc­ation antipassive (obj › pbj) (“one step down”). Combining two of these leads to an overall assessment of the chained diathesis. This whole concept of chained demotions/promotions can be visualised by considering the top-right to bottom-left diagonal in Figure 2.4. The top-right corner (obj › obj › ø) is the most extreme demotion (“net four down”) and the bottom-left corner (ø › obj › obj) is the most extreme promotion (“net four up”). All other possibilities are situated somewhere in between these extremes on this diagonal.

[2.152] For example, consider again the diathesis from schmieren to beschmieren, repeated below in (10.63). It consist of a promotion from a prepositional phrase auf die Wunde to an accusative die Wunde and a demotion from an accusative eine Salbe to a prepositional phrase mit einer Salbe. The promotion starts from an obligatory location (2.101 a,b), i.e. this is an oblig­a­tory-loc­ational applicative (pbj › obj). In contrast, the demotion ends in an optional instrumental phrase (2.101 c,d), i.e. this is an antipassive diathesis (obj › adj). Now, the antipassive demotion (“two steps down”) is a bigger jump on the macrorole hierarchy than the oblig­a­tory-loc­ation promotion (“one step up”), so the whole object exchange (pbj › obj › adj) is classified as a demotion, be it a minor one (“net one step down”).

(2.101) demoted object exchange (pbj › obj › adj)
a. Ich schmiere eine Salbe auf die Wunde.
b. * Ich schmiere eine Salbe.
c. Ich beschmiere die Wunde mit einer Salbe.
d. Ich beschmiere die Wunde.

[2.153] According to the above mentioned generalisation, such an overall demotion coincides with the fact that the new object Wunde ‘wound’ is a holonym to which the old meronymic object Salbe ‘ointment’ is applied. To be precise, the terms meronym and holonym are language-specific classifications as observed in the structure of German. So, not all examples necessarily correspond to any (universal) semantic conceptualisation of the terms holonym/meronym. For example, German verbs that describe an act of covering (e.g. schmieren ‘to smear’) or wrapping (e.g. wickeln ‘to wrap around’) consistently treat the cover/wrap alike to other meronyms and the covered/wrapped object alike to other holonyms. That is no statement about what it semantically means to be a meronym or holonym. It is just a statement about the distribution of syntactic structures among German verbs as they take part in object exchange. Demoted object exchange

[2.154] There are two different kinds of object exchange with demotion, namely the filled holonym and the emptied holonym object exchange. These two kinds of exchange correlate with the intensity of the demotion. A minor demotion manifests a fil­led-holo­nym object exchange, while a more extreme form of demotion expresses an emptied-holonym object exchange.

[2.155] Typically, a filled holonym diathesis is expressed by a minor demotion (“net one step down”), as illustrated with schmieren/beschmieren above in (2.101). Note that in that example, the holonym Wunde is not literally ‘filled with’ the meronym Salbe. However, with many other examples, like pflanzen/bepflanzen ‘to plant’ below (2.102), the holonym Garten ‘garden’ is literally filled with the meronym Tulpen ‘tulips’. In accordance with this being a minor overall demotion (“net one step down”), the new accusative object after the object exchange is a filled holonym.

[2.156] Note that with pflanzen/bepflanzen (2.102) the pre-diathesis location phrase in den Garten is not obligatory (2.102 a,b), so the resulting diathesis is symmetric (adj › obj › adj). This is the kind of minor syntactic variation that is indicated in Figure 2.4 with the unnamed boxes in the centre of the highlighted object-exchange domain. Still, this diathesis is clearly an example of a fil­led-holo­nym object exchange because the change in prepositions from in (with unmarked pflanzen) to mit (with marked bepflanzen) fits in perfectly with other fil­led-holo­nym examples (cf. Sec­tion 8.7.13).

(2.102) symmetric object exchange: filled holonym (adj › obj › adj)
a. Ich pflanze Tulpen in den Garten.
b. Ich pflanze Tulpen.
c. Ich bepflanze den Garten mit Tulpen.
d. Ich bepflanze den Garten.

[2.157] The second kind of demoted object exchange is the emptied holonym diathesis, expressed with a more extreme demotion (“net two steps down”). This is illustrated in (2.103) with the diathesis between the verb klopfen ‘to pound’ and ausklopfen ‘to beat out’ (cf. Sec­tion 8.7.12). The unmarked verb klopfen (2.103 a) takes an accusative object role that expresses the result of the pounding (Staub ‘dust’). The pounded object role (Mantel ‘coat’) is expressed as an obligatory location phrase (2.103 b). Crucially, the accusative object role in this construction is a component part (meronym) of the locational object role (holonym). The diathesis from klopfen to ausklopfen (2.103 c) completely drops the meronym Staub from the sentence (obj › ø) and promotes the holonym Mantel to accusative (pbj › obj). The meronymic role Staub cannot be expressed anymore at all after the diathesis (2.103 d). In accordance with this large overall demotion (“net two steps down”), the new holonymic accusative object Mantel is semantically “emptied” from its old meronymic accusative object Staub by the action klopfen. So the new accusative object after this object exchange is an emptied holonym.

(2.103) demoted object exchange: emptied holonym (pbj › obj › ø)
a. Ich klopfe den Staub von meinem Mantel.
b. * Ich klopfe den Staub.
c. Ich klopfe meinen Mantel aus.
d. * Ich klopfe meinen Mantel von den Staub aus. Promoted object exchange

[2.158] There are also two different kinds of object exchange with promotion, namely the joined meronym and the parted meronym object exchange. These two kinds of object exchange correlate with the intensity of the promotion. A minor promotion manifests a joined-meronym object exchange, while a more extreme form of promotion expresses a parted-meronym object exchange. Basically, these diatheses are reversals of the two demoted object exchanges discussed in the previous section.

[2.159] The joined meronym object exchange occurs with less extreme promotions (“net one step up”). This is illustrated here with the diathesis from nähen ‘to sew’ to festnähen ‘to fixate by sewing’ (2.104). The original object role Bluse ‘blouse’ (2.104 a) turns into an optional an prepositional phrase (2.104 b,c). This part of the chain is an antipassive diathesis (obj › adj), i.e. “two steps down”. At the same time a new object role Knopf ‘button’ is introduced. This role cannot be expressed in the construction before the diathesis (2.104 a). So, this part of the chain is an objective diathesis (ø › obj), i.e. “three steps up”. The promotion is larger than the demotion, so the whole diathesis overall is a promotion, although a minor one, i.e. “net one step up”. As predicted for promotions, the new object Knopf semantically is a meronymic part of the original object Bluse. Further, in accordance with the promotion being minor, the verb nähen describes a situation in which the new object Knopf is physically connected to the holonymic Bluse. In summary, the new object is a joined meronym.

(2.104) promoted object exchange: joined meronym (ø › obj › adj)
a. Ich habe eine Bluse genäht.
b. Ich habe den Knopf an die Bluse festgenäht.
c. Ich habe den Knopf festgenäht.

[2.160] In some examples the joined-meronym object exchange allows for optional prepositional phrases at both sides of the diathesis, resulting in a symmetric diathesis (adj › obj › adj). For example, this is attested with the diathesis from massieren ‘to massage’ (2.105 a,b) to einmassieren ‘to massage in’ (2.105 c,d). Still, this diathesis is clearly an example of a joined-meronym object exchange because the change in preposition from mit (with unmarked massieren) to in (with marked einmassieren) is completely parallel to all other joined-meronym examples (cf. Sec­tion 8.9.1). Semantically, the new accusative object role (Balsam, ‘balm’) is a meronym of the old object role (Muskeln ‘muscles’), and this new object role is applied to the old object role to become a part of it by the verb massieren. So, even though the diathesis is symmetric, the new object is syntactically and semantically a joined meronym.

(2.105) symmetric object exchange: joined meronym (adj › obj › adj)
a. Ich habe die Muskeln mit Balsam massiert.
b. Ich habe die Muskeln massiert.
c. Ich habe den Balsam in die Muskeln einmassiert.
d. Ich habe den Balsam einmassiert.

[2.161] The parted meronym object exchange occurs with more extreme promotions (“net two steps up”). For example, the verb waschen ‘to wash’ normally takes an accusative object role that is the washee, here Hose ‘trousers’ (2.106 a). There is a covert diathesis that introduces a new object role that cannot be expressed earlier, here Fleck ‘stain’ (2.106 b). this addition is an objective promotion (ø › obj), i.e. “three steps up”. At the same time, the original accusative is turned into a locational prepositional phrase and this location phrase cannot be left out (2.106 c). This is an oblig­a­tory-loc­ation antipassive (obj › pbj), i.e “one step down”. This diathesis is thus an extreme promotion overall, i.e. “net two steps up”. Accordingly, the new meronymic object Fleck is semantically a component part of the original holonymic object Hose and it is removed from it by the action waschen. In summary, the new object is a parted meronym.

(2.106) promoted object exchange: parted meronym (ø › obj › pbj)
a. Ich wasche meine Hose.
b. Ich wasche den Fleck aus meiner Hose.
c. * Ich wasche den Fleck. Other kinds of object exchange

[2.162] There are a few other examples of object exchange that do not fit in with the general pattern described above, for example with zwingen/erzwingen ‘to force’ (2.107 a,b). This chained diathesis is a remapping of the form (pbj › obj › adj) because the preposition zu is a governed preposition (2.107 c). This diathesis is attested with various verbs of persuasion (cf. Sec­tion 8.7.14). The demotion is more prominent than the promotion, so this chain is overall a demotion. Consequently, because it is the person being persuaded that is demoted I call this a persuadee demotion object exchange.

(2.107) object exchange: persuadee demotion (pbj › obj › adj)
a. Er zwingt ihn zu einem Geständnis.
b. Er zwingt ihn dazu, ein Geständnis abzulegen.
c. Er erzwingt ein Geständnis (von ihm).

[2.163] Another example of an object exchange is illustrated here with the verb bewundern ‘to admire’ (2.108), see Sec­tion 6.9.3. This verb (and others like it) show a combination of a possessor-raising applicative promotion (adj › obj) and a governed antipassive demotion (obj › pbj) leading to the object exchange (adj › obj › pbj). The promotion is more prominent than the demotion, so this chain is overall a promotion. I propose to call this a possessor raising object exchange.

(2.108) object exchange: possessor raising (adj › obj › pbj)
a. Ich bewundere seine Ehrlichkeit.
b. Ich bewundere ihn für seine Ehrlichkeit.
c. Ich bewundere ihn dafür, dass er ehrlich ist. Chained case changes

[2.164] Finally, there are a few object chains involving a change of case, shown at the top and the left of Figure 2.4. Note that a case change of dative/genitive to accusative can be interpreted as a promotion, and the reverse as a demotion, cf. paragraph 2.43, but that perspective will not be expanded upon here.

[2.165] Example (2.109) shows a combination of a dative-to-accusative case change with an antipassive, resulting in a chain (obj › obj › adj). The verb schenken ‘to gift’ takes a recipient in the dative and a patient in the accusative, while the derived beschenken ‘to gift’ turns the accusative into a prepositional phrase (i.e. antipassive) and changes the dative dir into an accusative dich (see Sec­tion 8.7.8).

(2.109) antipassive+case change (obj › obj › adj)
a. Ich schenke dir ein Buch.
b. Ich beschenke dich mit einem Buch.

[2.166] The reverse situation, i.e. a chain (adj › obj › obj), is attested with the diathesis between drängen ‘to urge’ and the derived aufdrängen ‘to impose’ (2.110), see Sec­tion 8.8.13. In this example a prepositional phrase changes into an accusative (i.e. applicative), while the accusative dich changes to dative dir.

(2.110) applicative+case change (adj › obj › obj)
a. Ich dränge dich zu einem Abo.
b. Ich dränge dir ein Abo auf.

[2.167] Finally, an idiosyncratic diathesis is attested with the verb rauben ‘to rob’ (2.111), see Sec­tion 8.9.4. When this verb is changed to berauben ‘to rob’ then two case changes happen simultaneously: first a dative-to-accusative change (dich becomes dir) and second an accusative-to-genitive change (das Buch becomes des Buches). This is thus an example of a remapping pattern (obj › obj › obj), here called double case change.

(2.111) double case change (obj › obj › obj)
a. Ich raube dir das Buch.
b. Ich beraube dich des Buches.

3 Summary of major diatheses

3.1 German names for German grammar

[3.1] Among the almost 250 diatheses that are distinguished in this book there are many that are frequently attested and that can be used with very many different verbs. In contrast, there are also many diatheses that only occur in very specific circumstances or that might otherwise be considered to be exceptions or incidental instances. Only the major diatheses, those that are of central importance to the grammatical structure of German, will be summarised in this chapter. Such a summary would normally be presented at the end of a book, but because of the often long-winding data-driven details of the subsequent descriptive chapters, I decided to present this summary here at the end of the introductory deliberations. Take it as a quick appetiser of things to come, with ample links to the actual discussion in later chapters. This chapter also provides a sketch of how diathesis could be approached in practical grammars of the German language.

[3.2] To reiterate the basic premise of this book: in the Chapters 5 to 13 I aim to present a complete list of all coherent, and thus monoclausal, clause structures in German (cf. Sec­tion 1.3.1 on defining monoclausality). All in all, in those chapters there are more than 300 separate sub-subsections that describe (often minor) variations of monoclausal structures. This diversity is condensed into about 120 major clause alternations as summarised here. Of those, about 80 are diatheses (i.e. clause alternations with role-remapping, discussed in this chapter), while only about 40 are epitheses (i.e. clause alternations without any change in role marking, discussed in the next chapter). So, diathesis (“grammatical voice”) is a much more diverse grammatical phenomenon than epithesis (“tense-aspect-mood marking”). All these counts should be taken with some leeway, because a lot depends on individual decisions about splitting or lumping structures into groups (e.g. how many lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv constructions are counted separately, cf. Sec­tion 11.2.5). Although the analysis of German clause alternations might look cleaner when lumping structures into larger groups, that would not reduce the attested diversity, it would only hide the variation at the cost of larger within-group complexity.

[3.3] Besides providing a basic summary, I also propose German names (sometimes based on Latinate terms) for all 120 major derived monoclausal sentence structures. Using suitable names is a central aspect of (scientific) communication. In grammar, names are like instruments that allow us to abstract away from individual details and manipulate classes of utterances that show a specific abstract structure. However, naming is hard and can also lead to miscommunication. When re-using available terminology, the terms are easily recognised and remembered, but they carry the weight of history. Even when detailed definitions are given (as I have tried to do throughout this book), unintended interpretations of previous usage inevitably seep through. In contrast, inventing new names introduces more precision, but the downside is often cumbersome terms that are difficult to remember.

[3.4] In naming diatheses in this book I have tried to strike a balance between precise naming and good readability. For the English names in the detailed discussions in the coming chapters, I have decided in favour of precision. Each phenomenon is newly named with often long descriptive and unique names. In contrast, for the German names in this chapter I try to reuse available terminology as much as possible. When necessary, I propose new names that attempt to evoke a functional description like Reziprokativ or Erlebniskonversiv. However, the semantic characterisation has not been the main focus of this book, so it might become necessary to rename diatheses in the future once more detailed investigations have been performed. In some cases I have not been able to find a suitable semantic characterisation. For those diatheses I have resorted to using formal characteristics in the name, always written as separate words, like Reflexiv Erlebniskonversiv (i.e an Erlebniskonversiv that needs a reflexive pronoun) or Resultativ Delokativ (i.e. a Delokativ that needs a resultative preverbial).

[3.5] In this chapter, the diatheses are organised in sections according to the grammatical macro-role remapping patterns as introduced in Sec­tion 2.7. The different diatheses in each section are thus functionally highly similar, but they are structurally different. Inversely, there are various diatheses that are structurally highly similar, but are nonetheless repeated in separate sections under different names. This is necessary because superficially identical diatheses can have rather different structural repercussions depending on the verbs to which they are applied. This happens for example with different instantiations of the sein+Partizip or the lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv constructions.

3.2 Naming clause types

[3.6] Before diving into the daunting diversity of German diathesis, a short note on German names for different clause types is in order (summarised in Table 3.1). The distinction between sentence (German: satz) and clause (German: teilsatz) is customary made in the German grammatical literature when a precise description is needed. However, the term Satz is often used as a shorthand for both. When subdividing clauses, there is of course a basic distinction between main clause (German: hauptsatz, more precise would be selbständiger teilsatz) and subordinate clause (German: nebensatz or alternatively untergeordneter teilsatz).

[3.7] Yet, a central thesis of this book is that there is a further subdivision for both main and subordinate clauses. First, a “basic clause” is a clause with a single finite verb in the Präsens or Präteritum. For German I propose to use the term basissatz, or, to be more precise, grundlegender teilsatz. Various kinds of derived clauses can be constructed from a basic clause. For German I propose to call such a derived clause a spezialsatz, or, to be more precise, abgeleiteter teilsatz.

[3.8] There are two kinds of derived clauses. First, an epithesis is a clause alternation without role-remapping. For German I propose to use either the neologism übersatz or the Greek-inspired epithese, or, to be more precise, erweiterter teilsatz. Second, a diathesis is a clause alternation with role-remapping. For German I propose to use the neologism wechselsatz or the Greek-inspired diathese, or, to be more precise, umgestellter teilsatz.

Table 3.1: German terminology for clause types
English Term German Term Short German Term
Main clause Selbständiger Teilsatz Hauptsatz
Subordinate clause Untergeordneter Teilsatz Nebensatz
Basic clause Grundlegender Teilsatz Basissatz
Derived clause Abgeleiteter Teilsatz Spezialsatz
Epithesis Erweiterter Teilsatz Übersatz (Epithese)
Diathesis Umgestellter Teilsatz Wechselsatz (Diathese)

3.3 Insubjective diatheses (sbj › o)

[3.9] An insubjective is a diathesis that completely removes the role marked as nominative subject without introducing a new subject. For details on the definition see Sec­tion 2.7.2, specifically starting at paragraph 2.90.

3.3.1 Auslöserentfall

[3.10] The unmarked auslöserentfall (full discussion in Sec­tion 5.5.1 and subsequent sections) is typically found with dispersion verbs like stinken ‘to stink’, klingeln ‘to ring’ or krachen ‘to crunch’ (3.1 a). These verbs allow for a construction without explicit nominative subject when describing a general situation with unknown cause. An obligatory valency-simulating pronoun es is used as a replacement of the nominative subject (3.1 b).

(3.1) a. Der Müll stinkt.
b. Hier stinkt es aber.

3.3.2 Aktionsbewertung

[3.11] The aktionsbewertung (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.5.1) similarly replaces the nominative subject by a valency-simulating es. Additionally, this diathesis obligatorily needs a reflexive pronoun and an adverbial phrase describing an evaluation, like gut ‘well’ or angenehm ‘pleasantly’. The Aktionsbewertung is typically used with agentive intransitive verbs like leben ‘to live’ or tanzen ‘to dance’ and describes a habitual situation. This diathesis is closely related to the bewertungsantikausativ for transitive verbs (see Sec­tion 3.7.4).

(3.2) a. Wir leben in diesem Haus.
b. Hier lebt es sich gut.

3.3.3 Zustandsbewertung (sein+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.12] The zustandsbewertung (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.5.3) is a somewhat formulaic construction dropping the nominative subject of an intransitive verb. This construction is constructed with sein and an infinitive. Additionally an adverbial phrase describing an evaluation is obligatory, like gut ‘well’ or schlecht ‘badly’. A valency-simulating pronoun es instead of the dropped nominative is mostly not present. This construction expresses an evaluation and it typically used with a location, like with sitzen ‘to sit’ (3.3).

(3.3) a. Ich sitze zwischen den Stühlen.
b. Zwischen den Stühlen ist schlecht sitzen.

3.3.4 Möglichkeitsbewertung (lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.13] The möglichkeitsbewertung (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.5.1) consists of the light verb lassen with the infinitive of an intransitive verb. This construction obligatory includes a reflexive pronoun and an evaluating adverbial expression like gut ‘fine’. A valency-simulating pronoun es appears to be optional (3.4). This construction gives an evaluation about a possible situation. It is closely related to the permissivpassiv for transitive verbs (see Sec­tion 3.8.6).

(3.4) a. Ich arbeite zuhause.
b. Zuhause lässt (es) sich gut arbeiten.

3.3.5 Unpersönliches Vorgangspassiv (werden+Partizip)

[3.14] The unpersönlicher vorgangspassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.1) is a construction consisting of the light verb werden with a participle of an intransitive verb. Only agentive (“unergative”) intransitive verbs like tanzen ‘to dance’ (3.5) or schlafen ‘to sleep’ allow for this construction without any nominative subject (not even a valency-simulating es is needed). The name “passive” is rather unfitting for this diathesis, but it is retained here because of widespread usage. This construction is closely related to the vorgangspassiv for transitive verbs (see Sec­tion 3.8.1).

(3.5) a. Die Jungs tanzen.
b. Jetzt wird getanzt!

3.3.6 Unpersönliches Modalpassiv (sein+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.15] The unpersönlicher modalpassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.5.1 and subsequent sections) consists of a light verb sein with zu and an infinitive. It is found with incidental intransitive verbs, but more typically with verbs with a dative argument (but no accusative) like helfen ‘to help’ or trauen ‘to trust’ (3.6). In this diathesis the nominative subject is dropped and cannot be retained in any other form. There is also no valency-simulating es present. The name “passive” is actually beside the point for this diathesis, but it is used here because this construction is closely related to the modalpassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.4).

(3.6) a. Ich traue ihm nicht.
b. Ihm ist nicht zu trauen.

3.4 Desubjective diatheses (sbj › adj)

[3.16] A desubjective is a diathesis that removes the role marked as nominative subject, though this role can still optionally be expressed as a prepositional phrase. For details on the definition see Sec­tion 2.7.2, specifically starting at paragraph 2.94.

3.4.1 Möglichkeitsdesubjektiv (geben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.17] The möglichkeitsdesubjektiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.5.4) uses a subjectless light verb geben with zu and an infinitive (3.7). The removed nominative subject is replaced by a valency-simulating pronoun es, so the light verbs are always in the third person singular, resulting in a fixed expression es gibt. The removed subject can optionally be retained with a für prepositional phrase, though this is less frequent compared to the gelten+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis (see Sec­tion 3.4.2). Any other argument is simply preserved, like the accusative den Koffer ‘the suitcase’ in the example below. The Möglichkeitsdesubjektiv semantically invokes an option that is available to the original subject, i.e. a modal-like ‘can’ meaning. The same construction geben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv is also used in a semantically and structurally quite different diathesis, namely the Möglichkeitskausativ (see Sec­tion 3.11.6).

(3.7) a. Wir kaufen den Koffer.
b. In dem Laden gibt es den Koffer ?(für uns) zu kaufen.

3.4.2 Notwendigkeitsdesubjektiv (gelten+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.18] The notwendigkeitsdesubjektiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.5.5) uses a subjectless light verb gelten with zu and an infinitive (3.8). The removed nominative subject is replaced by a valency-simulating pronoun es, so the light verb gelten is always in the third person singular, resulting in fixed expressions es gilt. The removed subject can optionally be retained with a für prepositional phrase. Any other argument is simply preserved, like the accusative den Koffer ‘the suitcase’ in the example below. This construction semantically invokes some kind of (self‑)assignment that should be fulfilled, i.e. a modal-like ‘must’ meaning.

(3.8) a. Wir verlieren den Koffer nicht.
b. Jetzt gilt es (für uns) den Koffer nicht zu verlieren.

3.4.3 Aufforderungsdesubjektiv (heißen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.19] The aufforderungsdesubjektiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.5.4) consists of the verb heißen with an infinitive. The meaning of this constructions is very close to the previous Notwendigkeitsdesubjektiv (see Sec­tion 3.4.2). The removed nominative subject is replaced by a valency-simulating pronoun es, so the light verb heißen is always in the third person singular, resulting in fixed expressions es heißt. The removed subject can optionally be retained with a für prepositional phrase. However, different from gelten+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv, the construction heißen+In­fi­ni­tiv can only be applied to intransitive verbs. Note that there also exists a completely separate causative usage of heißen+In­fi­ni­tiv, but that Aufforderungskausativ appears to be rather old-fashioned (see Sec­tion 3.11.8).

(3.9) a. Er redet weiter.
b. Dann heißt es für ihn weiter reden.

3.5 Conciliative diatheses (adj › sbj › o)

[3.20] A conciliative is a diathesis that completely removes the role marked as subject and promotes an instrument to be the new subject. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.103.

3.5.1 Instrumentsubjektiv

[3.21] The instrumentsubjektiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.5.4 and subsequent sections) promotes an instrument to nominative subject. For example, the instrument Schlüssel ‘key’ of the verb öffnen ‘to open’ is expressed with a mit prepositional phrase in (3.10 a). Alternatively, it can be expressed with a nominative as in (3.10 b). In that construction, the original agent cannot be expressed anymore. This diathesis looks very similar to the Kreationsubjektiv (see Sec­tion 3.6.1), but there are crucial semantic and structural differences (discussed below).

(3.10) a. Ich öffne die Tür mit dem Schlüssel.
b. Der Schlüssel öffnet die Tür.

3.6 Fabricative diatheses (pbj › sbj › ø)

[3.22] A fabricative is a diathesis that completely removes the role marked as subject and promotes an fabricated entity to be the new subject. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.102.

3.6.1 Kreationsubjektiv

[3.23] The kreationsubjektiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.5.7) superficially looks very similar to the previous Instrumentsubjektiv. In both diatheses a mit prepositional phrase is promoted to nominative subject. However, with a verb like überraschen ‘to surprise’ (3.11) the noun in the prepositional phrase, Aufgabe ‘task’, does not represent an instrument, but a fabrication by the subject of the sentence, Lehrer ‘teacher’. This semantic difference is paralleled by a structural difference, namely that the mit prepositional phrase is a governed preposition (3.11 c). Note that the verbs that allow for a Kreationsubjektiv show a substantial overlap with the verbs that allow for the Reflexiv Erlebniskonversiv (see Sec­tion 3.9.1), though the two groups are not identical.

(3.11) a. Der Lehrer überrascht mich mit der Aufgabe.
b. Die Aufgabe überrascht mich.
c. Der Lehrer überrascht mich damit, dass er die Aufgabe schon korrigiert hat.

3.6.2 Auslösersubjektiv (sein+zum-In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.24] The auslösersubjektiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.5.1) is constructed with the light verb sein with a zum‑In­fi­ni­tiv. This diathesis can be applied to verbs of emotion with a governed preposition describing the trigger of the emotion. For example, heulen ‘to whine’ (3.12 a) uses the governed preposition über to describe the trigger, here Schaden ‘damage’ (3.12 b). The result of the diathesis is that the trigger of the emotion is promoted to nominative subject (3.12 c). The original subject, i.e. the perceiver of the emotion, cannot be expressed anymore.

(3.12) a. Ich heule über den Schaden.
b. Ich heule darüber, dass der Schaden so groß ist.
c. Der Schaden ist zum Heulen.

3.7 Anticausative diatheses (obj › sbj › ø)

[3.25] An anticausative is a diathesis that completely removes the role marked as subject and promotes an object to be the new subject. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.99.

3.7.1 Antikausativ

[3.26] The unmarked antikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 5.5.5 and subsequent sections) is attested with verbs like öffnen ‘to open’ or kochen ‘to cook’. These verbs occur both as transitive (3.13 a) and intransitive (3.13 b) without any further grammatical marking. Crucially, the object of the transitive is the subject of the intransitive. Because this diathesis is unmarked, there is no formal indication of a direction. So, this diathesis could just as well be interpreted as a causative. However, there is a formal difference between verbs that allow for both a haben and sein in the intransitive (3.13 c,d) and those that only allow for a sein in the intransitive. There seems to be an interesting semantic correlate to this formal difference in that the verbs that allow for both haben and sein seem primarily transitiv. Consequentially this group is called antikausativ (this section), while the second group with only sein is called kausativ (see Sec­tion 3.11.1).

(3.13) a. Der Mitarbeiter öffnet den Laden.
b. Der Laden öffnet gleich.
c. Der Laden hat geöffnet.
d. Der Laden ist geöffnet.

3.7.2 Ortsantikausativ

[3.27] The unmarked ortsantikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.5.10) is similar to the previous unmarked antikausativ. Verbs like kleben ‘to glue, to stick’ or klappen ‘to fold’ occur both as transitive and intransitive (3.14 a,b) with the object of the transitive being the subject of the intransitive. Likewise, the intransitive is possible with both haben and sein (3.14 c,d). The only difference is the obligatory presence of a location. Note that there is also a parallel ortskausativ (see Sec­tion 3.11.2).

(3.14) a. Ich habe den Zettel an die Wand geklebt.
b. Der Zettel klebt an der Wand.
c. Der Zettel hat an der Wand geklebt.
d. Der Zettel ist an die Wand geklebt.

3.7.3 Reflexiv Antikausativ

[3.28] The reflexiv antikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.5.2 and subsequent sections) is attested with verbs like entscheiden ‘to decide’ or beschränken ‘to limit’. Again, these verbs occur both as transitive and intransitive with the transitive object being the subject of the intransitive (3.15 a,b). However, with these verbs the intransitive needs an obligatory reflexive pronoun (3.15 b). The intransitive with reflexive pronoun typically takes haben in the perfect (3.15 c). The intransitive perfect with sein (3.15 d) can now clearly be identified as a zustandspassiv of the transitive (see Sec­tion 3.8.2).

(3.15) a. Der Richter entscheidet den Fall.
b. Der Fall entscheidet sich.
c. Der Fall hat sich entschieden.
d. Der Fall ist entschieden.

3.7.4 Bewertungsantikausativ

[3.29] The bewertungsantikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.5.2 and subsequent sections) is possible with many straightforward transitive verbs, like with ver­kauf­en ‘to sell’ or lesen ‘to read’ (3.16 a). The anticausative intransitive obligatorily needs a reflexive pronoun, and additionally an obligatory manner adverbial is needed (3.16 b). Just like the previous anticausatives, the intransitive occurs both with haben and sein in the perfect. However, haben is clearly used with the reflexive anticausative construction with obligatory adverbial (3.16 c), while sein is used with the zustandspassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.2) of the original transitive, without reflexive pronoun or obligatory adverbial evaluation (3.16 d).

(3.16) a. Ich verkaufe das Buch.
b. Das Buch verkauft sich gut.
c. Das Buch hat sich gut verkauft.
d. Das Buch ist verkauft.

3.7.5 Inferenzantikausativ (scheinen/erscheinen+Partizip)

[3.30] The inferenzantikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.10) is constructed with one of the light verbs scheinen or erscheinen with a participle of a transitive verb (3.17). This construction expresses an evidential inference by the speaker that something is the case. The retention of the original agent as a prepositional phrase seems to be mostly not possible (3.17 b), so this diathesis is classified as an anticausative here. With intransitive verbs this construction does not show any diathesis and is consequently called perfektinferenz (see Sec­tion 4.6.2).

(3.17) a. Der Pförtner schließt die Tür.
b. Die Tür scheint *(von dem Pförtner) geschlossen.

3.7.6 Sinnesantikausativ (aussehen/wirken+Partizip)

[3.31] The sinnesantikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.11) uses the light verbs aussehen or wirken together with a participle of a transitive verb to form an anticausative diathesis (3.18). This construction expresses that the speaker has sensory evidence about the state of affairs. The retention of the original subject is very rare, though it might to be possible with verbs describing a mental state, like entspannen ‘to relax’ (3.18 b). With intransitive verbs this construction does not show any diathesis and is consequently called sinnesevidenz (see Sec­tion 4.6.3).

(3.18) a. Die Renovierung verändert den Bahnhof.
Der Bahnhof sieht *(von der Renovierung) verändert aus.
b. Die Stille entspannt ihn.
Er wirkt ?(von der Stille) entspannt.

3.7.7 Darstellungsantikausativ (geben/zeigen+Partizip)

[3.32] The darstellungsantikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.12) consists of the light verb geben with a participle and an obligatory reflexive pronoun. It expresses a conscious performance to appear in a certain way by the erstwhile accusative. The original nominative cannot be retained. The light verb zeigen can be used alternatively to geben. Any difference between these two light verbs needs more investigation.

(3.19) a. Die Stille entspannt ihn.
b. Er gibt sich *(durch die Stille) entspannt.

3.7.8 Erwartungsantikausativ (stehen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.33] The erwartungsantikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.5.6) uses a light verb stehen with zu and an infinitive. The original accusative object is promoted to subject and the erstwhile nominative subject cannot be retained, so this clearly is an anticausative diathesis. However, examples with an explicitly accusative noun phrase as in (3.20 a) are actually rare. Typically, this diatheses is found with cognitive predicates expressing an expectation, like befürchten ‘to fear’, with a dass complement clause (3.20 b). Functionally, this complement clause has the same status as an accusative object. Note that complement clauses typically come towards the end of the sentence in German, and then the first position of the sentence often has to be filled with a position-simulating pronoun es (which is removed when the first position is filled otherwise).

(3.20) a. Ich befürchte einen weiteren Beschäftigungsabbau.
Ein weiterer Beschäftigungsabbau steht zu befürchten.
b. Ich befürchte, dass er zu spät kommen wird.
Es steht zu befürchten, dass er zu spät kommen wird.

3.7.9 Unmöglichkeitsantikausativ (gehen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.34] The unmöglichkeitsantikausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.5.7) uses a light verb gehen with zu and an infinitive. This anticausative diathesis is typical for an informal register, but written examples can be found going back to the 19th century. The construction is typically used with an additional negation (3.21 b), though in contemporary online writing it is also attested without negation (3.21 c). Because of the negation, the typical usage of the Unmöglichkeitsantikausativ is to express the impossibility to change something.

(3.21) a. Ich lösche die Datei.
b. Die Datei geht nicht zu löschen.
c. Die Datei geht zu löschen.

3.8 Passive diatheses (obj › sbj › adj)

[3.35] A passive is a diathesis that removes the role marked as subject and promotes an object to be the new subject. The erstwhile subject can optionally be expressed as a prepositional phrase. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.100.

3.8.1 Vorgangspassiv (werden+Partizip)

[3.36] The vorgangspassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.15) is the infamous diathesis consisting of a light verb werden with a participle. Passives are very similar to anticausatives in that the transitive object is turned into the intransitive subject (3.22). The special characteristic of a passive is that the transitive subject can be optionally retained, typically as a prepositional von or durch phrase. However, note that this prepositional phrase is normally not used. The same werden+Partizip construction leads to a different diathesis with intransitive verbs, namely the unpersönlicher Passiv (see Sec­tion 3.3.5).

(3.22) a. Ich verkaufe den Schrank.
b. Der Schrank wird verkauft (von mir).

3.8.2 Zustandspassiv (sein+Partizip)

[3.37] The zustandspassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.16) consists of a light verb sein with a participle (3.23). Although this diathesis is traditionally called “passive” in German grammar, the status of the retained agent is problematic and appears to be strongly dependent on the verb (12.40 b,c). It might thus be better to consider this diathesis to be an anticausative. However, because of the long tradition I hold on to the term Zustandspassiv and the analysis of it being a passive. The closely related sein+Partizip erlebniskonversiv (see Sec­tion 3.9.2) retains the subject with a governed preposition. Also the sein+Partizip perfekt as attested with some intransitive verbs is arguably a similar construction, though applied to different verbs (see Sec­tion 4.3.1).

(3.23) a. Ich verkaufe den Schrank.
b. Der Schrank ist ?(von mir) verkauft.
c. Der Schrank ist !(vom Schreiner) gebaut.

3.8.3 Fortsetzungspassiv (bleiben+Partizip)

[3.38] The fortsetzungspassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.17) is closely related to the sein-Zustandspassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.2), but now the light verb bleiben is used with a participle (3.24). This construction expresses that a reached state is maintained. Like with sein, the retention of the original agent with bleiben is possible, but often difficult (3.24 b,c). However, not all verbs can be equally used with sein and bleiben. For example, verbs like drucken ‘to print’ or schreiben ‘to write’ are fine with the sein-Zustandspassiv but not with the bleiben-Fortsetzungspassiv. This construction is only attested with transitive verbs. The same bleiben+Parti­zip construction can be used with intransitive verbs, but then it does not induce a diathesis and is called perfektkontinuativ (see Sec­tion 4.3.10).

(3.24) a. Der Pförtner schließt die Tür.
b. Die Tür bleibt ?(durch den Pförtner) geschlossen.
c. DIe Tür bleibt !(durch einen Vorhang) verborgen.

3.8.4 Modalpassiv (sein+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.39] The modalpassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.5.8) is constructed using the light verb sein with zu and an infinitive. When applied to transitive verbs like führen ‘to lead’ (3.25 a) or lösen ‘to solve’ (3.25 b) this diathesis promotes the accusative to nominative subject. The erstwhile nominative subject can be retained as a prepositional phrase. This diathesis has two different interpretations. It can indicate either an deontic modality (‘must’) as in (3.25 a) or an ability (‘can’) as in (3.25 b). Note that the subject retention with the preposition für is only possible in the ability-interpretation. The closely related unpersönlicher Modalpassiv is used with intransitives and only allows for the deontic interpretation (see Sec­tion 3.3.6).

(3.25) a. Der Besitzer führt den Hund an der Leine.
Hunde sind an der Leine zu führen (von ihren Besitzern).
b. Die Schüler lösen die Aufgabe.
Die Aufgabe ist (für die Schüler) leicht zu lösen.

3.8.5 Normpassiv (gehören+Partizip)

[3.40] The normpassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.18) consists of the light verb gehören with a participle. It is only attested with verbs with accusative objects, like bestrafen ‘to punish’ (3.26). The diathesis expresses that the main verb ought to be applied to the object. The original subject can optionally be retained as a prepositional phrase.

(3.26) a. Der Schiedsrichter bestraft den Spieler.
b. Der Spieler gehört bestraft (durch den Schiedsrichter)

3.8.6 Permissivpassiv (lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.41] The permissivpassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.5.5) consists of the light verb lassen with infinitive and an obligatory reflexive pronoun (3.27). The agent can be retained with an optional von prepositional phrase, so this diathesis is a passive. This diathesis expresses that something is permitted (3.27 a) or that something is possible (3.27 b). A similar construction with lassen+sich+In­fi­ni­tiv can be applied to intransitive verbs, which leads to a different diathesis, namely the Möglichkeitsbewertung (see Sec­tion 3.3.4). Also the Permissivkonversiv (see Sec­tion 3.9.3) and the Permissivinversiv (see Sec­tion 3.10.4) use the same construction with lassen, but they also show different role-remappings.

(3.27) a. Die Visagistin schminkt ihn.
Er lässt sich (von der Visagistin) schminken.
b. Der Pförtner schließt die Tür.
Die Tür lässt sich (von dem Pförtner) schließen.

3.8.7 Rezipientenpassiv (bekommen/kriegen/erhalten+Partizip)

[3.42] The rezipientenpassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.21) has become a mainstay in the German grammatical literature. It consists of the light verb bekommen with a participle (alternatively, the light verbs kriegen or erhalten can be used). With this diathesis, a dative recipient is turned into the nominative subject. Again, the erstwhile nominative can be retained as a prepositional phrase, though it mostly is not used (as with all passives). Note that the same construction can also be used in a different “achievement” interpretation without diathesis, called Effektiv here (see Sec­tion 4.5.6).

(3.28) a. Der Friseur schneidet mir die Haare.
b. Ich bekomme die Haare geschnitten (vom Friseur).

3.8.8 Pertinenzpassiv (haben+Partizip)

[3.43] The pertinenzpassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.22) is a special construction because it looks identical to the Perfekt (see Sec­tion 4.3.1), often even being ambiguous among the two interpretations. However, the Pertinenzpassiv is functionally much closer to the Rezipientenpassiv. The new nominative subject der Minister ‘the minister’ (12.44 b) is the (dative) experiencer/beneficiary of the cutting (3.29 a). The original agent of the cutting Friseur ‘barber’ can only be retained with difficulty, so this diathesis looks closer to an anticausative. However, there is a well-known effect that this Pertinenzpassiv becomes much more common when stacked with a modal auxiliary like wollen ‘to want’ (3.29 c). In such a stack, the original agent can clearly be retained.

[3.44] The designation pertinenz refers to the fact that the new subject is necessarily the possessor of the accusative object Haare ‘hair’. Such inherent possessors turn up in various diatheses, and all instances will be designated with the qualifier pertinenz. The most famous one is the pertinenzdativ (see Sec­tion 3.13.4), but there are various others, like the pertinenzinversiv (see Sec­tion 3.10.2) and the ortspertinenzinversiv (see Sec­tion 3.10.3).

(3.29) a. Der Friseur schneidet dem Minister die Haare.
b. Der Minister hat die Haare geschnitten ?(durch den Friseur).
c. Der Minister will die Haare vom Friseur geschnitten haben.

3.9 Conversive diatheses (obj › sbj › pbj)

[3.45] A conversive is a diathesis that removes the role marked as subject and promotes an object to be the new subject. The erstwhile subject can optionally be expressed as a governed prepositional phrase. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.101.

3.9.1 Reflexiv Erlebniskonversiv

[3.46] The reflexiv erlebniskonversiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.5.7) is a diathesis in which a verb, like empören ‘to appall’ (3.30 a), can be used both with and without a reflexive pronoun. The effect of adding the reflexive pronoun is a remapping of the accusative to nominative and demoting the erstwhile nominative to a prepositional phrase (3.30 b). The prepositional phrase is a governed preposition (3.30 c). The verbs that allow this diathesis are typically verbs that express an experience. This diathesis is functionally similar to the sein-Erlebniskonversiv (see Sec­tion 3.9.2) and the lassen-Permissivkonversiv (see Sec­tion 3.9.3). There are even many verbs that allow for all three diatheses, like empören (3.30 d,e). However, not all verbs allow for both diatheses, like verärgern (3.31 d,e).

(3.30) a. Der Preis empört den Kunden.
b. Der Kunde empört sich über den hohen Preis.
c. Der Kunde empört sich darüber, dass der Preis schon wieder gestiegen ist.
d. Der Kunde ist empört über den hohen Preis.
e. Der Kunde lässt sich nicht empören vom hohen Preis.

3.9.2 Erlebniskonversiv (sein+Partizip)

[3.47] The erlebniskonversiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.5.23) is constructed with the light verb sein and a participle. The form of this diathesis is identical to the Zustandspassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.2), but there is a crucial difference in the remapping of the original nominative. Verbs that take a Zustandspassiv, like öffnen ‘to open’ only allow for the retention of the nominative with a von prepositional phrase, and only in special circumstances. In contrast, the verbs that take the Erlebniskonversiv can regularly retain the agent with a governed preposition. For example, with the verb verärgern ‘to displease’ the original nominative can be expressed with an über prepositional phrase (3.31 b), which is a governed preposition (3.31 c). Verbs that take the Erlebniskonversiv are typically verbs the express an experience, similar to the next other two conversive diatheses, the Reflexiv Erlebniskonversiv (3.31 d), see Sec­tion 3.9.1 and the Permissivkonversiv (3.31 e), see Sec­tion 3.9.3.

(3.31) a. Die schlechte Nachricht verärgert mich.
b. Ich bin verärgert über die schlechte Nachricht.
c. Ich bin verärgert darüber, dass die schlechte Nachricht verbreitet wurde.
d. * Ich verärgere mich über die schlechte Nachricht.
e. Ich lasse mich nicht durch die schlechte Nachricht verärgern.

3.9.3 Permissivkonversiv (lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.48] The permissivkonversiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.5.7) uses a light verb lassen with an infinitive and an obligatory reflexive pronoun. In this diathesis, the original dative is promoted to nominative subject, while the original nominative is demoted to a prepositional phrase, like with the verb begeistern ‘to be enthusiastic’ (3.32 a,b). The preposition is a governed preposition (3.32 c). The verbs that allow for this diathesis are highly similar, but not identical, to the verbs that take the Erlebniskonversiv (3.32 d), see Sec­tion 3.9.2, and the Reflexiv Erlebniskonversiv (3.32 e), see Sec­tion 3.9.1. However, note the different prepositions in these constructions, as illustrated below.

(3.32) a. Der neue Aufsatz begeistert die Forscherin.
b. Die Forscherin lässt sich von dem Aufsatz begeistern.
c. Die Forscherin lässt sich davon begeistern, dass der Aufsatz gut geschrieben ist.
d. Die Forscherin begeistert sich für den Aufsatz.
e. Die Forscherin ist begeistert über den Aufsatz.

3.10 Inversive diatheses (obj › sbj › obj)

[3.49] An inversive is a diathesis that switches subject and object. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.114.

3.10.1 Restinversiv (bleiben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.50] The restinversiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.9.1) uses the light verb bleiben with zu and an infinitive. This diathesis reverses the expression of the subject and object roles, in that the accusative is promoted to a nominative, while the original nominative is demoted to an (optional) dative. Because the demotion is “larger” than the promotion this diathesis can be interpreted as a demoted inversive. Semantically, this diatheses expresses that (some part of) the patient is still left over to be acted on.

(3.33) a. Ich räume den letzten Schrank ein.
b. Dieser letzte Schrank bleibt (mir) noch einzuräumen.

3.10.2 Pertinenzinversiv (haben+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.51] The pertinenzinversiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.9.1) is constructed with the light verb haben with an am‑In­fi­ni­tiv. This diathesis also reverses the expression of the subject and object roles, though in the different direction from the previous Restinversiv (see Sec­tion 3.10.1). In this diathesis the dative is promoted to nominative, while the nominative is demoted to accusative (3.34). Because the promotion is “larger” than the demotion this can be called a promoted inversive. Further, the dative dem Mieter ‘tenant’ is necessarily the possessor (pertinenz) of the nominative die Wohnung ‘apartment’, so it is a Pertinenzdativ (see Sec­tion 3.13.4). Both in form and meaning this diathesis is strongly connected to the ensuing ortspertinenzinversiv (see Sec­tion 3.10.3), in which the dative is the possessor of the obligatory location.

(3.34) a. Dem Mieter brennt die Wohnung.
b. Der Mieter hat die Wohnung am Brennen.

3.10.3 Ortspertinenzinversiv (haben+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.52] The ortspertinenzinversiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.9.2) is closely related to the previous Pertinenzinversiv (see Sec­tion 3.10.2). Again, a dative is promoted to nominative, while the nominative is demoted to accusative. Also in both diatheses, the participant expressed by the dative is necessarily the possessor (pertinenz) of another participant. The difference is that with the current Ortspertinenzinversiv this other participant is an obligatory location, e.g. an der Nase ‘on the nose’ in (3.35). The dative in this diathesis is thus an Ortspertinenzdativ (see Sec­tion 3.13.5). An further curious difference to the otherwise highly similar Pertinenzinversiv in (3.34 b) is that the infinitive hängen does not allow for the preposition am in this construction (3.35 c).

(3.35) a. Ein Tropfen hängt ihm an der Nase.
b. Er hat einen Tropfen an der Nase hängen.
c. * Er hat einen Tropfen an der Nase am Hängen.

3.10.4 Permissivinversiv (lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.53] The permissivinversiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.9.1) is yet another diathesis using the construction lassen with obligatory reflexive and infinitive, this time with verbs that take a dative, but no accusative, like schmecken ‘to taste’ (3.36). In this diatheses a dative is promoted to nominative with an obligatory dative reflexive pronoun. The original nominative is demoted to accusative. Because the promotion is “larger” than the demotion this can considered to be a promoted inversive. Among the various lassen diatheses, this one is particularly close to the Permissivpassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.6) and the Permissivkonversiv (see Sec­tion 3.9.3).

(3.36) a. Der Kuchen schmeckt ihr.
b. Sie lässt sich den Kuchen schmecken.

3.11 Novative diatheses (ø › sbj › obj)

[3.54] A novative is a diathesis that introduces a new subject, while demoting the erstwhile subject to an object. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.104.

3.11.1 Kausativ

[3.55] The unmarked kausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 5.6.2) is found with verbs like schmelzen ‘to melt’, trocknen ‘to dry’ or zerbrechen ‘break’ (3.37 a,b). These verbs both occur as intransitive and as transitive with the intransitive subject being the object of the transitive. The new nominative subject of the transitive is a causer. Because this alternation is unmarked, it is not immediately clear whether such a diathesis is an examples of a Kausativ or an Antikausativ. There are various indications pointing in the direction of causation (see full discussion). As a formal characteristic for the identification of this category I propose to look at the auxiliaries of the intransitive perfect: anticausatives allow for both haben and sein (see Sec­tion 3.7.1), while causatives only allow for sein (3.37 c,d). Various umlaut-causatives like fallen/fällen and biegen/beugen also belong in this category (full discussion in Sec­tion 5.6.3).

(3.37) a. Der Krug zerbricht.
b. Der Junge zerbricht den Krug.
c. Der Krug ist zerbrochen.
d. * Der Krug hat zerbrochen.

3.11.2 Ortskausativ

[3.56] The ortskausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.6.1) is similar to the previous Kausativ (see Sec­tion 3.11.1), only that verbs like stürzen ‘to fall/topple’ (3.38 a,b) obligatory need a location (especially in the caused transitive). Just like the previous Kausativ, the current Ortskausativ only allows for an intransitive perfect with sein (3.38 c,d). There is a parallel Ortsantikausativ in which the intransitive allows for both a sein and a haben perfect (see Sec­tion 3.7.2). Various umlaut-causatives like liegen/legen ‘to lie/to lay’ and sitzen/setzen ‘to sit/to put’ also belong in this category (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.6.2).

(3.38) a. Der Elefant stürzt ins Wasser.
b. Ich stürze den Elefanten ins Wasser.
c. Der Elefant ist ins Wasser gestürzt.
d. * Der Elefant hat ins Wasser gestürzt.

3.11.3 Präverb Kausativ

[3.57] The präverb kausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.6.1 and subsequent sections) overtly marks the causative by a preverb (3.39), i.e. either by a verb prefix (e.g. enden/beenden ‘to end’) or by a verb particle (e.g. bruzeln/anbruzeln ‘to sizzle/to fry’). Preverbs are also frequently used with adjectival stems forming a causative transitive verb, e.g matt/ermatten ‘lacklustre/to tire’ or fähig/befähigen ‘capable/to enable’ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.6.3).

(3.39) a. Der Wettkampf endet.
b. Ich beende den Wettkampf.

3.11.4 Direktivkausativ (schicken+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.58] The direktivkausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.6.3) is a novative in which the new subject is gives orders rather than directly causing something to happen. This diathesis is constructed with the light verb schicken with an infinitive. The meaning of the construction is rather close to the full lexical meaning of schicken ‘to send’. However, this construction is coherent, and thus monoclausal (3.40 c).

(3.40) a. Er schläft
b. Ich schicke ihn schlafen.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich ihn schlafen schicke.

3.11.5 Permissivkausativ (lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.59] The permissivkausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.6.2) consists of the light verb lassen with an infinitive. This diathesis is widely acknowledged in German grammar. It is often simply called a Kausativ but this construction has actually at least two different interpretations, namely a causative (3.41 c) and a permissive (9.55 d). It is widely used in German and there are only few verbs that do not allow for this diathesis (e.g. gefallen ‘to like’ or interessieren ‘to interest’ cannot be used).

(3.41) a. Ich wasche die Kleider.
b. Sie lässt mich die Kleider waschen.
c. (= Sie verursacht, dass ich die Kleider wasche.)
d. (= Sie erlaubt, dass ich die Kleider wasche.)

3.11.6 Möglichkeitskausativ (geben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.60] The möglichkeitskausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.6.1) adds a new subject by using the light verb geben with a zu-In­fi­ni­tiv. In this diathesis the erstwhile subject becomes a dative and not an accusative. In many examples the meaning of this diathesis is very close to the meaning of the lexical verb geben ‘to give’. For example with the verb trinken ‘to drink’ (3.42 a) the construction allows both for a literal interpretation “he gives X to Y for drinking” and for a causative-permissive interpretation “he causes/offers Y to drink X”. The causative-permissive interpretation of geben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv is more clearly exemplified with verbs that take clausal complements, like bedenken ‘to consider’ (3.42 b).

[3.61] This construction is coherent, and thus monoclausal (3.42 c), so, whatever the precise semantic interpretation, this alternation is structurally clearly a diathesis. Complicating things even more, the geben+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv construction is also used for a semantically and structurally quite different diathesis, namely the Möglichkeitsdesubjektiv (see Sec­tion 3.4.1).

(3.42) a. Das Kind trinkt Milch.
Er gibt dem Kind Milch zu trinken.
b. Ich bedenke, dass es schon spät ist.
Er gibt mir zu bedenken, dass es schon spät ist.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) er dem Kind Milch zu trinken gibt.
(Es ist bekannt, dass) er mir zu bedenken gibt, dass es schon spät ist.

3.11.7 Fortsetzungskausativ (halten+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.62] The fortsetzungskausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.6.1) uses the light verb halten with an am‑In­fi­ni­tiv. This diathesis adds a causer to an intransitive verb. It is typically used with the verb laufen ‘to run’ (3.43 a), but it is also attested with other agentive intransitive verbs. However, the subject of the intransitive is typically an inanimate object, like Laden ‘shop’ in (3.43 a). Additionally, verbs describing heat production like brennen ‘to burn’ (3.43 b) are frequently attested with this diathesis. The halten+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv diathesis expresses that a process is kept ongoing by the newly added causer. The light verb halten is also used in the related Kausativkontinuativ epithesis (see Sec­tion 4.3.12).

(3.43) a. Der Laden läuft.
Er hält den Laden am Laufen.
b. Das Feuer brennt.
Der Wind hält das Feuer am Brennen.

3.11.8 Aufforderungskausativ (machen/heißen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.63] The aufforderungskausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.6.4) is probably the most pure causative of all the various novative diatheses. It uses the light verb machen ‘to make’ and adds a causer (3.44 a). It is not in widespread use and often sounds like an English calque (cf. ‘he makes me cry’), though it is probably an old Germanic construction. A highly similar construction uses the light verb heißen (3.44 b), though this is old-fashioned (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.6.5).

(3.44) a. Ich weine.
Deine Späße machen mich weinen.
b. Er kniete nieder.
Der Henker hieß ihn niederknien.

3.11.9 Perzeptiv (sehen/hören/fühlen/spüren+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.64] The perzeptiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.6.6 and subsequent sections) is a novative that consists of one of the verbs of sensation sehen/hören/fühlen/spüren with an infinitive. The new nominative is an observer/experiencer of the main verb. The erstwhile nominative is turned into an accusative. This diathesis sometimes results in a double accusative construction, viz. when there already was an accusative present (3.45 a,b). This diathesis can be used with all verbs that can be experienced as an observer. Note that these verbs of perception can also be used with an explicit dass complement clause (3.45 c), but such constructions are not coherent, and thus there is no diatheses in these constructions.

(3.45) a. Der Bäcker backt einen Kuchen.
b. Ich sehe den Bäcker einen Kuchen backen.
c. Ich sehe, dass der Bäcker einen Kuchen backt.

3.11.10 Opiniativ (wissen/glauben/sehen/finden+Partizip)

[3.65] The opiniativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.6 and subsequent sections) is constructed with one of the light verbs wissen/glauben/sehen/finden with a participle. Applied to an patientive intransitive verb like einschlafen ‘to fall asleep’ it adds an opinionator who believes with more or less certainty (depending on the light verb that is used) whether the einschlafen has occurred or not. The original nominative is changed into an accusative.

(3.46) a. Der Säugling schläft ein.
b. Sie glaubt den Säugling eingeschlafen.
(= Sie glaubt, dass der Säugling eingeschlafen ist.)

3.12 Novative-with-demotion diatheses (ø › sbj › adj)

[3.66] A novative with demotion is a diathesis that introduces a new subject, while demoting the erstwhile subject to a prepositional phrase. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.110.

3.12.1 Transitiv Opiniativ (wissen/glauben/sehen/finden+Partizip)

[3.67] The transitiv opiniativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.6.5 and subsequent sections) is the same construction as the previous Opiniativ (see Sec­tion 3.11.10) but applied to transitive verbs. I have included this as a separate diathesis because with transitive verbs it shows a rather different role-remapping as with intransitive verbs. When used with a transitive verb like aufheben ‘to preserve’ (3.47 a) the erstwhile nominative Archiv ‘archive’ is demoted to a prepositional adjunct or completely left out (3.47 b). The accusative Nachlass ‘inheritance’ remains unchanged.

(3.47) a. Das Archiv hebt den Nachlass gut auf.
b. Sie weiß den Nachlass (im Archiv) gut aufgehoben.
(= Sie weiß, dass der Nachlass (im Archiv) gut aufgehoben ist.)

[3.68] This Transitiv Opiniativ can of course easily be united with the previous Opiniativ into a single diathesis by noticing, for example, that both can be rephrased with a complement clause with sein and a participle, compare (3.46 b) and (3.47 b). However, when both Opiniativ diatheses are united, this implies that the sein-Perfekt in (3.46 b), see Sec­tion 4.3.1, and the Zustandspassiv in (3.47 b), see Sec­tion 3.8.2, have to be united as well (there is a perfect parallelism here). Now, there is nothing speaking against both these unifications, but exactly the unification of sein-Perfect and Zustandspassiv has been rather controversially discussed in the German grammatical literature (see Sec­tion 10.2.8 for a discussion). So either both are unified, or both are separated. Because I have separated the Zustandspassiv and the sein-Perfekt in this summary, I consequently also separate the two Opiniativ diatheses.

3.12.2 Passivkausativ (lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[3.69] The passivkausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.6.1) can be seen as a variant of the Permissivkausativ (see Sec­tion 3.11.5). Both use the lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv construction to add a new causer to the sentence. Additionally, in a Passivkausativ (3.48 b) the original nominative is demoted to a prepositional phrase (or it is left out completely). Different from the Permissivkausativ, the current Passivkausativ is only used to express causation. For a complete discussion of all different lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv diatheses, see Sec­tion 11.2.5.

(3.48) a. Die Wäscherei reinigt den Teppich.
b. Der neue Besitzer lässt den Teppich (von der Wäscherei) reinigen.

3.13 Applicative diatheses (adj › obj)

[3.70] An applicative is a diathesis in which a prepositional phrase is promoted to an object. For details on the definition see Sec­tion Applicatives in German are typically marked by a preverb or an adverb, though possessor and beneficiary datives are also included under this heading.

3.13.1 Präverb Applikativ

[3.71] The präverb applikativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.8.9 and subsequent sections) is a diathesis in which a prepositional phrase of an intransitive verb is turned into an accusative through the addition of a preverb. For example, the alternation from steigen to besteigen ‘to climb’ additionally induces a change from a preposition phrase with auf to an accusative (3.49 a,b). There is a wide variety in preverbs (both Verbpräfixe and Verbpartikel) and a wide variety of prepositions that show such a diathesis. This diathesis is also attested with governed prepositions, for example with an as used with the verb arbeiten ‘to work’ (3.49 c). The prepositional phrase turns into an accusative with erarbeiten ‘to work something out’ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.8.10).

(3.49) a. Ich steige auf den Berg.
b. Ich besteige den Berg.
c. Ich arbeite an einem Plan.
Ich arbeite daran, den Plan zu verbessern.
d. Ich erarbeite einen Plan.

3.13.2 Resultativ Applikativ

[3.72] The resultativ applikativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.8.1) is also an alternation that turns a prepositional phrase into an accusative, though in this instance the diathesis is induced by a resultative adjective, like leer‑ ‘empty’ or gesund‑ ‘healthy’. When used with an intransitive verb like fischen ‘to fish’ (3.50 a) the prepositional phrase is turned into an accusative. The effect of this diathesis is that the new accusative Teich ‘pond’ is in the state described by the resultative preverbial leer‑ ‘empty’ as a result of the verbal action fischen ‘to fish’ (3.50 b). This diathesis is also attested with governed prepositions, for example with the verb beten für ‘to pray for’ (3.50 c,d).

(3.50) a. Ich fische im Teich.
b. Ich fische den Teich leer.
(= Ich fische, und dadurch ist der Teich leer.)
c. Ich bete für den Kranken.
Ich bete dafür, dass der Kranke gesund wird.
d. Ich bete den Kranken gesund.
(= Ich bete, und dadurch ist der Kranke gesund.)

3.13.3 Präverb Dativ Applikativ

[3.73] The präverb dativ applikativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.8.14 and subsequent sections) is an alternation in which the prepositional phrase is turned into a dative (as opposed to an accusative as in the previous diatheses). Although the prepositions in this diathesis are often strongly lexicalised, like stammen aus ‘originate from’ (3.51 a), they do never allow for the daraus, dass… reformulation that is considered definitional here for them to be governed prepositions (3.51 c).

(3.51) a. Ich stamme aus einem Adelsgeschlecht.
b. Ich entstamme einem Adelsgeschlecht.
c. * Ich stamme daraus, dass ich dort geboren bin.

3.13.4 Pertinenzdativ

[3.74] The pertinenzdativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 5.8.3 and subsequent sections) is a dative that is inherently the possessor of another lexical role. The term Pertinenz (from lat. pertinere ‘to belong to’) was proposed by Polenz (1969: 160ff.) In proposing the term pertinenz Polenz was inspired by work by Isačenko using the term in the context of inalienable possession. for this phenomenon and for the closely connected Ortspertinenzdativ, as discussed in the next section. I have extended the usage of this term to various other diatheses that involve a possessor of another role, see Pertinenzpassiv (Sec­tion 3.8.8), Pertinenzinversiv (Sec­tion 3.10.2) and Pertinenzakkusativ (Sec­tion 3.21.1). The Pertinenzdativ is attested both for the possessor of a nominative subject of intransitives (3.52 a), see Sec­tion 5.8.3, and for the possessor of the accusative object of transitives (3.52 b), see Sec­tion 5.8.4. As for any Pertinenz-relation, it is crucial that the dative is necessarily the possessor of another lexical role. The term “possessor raising” is also often found in the literature to describe this phenomenon.

(3.52) a. Meine Hände zittern.
Mir zittern die Hände.
b. Ich schneide seine Haare.
Ich schneide ihm die Haare.

3.13.5 Ortspertinenzdativ

[3.75] The ortspertinenzdativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.12 and subsequent sections) is closely connected to the previous Pertinenzdativ (Sec­tion 3.13.4). The dative in (3.53) is likewise obligatorily a possessor of another lexical role, though in this diathesis this other role is an obligatory location. For example, the verb hängen ‘to hang’ (3.53 a) necessarily needs a location where the hanging is taking place. The possessor of this location can be replaced by a dative. The obligatory location can also be introduced by another diathesis first, e.g. by a caused-movement diathesis (see Sec­tion 3.17.3). For example, the verb wehen ‘to blow (of wind)’ can be used with a caused movement, forcing the object (die Blätter ‘the leaves’) into an obligatory direction (in mein Gesicht ‘in my face’). The possessor of this location can subsequently be turned into a dative by an Ortspertinenzdativ diathesis (3.53 b).

(3.53) a. Das Hemd hing aus seiner Hose.
Das Hemd hing ihm aus der Hose.
b. Es weht.
Der Wind weht die Blätter in mein Gesicht.
Der Wind weht mir die Blätter ins Gesicht.

3.13.6 Benefaktivdativ

[3.76] The benefaktivdativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.10) is a dative that alternates with a für prepositional phrase describing the beneficiary of an action. For example with the verb kochen ‘to cook’ the beneficiary of the cooking can be expressed with a für prepositional phrase (3.54 a) or with a dative (3.54 b). Not all beneficiary für phrases can be turned into a dative. The Benefaktivdativ is only attested with transitive verbs. With intransitives like arbeiten ‘to work’ a für beneficiary is possible (3.54 c), but a beneficiary dative is not (3.54 d).

(3.54) a. Ich koche eine Suppe für dich.
b. Ich koche dir eine Suppe.
c. Ich arbeite für dich.
d. * Ich arbeite dir.

3.13.7 Beurteilerdativ

[3.77] The beurteilerdativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.11) is a dative that expresses an evaluator of an action. Such a dative can only be added together with an evaluation in the form of an adverbial phrase with zu ‘too much’ (3.55 a) or genug ‘enough’ (3.55 b) and a gradable adjective like schnell ‘quick’ or warm ‘warm’.

(3.55) a. Paul fuhr zu schnell (für den Geschmack von seiner Mutter).
Paul fuhr seiner Mutter zu schnell.
b. Das Zimmer war warm genug (für seinen Geschmack).
Das Zimmer war ihm warm genug.

3.14 Antipassive diatheses (obj › adj)

[3.78] An antipassive is a diathesis in which an object is demoted to a prepositional phrase. For details on the definition see Sec­tion Antipassives in German are typically unmarked or marked by a reflexive pronoun.

3.14.1 Antipassiv

[3.79] The unmarked antipassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.7.9 and subsequent sections) is a diathesis in which an accusative argument alternates with a prepositional phrase. This typically occurs without any overt marking other than the antipassive alternation itself. For example, the verb schießen ‘to shoot’ can be used both with an accusative and with an auf prepositional phrase (3.56 a). The semantic effect of this diathesis is that the object is less affected when marked as a prepositional phrase. In some instances, like with glauben an ‘to believe in’ (3.56 b) the prepositional phrase is a governed preposition (see Sec­tion 6.7.13).

(3.56) a. Ich schieße den Bären.
Ich schieße auf den Bären.
b. Ich glaube deine Aussage.
Ich glaube an deine Aussage.
Ich glaube daran, dass deine Aussage stimmt.

3.14.2 Reflexiv Antipassiv

[3.80] The reflexiv antipassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.7.4) is an antipassive in which additionally a reflexive pronoun is added. For example, the verb beklagen ‘to lament’ (3.57) has a lamented object-role Lärm ‘noise’ that is expressed either as an accusative (3.57 a) or as a prepositional phrase with über (3.57 b). The reflexive pronoun in (3.57 b) is not a self-inflicting reflexive, i.e. the lamenting is not about oneself. These reflexive antipassives always have governed prepositional phrases (3.57 c).

(3.57) a. Ich beklage den Lärm.
b. Ich beklage mich über den Lärm.
c. Ich beklage mich darüber, dass es so laut ist

3.14.3 Präverb Reflexiv Antipassiv

[3.81] The präverb reflexiv antipassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.7.4) is an antipassive with a reflexive pronoun and a preverb. For example, the verb kalkulieren ‘to calculate’ (3.58 a) allows for an antipassive diathesis in which an accusative argument is turned into an (optional) prepositional phrase when adding a prefix ver‑ to form verkalkulieren ‘to miscalculate’. Additionally, an obligatory accusative reflexive pronoun is part of this diathesis.

(3.58) a. Ich kalkuliere die Miete.
b. Ich verkalkuliere mich bei der Miete.

3.14.4 Dativ Antipassiv

[3.82] The unmarked dativ antipassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.7.11 and subsequent sections) is a diathesis in which a dative argument alternates with a prepositional phrase. In a few instances this is attested with a dative without accusative, like with entfliehen ‘to escape’ (3.59 a). However, this diathesis is more widespread with verbs like berichten ‘to report’ (3.59 b) that allow for both an accusative and a dative argument.

(3.59) a. Er entflieht dem Gefängnis.
Er entflieht aus dem Gefängnis.
b. Er berichtet dem Vorstand die Ergebnisse der Untersuchung.
Er berichtet die Ergebnisse an den Vorstand.

3.14.5 Präverb Dativ Antipassiv

[3.83] The präverb dativ antipassiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.7.6) is a diathesis in which a preverb induces the demotion of a dative argument. For example, schenken ‘to gift’ (3.60 a) has a dative recipient, while verschenken ‘to give away’ (3.60 b) has no dative anymore. The dative can be retained as a prepositional phrase, but it is typically omitted. Such antipassives marked by a preverb mainly occur with verbs that take both a dative and an accusative argument.

(3.60) a. Ich schenke dem Kindergarten meine Bücher.
b. Ich verschenke meine Bücher (an den Kindergarten).

3.14.6 Reziprokativ

[3.84] The reziprokativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.7.3) is a special kind of antipassive in which an accusative is replaced by a mit prepositional phrase and additionally a reflexive pronoun is added, as shown for the verb treffen ‘to meet’ in (3.61). This reflexive pronoun does not have self-inflicting reference, i.e. the meeting is not with oneself. Semantically this diathesis is found with verbs that can be construed as either reciprocal or non-reciprocal. For example, the verb treffen ‘to meet’ can be used without reflexive pronoun (3.61 a) meaning something like ‘to bump into someone’, while with a reflexive pronoun the meaning is clearly reciprocal ‘to meet’ (3.61 b).

(3.61) a. Ich treffe dich.
b. Ich treffe mich mit dir.

3.15 Objective diatheses (ø › obj)

[3.85] An objective is a diathesis in which a new object is added. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.137.

3.15.1 Ergebnisakkusativ

[3.86] The unmarked ergebnisakkusativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 5.8.1) is highly similar to the optionaler akkusativ diathesis (Sec­tion 3.16.1), but in reverse. In both diatheses, the same verb can be used with and without an accusative argument (a phenomenon sometimes called “labile” or “ambitransitive”). The special characteristics of the verbs in this section, like laufen ‘to walk, to run’ (3.62), is that they are (a) basically intransitive and (b) the accusative represents the added result of the intransitive action. The difference between such an unmarked added accusative (Ergebnisakkusativ, this section) and an unmarked dropped accusative (Optionaler Akkusativ, Sec­tion 3.16.1) is arguably small, and it remains to be seen whether this separation can be backed up by further distinguishing grammatical characteristics.

(3.62) a. Er läuft.
b. Er läuft den Marathon.

3.15.2 Resultativ Akkusativ

[3.87] The resultativ akkusativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.8.2) is a diathesis in which the addition of a resultativ preverbial leads to an additional accusative argument. For example, the intransitive bellen ‘to bark’ (3.63 a) becomes a transitive wachbellen ‘to wake by barking’ (3.63 b) with the addition of the resultative adjective wach‑ ‘awake’. Crucially, the new accusative object (Kinder ‘children’) is not expressible without a resultative adjective (like wach-) or a preverb (like an-, see the next Sec­tion 3.15.3). Care has to be taken to distinguish this diathesis from the highly similar Resultativ Applikativ (Sec­tion 3.13.2).

(3.63) a. Der Hund bellt.
b. Der Hund bellt die Kinder wach.

3.15.3 Präverb Akkusativ

[3.88] The präverb akkusativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.8.1 and subsequent sections) is a diathesis in which the addition of a preverb leads to an additional accusative argument. For example, the diathesis from zaubern ‘to perform magic’ to verzaubern ‘to enchant’ (3.64) adds a completely new role in the accusative.

(3.64) a. Sie zaubert.
b. Sie verzaubert mich.

3.15.4 Präverb Reflexiv Akkusativ

[3.89] The präverb reflexiv akkusativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.8.6) is a special variant of an objective diathesis in that the addition of the preverb leads to a new accusative argument, but also includes an obligatory reflexive pronoun. The new accusative role is semantically the result of the action of the main verb, which is actually similar to the Ergebnisakkusativ (Sec­tion 3.15.1) and different from the Präverb Akkusativ (Sec­tion 3.15.3). For example, the diathesis from tanzen ‘to dance’ to antanzen ‘to incur from dancing’ (3.65) adds the incurrence Muskelkater ‘sore muscles’ and a dative reflexive pronoun mir.

(3.65) a. Ich habe gestern viel getanzt.
b. Ich habe mir gestern einen Muskelkater angetanzt.

3.15.5 Präverb Dativ

[3.90] The präverb dativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.8.7 and subsequent sections) is similar to the previous Präverb Akkusativ in that the addition of the preverb also induces a new role, in this diathesis marked with a dative case. This diathesis is attested both with intransitive verbs like gehen ‘to walk’ when derived into preverbal entgehen ‘to evade’ (3.66 a) and with transitive verbs like lesen ‘to read’ when derived into preverbal vorlesen ‘to read out’ (3.66 b).

(3.66) a. Ich gehe (nach Hause).
Ich entgehe dem Urteil.
b. Ich lese ein Buch.
Ich lese dir ein Buch vor.

3.16 Deobjective diatheses (obj › ø)

[3.91] A deobjective is a diathesis in which an object is removed. For details on the definition see Sec­tion

3.16.1 Optionaler Akkusativ

[3.92] An unmarked optionaler akkusativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 5.7.1) is a diathesis in which an accusative object can be left out without any further change in the construction (often discussed under the heading of “ambitransitive” or “labile” verbs). This is for example attested with the verb stören ‘to disturb’ (3.67).

[3.93] Various different kinds of “labile” verbs have to be distinguished and not all belong in the current category. First, when the accusative object of a verb allows for an Antipassiv diathesis (Sec­tion 3.14.1), then this argument can also be dropped. However, such antipassives should not also be included here. Second, in some examples the drop of an accusative is induced by an adverbial, which leads to an action-oriented focus, discussed below as the Aktionsfokus diathesis (Sec­tion 3.16.3). Verbs with such a diathesis should not also be included here. Finally, there is also a highly similar ergebnisakkusativ diathesis (Sec­tion 3.15.1) that should be distinguished. Once all those diatheses are separated, there turn out to be relatively few truly labile verbs with an Optionaler Akkusativ, mainly verbs that can be interpreted both as something one can do as well as something one can be.

(3.67) a. Du störst die Veranstaltung.
b. Du störst.

3.16.2 Optionaler Dativ

[3.94] The unmarked optionaler dativ, i.e. the dropping of a dative argument without any further change in the construction, is both attested with nominative-dative verbs like entkommen ‘to get away’ (3.68 a), full discussion in Sec­tion 5.7.4, and with nominative-accusative-dative verbs like erzählen ‘to tell’ (3.68 b), full discussion in Sec­tion 5.7.5. Like with Optionaler Akkusativ (Sec­tion 3.16.1), datives that allow for a dative antipassive (Sec­tion 3.14.4) should not also be included here.

(3.68) a. Er entkommt seinem Feind.
Er entkommt.
b. Ich erzähle dir eine Geschichte.
Ich erzähle eine Geschichte.

3.16.3 Aktionsfokus

[3.95] The aktionsfokus (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.7.1) is another diathesis in which object arguments can be left out to put the focus on the action of the verb itself, but only when also adding an adverbial to the sentence. For example, a transitive verb like sehen ‘to see’ (3.69 a) cannot be used without an object (3.69 b). The occurrence of a dropped object is only possible here in combination with an adverbial specification (3.69 c). The effect of such a diathesis is that the focus of the utterance is put on the manner in which the action is performed.

(3.69) a. Ich sehe das Haus.
b. * Ich sehe.
c. Ich sehe gut.

3.16.4 Endoreflexiv

[3.96] The endoreflexiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.7.1 and subsequent sections) is a special kind of object drop in which a reflexive pronoun is added. Such a diathesis looks superficially very similar to a regular self-inflicting reflexive (Sec­tion 4.7.4), but there is a crucial semantic difference. In a self-inflicting reflexive (e.g. ‘he washes himself’) the agent is doing something to him/herself. In contrast, an Endoreflexiv describes an action that is performed with the body of the agent, not to the body of the agent. For example, the verb äußern ‘to remark’ (3.70 a) can be used with a reflexive pronoun and without accusative object in the meaning of ‘to express oneself’ (3.70 b).

(3.70) a. Er äußert sein Bedauern über den Fall.
b. Er äußert sich über den Fall.

3.16.5 Präverb Endoreflexiv

[3.97] The präverb endoreflexiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.7.1) is similar to the previous Endoreflexiv (Sec­tion 3.16.4) but with the addition of a preverb. For example, the verb wählen ‘to choose/to dial’ shows a diathesis with sich verwählen ‘to misdial’ (3.71 a) in which the accusative object is dropped. There are also a few very special endoreflexive verbs in which an adverbial is necessary instead of a preverb, for example fühlen ‘to feel’ (3.71 b), see Sec­tion 9.7.2.

(3.71) a. Er wählt die falsche Nummer.
Er verwählt sich.
b. Ich fühle den Schmerz.
Ich fühle mich gut.

3.17 Locative diatheses (ø › pbj)

[3.98] A locative diathesis is a diathesis in which an obligatory location phrase is added to the clause. For details on the definition see Sec­tion Note that there is no di­rect grammatical connection between a locative diathesis and a locative case. Both terms simply use the same modifier because both are somehow related to the marking of location.

3.17.1 Bewegungsart

[3.99] The bewegungsart diathesis (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.1 and subsequent sections) is a diathesis that is specifically attested with verbs of movement like tanzen ‘to dance’ (3.72). In some contexts, movement verbs take an obligatory location phrase. This obligatory location coincides with the choice of auxiliary in the perfect, i.e. haben or sein. There is a crucial difference between these two options in that with sein in the perfect there is an additional directional phrase necessary (3.72 c,d).

[3.100] Semantically, this construction expresses primarily a movement, here durch den Garten ‘through the garden’, in which the main lexical verb tanzen ‘to dance’ designates what kind of movement is performed. In a sense, the main lexical verb functions more like an adverbial designation in such constructions, i.e. sich tanzend bewegen ‘to move in a dancing manner’. The same construction can also be used with non-movement verbs, but then an additional reflexive pronoun is necessary (see Sec­tion 3.17.2).

(3.72) a. Ich habe im Garten getanzt.
b. Ich habe getanzt.
c. Ich bin durch den Garten getanzt.
(= Ich habe mich tanzend durch den Garten bewegt.)
d. * Ich bin getanzt.

3.17.2 Reflexiv Bewegungsart

[3.101] The reflexiv bewegungsart diathesis (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.8.1) is the same diathesis as the non-reflexive Bewegungsart diathesis in Sec­tion 3.17.1 but with an additional reflexive pronoun. This extra reflexive pronoun has to be added for verbs like zittern ‘to shiver’ that do not describe a change-of-location (3.73 a,b). With the reflexive pronoun there needs to be an obligatory movement phrase (3.73 c). Semantically, this construction describes an movement (‘making the playoffs’) that is achieved (metaphorically) by performing the intransitive verb (i.e. by shivering).

(3.73) a. Das Kind zittert.
b. Die Mannschaft zitterte sich in die Playoffs.
c. * Die Mannschaft zittert sich.

3.17.3 Verursachte Bewegung

[3.102] The verursachte bewegung diathesis is attested in two variants. With intransitive verbs (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.3 and subsequent sections) like schwitzen ‘to sweat’ (3.74 a) this diathesis adds both an accusative and an obligatory location. Semantically, this diathesis expresses that the verb causes the motion of the new accusative object role to be in the location. With transitive verbs (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.4) like befehlen ‘to command’ the effect is similar, though there is no new accusative added. With an added location the semantic effect is that the verb causes the accusative object to move to the location (3.74 b).

(3.74) a. Ich schwitze.
Ich schwitze einen Fleck in mein Hemd.
(= Ich schwitze, und dadurch entsteht ein Fleck in meinem Hemd.)
b. Ich befehle eine Armee.
Ich befehle die Armee an die Front.
(= Ich befehle, und dadurch geht die Armee an die Front.)

3.17.4 Ergänzende Wirkung

[3.103] The ergänzende wirkung diathesis (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.5) expresses the result of performing the main verb. For example, a transitive verb like machen ‘to make’ can either take an object that is made, e.g. Aufgaben ‘tasks’ (3.75 a), or it can be used in a special construction (3.75 b) with an object, like Wiese ‘meadow’, that is changed into something else, like Garten ‘garden’, by performing the action. The term Ergänzende Wirkung originated in the influential educational grammatical work of Karl Ferdinand Becker (1833: 81) almost 200 years ago, but never caught on in the German grammatical tradition.

(3.75) a. Er macht seine Aufgaben.
b. Er macht die Wiese zu einem Garten.
(= Er macht etwas, und dadurch wird die Wiese zu einem Garten.)

3.18 Delocative diatheses (pbj › adj)

[3.104] A delocative diathesis is a diathesis in which an obligatory location phrase is made optional and is regularly completely removed from the clause. For details on the definition see Sec­tion, specifically starting at paragraph 2.143.

3.18.1 Präverb Delokativ

[3.105] The präverb delokativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.7.9 and subsequent sections) is a diathesis in which an obligatory location loses its obligatoriness by adding a preverb. For example, the diathesis between steigen aus and aussteigen ‘to get out’ (3.76) shows a small but crucial difference in that the prepositional phrase aus dem Auto loses its obligatory status.

(3.76) a. Der Man steigt aus dem Auto.
b. * Der Mann steigt.
c. Der Mann steigt aus dem Auto aus.
d. Der Mann steigt aus.

3.18.2 Resultativ Delokativ

[3.106] The resultativ delokativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.7.6 and subsequent sections) is a parallel diathesis to the previous Präverb Delokativ (Sec­tion 3.18.1). Instead of adding a preverb, this diathesis adds an obligatory resultative adjective, either los‑ ‘loose’, fest‑ ‘tight’ or frei‑ ‘free’. For example, the diathesis between binden ‘to tie’ (3.77 a,b) and festbinden ‘to fixate’ (3.77 c,d) removes the obligatory status of the locative prepositional phrase.

(3.77) a. Ich binde den Hund an die Leine.
b. * Ich binde den Hund.
c. Ich binde den Hund an der Leine fest.
d. Ich binde den Hund fest.

3.19 Promoted object exchanges (ø › obj › pbj)

[3.107] A promoted object exchange is a chained diathesis in which a new object is introduced, while at the same time an existing object is demoted. The combination of these two changes is an overall promotion. For details on the definition see Sec­tion The newly introduced object is always a component part (meronym) of the original encompassing object (holonym).

3.19.1 Teil/weg-Objekttausch

[3.108] The unmarked teil/weg-objekttausch diathesis (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.8) is a chained diathesis. A new role is introduced, marked as accusative, and the erstwhile role marked as accusative is demoted to an obligatory aus or von prepositional phrase. These two remappings are tightly intertwined and have to occur together. Crucially, the new accusative role is a part of the old accusative role (hence Teil in the German name). Additionally, this construction is used to express that something is removed as a result of an action (hence weg in the German name). An example is shown in (3.78) with the verb waschen ‘to wash’. This verb can be used with an accusative argument describing the role of the washee, here Hose ‘trousers’ (3.78 a). Alternatively, a different role can be introduced as accusative, here Fleck ‘stain’ (3.78 b). This new accusative role is necessarily a component part of the former accusative. In this usage, a directional location aus meiner Hose ‘from my trousers’ is obligatory present in the sentence (3.78 c). This obligatory location represents the former accusative role, i.e. the washee. Semantically, the new object (Fleck) is a part that is removed from the encompassing old object (Hose).

(3.78) a. Ich wasche meine Hose.
b. Ich wasche den Fleck aus meiner Hose.
c. * Ich wasche den Fleck.

3.19.2 Teil/fest-Objekttausch

[3.109] The Teil/fest-Objekttausch exists in three closely related variants, (i) as an unmarked “covert” diathesis discussed in this section, (ii) with a preverb discussed in the next section, and (iii) with a resultative adjective discussed in the section after that. Syntactically, in all these diatheses the object is exchanged. Crucially, the old object can be retained as an in or an prepositional phrase. The new object is always a component part (meronym) of the old encompassing object (holonym), hence the German name Teil. Additionally, the new object is physically attached to the old object, hence the German name fest.

[3.110] The unmarked teil/fest-objekttausch (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.9) is exemplified with kleben ‘to glue’ (3.79). This verb shows a diathesis, but the direction of the alternation is not marked, viz. it is a “covert” diathesis. The verb takes either just an accusative object (here Vase ‘vase’) that is glued together, or an accusative object that is a component part (here Henkel ‘handle’), which is glued to the erstwhile accusative object (Vase). Thus, the new object after the diathesis Henkel is a meronym that is attached to the old holonymic object Vase. Completely independent from this diathesis, the verb kleben also allows for a covert anticausative (see Sec­tion 3.7.2).

(3.79) a. Ich klebe die zerbrochene Vase.
b. Ich klebe einen Henkel an die zerbrochene Vase.

3.19.3 Präverb Teil/fest-Objekttausch

[3.111] The präverb teil/fest-objekttausch (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.9.1) shows the same diathesis as the previous unmarked one, but now marked with a preverb ver-, be‑ or ein-. Without a preverb, the verb massieren ‘to massage’ (3.80 a) has an accusative object describing the massaged entity (here Muskel ‘muscle’). Different from the previous diathesis, the new object to be introduced by the diathesis (here Salbe ‘ointment’) can already be expressed here with an optional mit prepositional phrase. After the diathesis, the verb einmassieren ‘to massage in’ (3.80 b) has the objects exchanged, optionally retaining the old object as a in prepositional phrase (3.80 c). The preposition thus changes from mit to in/an, and this is exactly the reverse of the Präverb Ganz/voll-Objekttausch (see Sec­tion 3.20.3). After this diathesis has been applied, the new object Salbe is a meronym that has become a part of the old holonymic object Muskel.

(3.80) a. Ich massiere den Muskel (mit einer Salbe).
b. Ich massiere die Salbe in den Muskel ein.
c. Ich massiere die Salbe ein.

3.19.4 Resultativ Teil/fest-Objekttausch

[3.112] The resultativ teil/fest objekttausch (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.8.3) is a parallel diathesis to the previously discussed diatheses, but marked with the addition of a resultative preverbial fest-. For example, the accusative object Bluse ‘blouse’ of the verb nähen ‘to sew’ (3.81 a) is replaced with with another accusative object Knopf ‘button’ with the verb festnähen ‘to tie by sewing’ (3.81 b). The original object can be retained with an optional an prepositional phrase (3.81 c). Before the diathesis the accusative object describes a whole (Bluse ‘blouse’), while after the diathesis the accusatives expresses a component part (Knopf ‘button’) that is attached to the whole.

(3.81) a. Ich nähe eine Bluse.
b. Ich nähe den Knopf an der Bluse fest.
c. Ich nähe den Knopf fest.

3.20 Demoted object exchanges (pbj › obj › ø)

[3.113] A demoted object exchange is a chained diathesis in which an obligatory location phrase is promoted to object, while at the same time the existing object is demoted or even removed. The combination of these two changes is an overall demotion. For details on the definition see Sec­tion The new object is always an encompassing entity (holonym) of which the old object is a component part (meronym).

3.20.1 Präverb Ganz/leer-Objekttausch

[3.114] The Ganz/leer-Objekttausch exists in two closely related variants, with a preverb (this section) or with a resultative preverbial (next section). Syntactically, in both variants the object is exchanged and, crucially, the original object cannot be retained after the diathesis. The prepositional phrase before the diathesis takes the prepositions aus or von. Semantically, the old object is a part of the new object and is removed from it. Both structurally and semantically this is the reverse of the Teil/weg-Objekttausch (Sec­tion 3.19.1).

[3.115] The präverb ganz/leer-objekttausch (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.7.12) is marked by various different preverbs (typically, but not exclusively, aus‑ or ab‑). For example, the verb klopfen ‘to pound’ (3.82 a) can take an accusative result, here Staub ‘dust’, and then the verb also needs an obligatory location from which the result originates, here von meinem Mantel ‘from my coat’ (3.82 b). With a preverb aus-, the verb ausklopfen ‘to pound thoroughly’ (3.82 c) completely drops the accusative Staub and the prepositional object Mantel is turned into a new accusative role. Semantically, the old accusative object Staub is a component part (meronym) of the new accusative Mantel (holonym). Additionally, the old accusative Staub is removed from the new accusative Mantel. The new accusative is thus a holonym (hence the word Ganz in the German name) that is emptied (hence the word leer in the German name).

(3.82) a. Ich klopfe den Staub von meinem Mantel.
b. * Ich klopfe den Staub.
c. Ich klopfe meinen Mantel aus.

3.20.2 Resultativ Ganz/leer-Objekttausch

[3.116] The resultativ ganz/leer-objekttausch (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.7.4) is basically the same diathesis as the previous one, but marked with a resultative preverbial leer‑ or frei‑ instead of with a preverb. For example, the verb pumpen ‘to pump’ can be turned into leerpumpen ‘to pump until empty’ (3.83). Just as above, the role marked as accusative (Wasser ‘water’) is completely removed and the obligatory location phrase is promoted to accusative (Keller ‘cellar’). Also identically to the previous diathesis, the new accusative object Keller is semantically a container from which the former accusative object Wasser is removed.

(3.83) a. Ich pumpe das Wasser aus dem Keller.
b. * Ich pumpe das Wasser.
c. Ich pumpe den Keller leer.

3.20.3 Präverb Ganz/voll-Objekttausch

[3.117] The Ganz/voll-Objekttausch exists in two closely related variants, with a preverb (this section) or with a resultative preverbial (next section). Syntactically, in both variants the object is exchanged. Different from the previous diatheses (see Sec­tion 3.20.1), the old object can be retained as an optional mit prepositional phrase. The prepositional phrase before the diathesis takes the prepositions in, an or auf. Semantically, the new object is a holonym (hence the word Ganz in the German name) that is filled with the meronymic old object (hence the word voll in the German name).

[3.118] The präverb ganz/voll-objekttausch (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.7.13) is marked by various different preverbs. Almost all preverbs occur, though be‑ and ver‑ are particularly frequent. For example, laden ‘to load’ (3.84 a,b) takes an accusative object that is loaded (here Gepäck ‘luggage’) and an obligatory location onto which it is loaded (here in den Wagen ‘into the car’). The diathesis to beladen ‘to load onto/into’ turns the locational object (Wagen) into a new accusative, while the old accusative (Gepäck) is turned into an optional mit prepositional phrase (3.84 c,d). Note that the prepositional change from in/an/auf/um to mit is the reverse of the Präverb Teil/fest-Objekttausch (see Sec­tion 3.19.3). Semantically, the new object (Wagen) is the holonym and it is filled with the old object (Gepäck).

(3.84) a. Ich lade das Gepäck in den Wagen.
b. * Ich lade das Gepäck.
c. Ich belade den Wagen mit dem Gepäck.
d. Ich belade den Wagen.

3.20.4 Resultativ Ganz/voll-Objekttausch

[3.119] The resultativ ganz/voll-objekttausch (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.7.5) is basically the same diathesis as the one in the previous section, but marked with a resultative preverbial voll‑ instead of a preverb. For example, the verb pumpen ‘to pump’ can be turned in vollpumpen ‘to pump until full’ (3.85) with the same object exchange. Starting from pumpen (3.85 a,b) with an accusative object (Luft ‘air’) and an obligatory prepositional location (Reifen ‘tire’), the diathesis to vollpumpen turns the prepositional phrase into an accusative and the accusative into an optional mit prepositional phrase (3.85 c,d). Again, the semantics are such that the new object Reifen is a container that is filled with the old object Luft.

(3.85) a. Ich pumpe Luft in den Reifen.
b. * Ich pumpe Luft.
c. Ich pumpe den Reifen mit Luft voll.
d. Ich pumpe den Reifen voll.

3.21 Other object exchanges (adj › obj › pbj)

3.21.1 Pertinenzakkusativ

[3.120] Completely different from the various kinds of Objekttausch discussed previously, the pertinenzakkusativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 6.8.14) is an accusative that alternates with a possessor of another accusative. A verb like bewundern ‘to admire’ marks the admired thing, e.g. Ehrlichkeit ‘honesty’ as an accusative (3.86 a). After the diathesis, the possessor of this accusative seine ‘his’ is raised to accusative ihn ‘him’ (3.86 b), at the same time demoting the admired thing to a governed prepositional object with für (3.86 c).

(3.86) a. Ich bewundere seine Ehrlichkeit.
b. Ich bewundere ihn für seine Ehrlichkeit.
c. Ich bewundere ihn dafür, dass er ehrlich ist.

4 Summary of major epitheses

4.1 Verbal categories reconsidered

[4.1] Browse any grammatical description of verbal categories in German and terms like Plusquamperfekt (4.1 a) or Futur II (4.1 b) will surely pass by. There is nothing wrong with those terms, but they just describe very specific combinations of verbal markers that are mostly transparently interpretable (e.g. Plusquamperfekt is just a perfect with a past-tense finite verb). In contrast, there are many verbal constructions that are only sparingly discussed in German grammars, if at all. The pflegen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv habitual (4.1 c) or the sein+In­fi­ni­tiv absentive (4.1 d) are probably the most well-known among those, but they are still not widely acknowledged in general grammars of German.

(4.1) a. Wer hatte dir die Adresse gegeben?
b. Dann wird man Ihnen die Adresse gegeben haben.
c. Sie pflegt sonntags auszuschlafen.
d. Ich bin einkaufen.

[4.2] As a case in point, the Duden grammar spends 20 pages on details of tense marking (2009: 496–516), while only a few other verbal constructions are discussed in just four pages (2009: 848–852) and some incidental references scattered throughout. This chapter can be read as an attempt at a complete survey of all those remaining German verbal categories, besides tense.

[4.3] This chapter arose as a byproduct of the main goal of this book, namely listing all German diatheses. To clearly delimit what counts as a diathesis, I also collected constructions that are structurally similar to diathesis, but that do not involve any role remapping. Such a structure is called an epithesis and the various instances are listed in-full in the respective .4 sections of the following data chapters. These epitheses express various notions in the grammatical domain commonly designated as tame, i.e. the marking of tense-aspect-mood-evidentiality. This chapter summarises and organises the major epitheses that I have been able to find. I will also propose Latinate-German names for all of these constructions. This results in an all-encompassing but rather unconventional perspective on the verbal categories of German.

[4.4] Quickly recapitulated, an epithesis is a monoclausal construction in which the lexical roles are not remapped in comparison to a basic clause (i.e. a clause with just a single finite lexical verb). For example, a basic clause with the finite verb erzählen ‘to tell’ (4.2 a) might have the roles of “teller” (Großvater, in the nominative), “tellee” (Enkelin, in the dative) and “story told” (Witz, in the accusative). A construction like pflegen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv is an epithesis because when applied to erzählen all these roles remain encoded in exactly the same grammatical form (4.2 b). Additionally, this construction is monoclausal because the finite pflegte is placed at the end when the sentence is used as a subordinate clause (i.e. the clause is coherent, see Sec­tion 1.3.1).

(4.2) a. Der Großvater erzählt seiner Enkelin einen Witz.
b. Der Großvater pflegte seiner Enkelin einen Witz zu erzählen.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) der Großvater seiner Enkelin einen Witz zu erzählen pflegte.

[4.5] The constructions listed in this chapter are not haphazardly collected out of some infinite pool of possible analytical combinations of German verb forms. Quite to the contrary, the constructions listed here are claimed to be an exhaustive list of all epithetical German verb forms. Only a few rare and/or old-fashioned constructions are left out from this summary (but they can still be found in the following data chapters). The list of major epitheses in this chapter is quite long (about 40 constructions), but manageable. Any 1000-plus-page grammar could easily add a few pages listing them all (or at least the most commonly attested ones). This number of epitheses is also quite a bit less than the number of major diatheses presented in the previous chapter (about 80 constructions). This indicates that from a purely grammatical perspective, diathesis (“grammatical voice”) is about a two-times more elaborate topic than epithesis (“tense-aspect-mood marking”).

4.2 Classifying epitheses

[4.6] The epitheses listed in this chapter map out all grammaticalised verbal categories of the German language. However, it is crucial to realise that not every lexical verb can be combined with each of these constructions. Just as with diatheses, each epithesis has a limited domain of applicability, i.e. each epithesis has a specific set of verbs to which it can be applied (cf. Sec­tion 1.3.4). It is a very worthwhile future endeavour to specify these domains in more detail than I have been able to do here. Additionally, this restricted applicability means that one cannot simply take a random lexical verb and paradigmatically list all different epithetical forms for this verb, like traditional grammars like to do with tense forms. Quite to the contrary, it becomes a matter of lexicographic research to determine for each individual verb which epitheses are possible.

[4.7] Epitheses mostly express a rather clear semantic content, but they are not obligatorily used to express that content. For example, the pflegen+In­fi­ni­tiv epithesis, as mentioned above, expresses a habitual aspect. However, this construction is far from the only way to express a habitual aspect in German. Habitual aspect will typically be expressed by a verb in the present tense with an adverbial phrase expressing the habitual recurrence, like regelmäßig ‘regularly’ or a concrete timeframe with jeden, like jeden Morgen ‘every morning’. So, the characterisation of pflegen+In­fi­ni­tiv as a habitual verb form is actually only part of the story. What needs to be added in future research is a more detailed description of the kind of contexts in which this construction is actually used, in contrast to other options that are available to the speaker.

[4.8] This desideratum holds for all epitheses discussed here: it is necessary to specify what determines their usage. A famous case in point is the werden+In­fi­ni­tiv construction, which is called Futur in the German grammatical tradition (see Sec­tion 11.4.9). This construction can indeed express events in the future, so the name Futur is not necessarily wrong. However, future events are much more commonly expressed with a verb in the present tense with a future time adverbial. So, a more detailed characterisation of the werden+In­fi­ni­tiv is required to explain under what circumstances it is actually used. A description like “expectation/presumption” is probably less flawed than “future”.

[4.9] The epithetical constructions listed in this chapter are organised along the lines of the tame categorisation (tense-aspect-modality-evidentiality). This subdivision is not always clear-cut, it is more of a continuum. This means that the placement of a specific construction in one or the other group is more a matter of practical convenience than of strict definitional categorisation.

[4.10] tense will almost not be mentioned here, mainly because it does not play an important role in German epithesis. The discussion of aspect is separated into two kinds: temporal aspect (Sec­tion 4.3) and spatial aspect (Sec­tion 4.4). modality includes the well-described modal verbs, but also some other less-widely discussed modal constructions (Sec­tion 4.5). evidentiality deals with the marking of the evidence available to the speaker for the statement made in an utterance. This turns out to be a very useful category for the analysis of various German epithetical constructions (Sec­tion 4.6).

[4.11] Additionally, I have added a section with epithetical constructions that are functionally alike to a diathesis, but there is no formal remapping of roles. These constructions are on the boundary between epithesis and diathesis. Structurally they are clearly epithetic, because there is no role-remapping. Yet, these constructions express a change in the relation between the participants and the lexical verb, so functionally they belong in the realm of diathesis. For lack of a better term I will call such constructions diathetical epitheses (Sec­tion 4.7).

4.3 Temporal aspect

[4.12] The grammatical category of aspect is commonly defined as linguistic marking that specifies the “internal temporal constituency of a situation” (Comrie 1976: 3). In this sense, the title of this section, temporal aspect, might appear to be tautological. However, this designation is used here in opposition to a different set of constructions that specify the spatial constituency of a situation, spatial aspect, described in the next Sec­tion 4.4. Temporal aspect in German includes a surprisingly large number of continuative constructions, many of which express different facets of the continuation of a state.

4.3.1 Perfekt (haben/sein+Partizip)

[4.13] The perfekt (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.1 and subsequent sections) is the name from the German tradition for the haben/sein+Partizip construction (4.3). The light verbs haben and sein are used in almost complete complementary distribution with only few verbs that allow for both. The name Perfekt is developing into a misnomer because the haben/sein+Partizip construction is clearly not marking perfect aspect (see Sec­tion 10.2.6). It appears to be slowly taking over the function of past marking in contemporary German.

(4.3) a. Das Kind schläft.
Das Kind hat geschlafen.
b. Das Kind schläft ein.
Das Kind ist eingeschlafen.

[4.14] There are two diathetical constructions that are structurally similar to the Perfekt, namely the Zustandspassiv (marked with sein+Partizip, see Sec­tion 3.8.2) and the Pertinenzpassiv (marked with haben+Partizip, see Sec­tion 3.8.8). From an aspectual point of view, these passive constructions are perfects.

4.3.2 Inchoativ (los-)

[4.15] The inchoativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.4.1) consists of the preverbial adjective los- added as a separable verb particle with intransitive verbs, like losradeln ‘to start biking’ (4.4). This construction indicates that an activity starts. It is typically used with manner-of-movement verbs and manner-of-speaking verbs. However, it is in general applicable to all agentive intransitives. Originally, the adjective los means ‘loose’ in contemporary German. In that meaning it is used in the Resultativ Delokativ diathesis (see Sec­tion 3.18.2). In contrast, the preverbial inchoative use of los‑ is derived from an older usage meaning ‘free’.

(4.4) a. Er radelt täglich zur Schule.
b. Er radelt früh los.
Er ist früh losgeradelt.

4.3.3 Kontinuativ (weiter-)

[4.16] The kontinuativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.4.2) consists of the preverbial adjective weiter-, added as a separable verb particle with intransitive and transitive verbs, like weiterentwickeln ‘to develop further’ (4.5). This construction indicates that an activity is being continued. The stem weiter is originally the comparative form of the adjective weit ‘far’ and it has various adverbial uses in contemporary German, meaning for example ‘spatially further’ or ‘still’. However, these adverbial uses can syntactically be clearly separated from the preverbial continuative aspect marker presented here.

(4.5) a. Der Forscher entwickelt eine neue Technik.
b. Die Forscherin entwickelt die Technik weiter.
Sie hat die Technik weiterentwickelt.

4.3.4 Intensiv (tot-)

[4.17] The intensiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.4.3) consists of a preverbal adjective tot- added as a separable verb particle to an intransitive verb, like lachen ‘to laugh’ (4.6 a). With these intransitive verbs an additional reflexive pronoun is necessary. Structurally, this construction is a special case of a reflexive resultative (see Sec­tion 4.7.7). It appears to be grammaticalising into a regular verbal aspectual category. The meaning to the preverbial tot- does not refer literally to any action resulting in death, but more general intensifies the action.

[4.18] In contrast, when the preverbial tot- is used with transitive verbs, there is no reflexive pronoun and the meaning literally describes and action that results in death, i.e. some way of killing (4.6 b), see Sec­tion 9.4.5.

(4.6) a. Sie hat gelacht.
Sie hat sich totgelacht.
b. Sie hat ihn geschlagen.
Sie hat ihn totgeschlagen.

4.3.5 Habituativ (pflegen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.19] The habituativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.1) is an aspectual category that expresses an activity that is performed regularly as a habit. Such an aspect is widespread among the world’s language and in German it can be expressed by using a light verb pflegen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.7 a,b). The verb pflegen has a lexical meaning ‘to nurse, to maintain’, but in this construction this meaning has changed to a grammatical marker of aspect. This grammaticalisation has not only happened semantically, but also structurally. The pflegen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv construction is clearly monoclausal, as can be seen by the final position of the finite verb when used as a subordinate clause (4.7 c). An archaic and nowadays mostly ironical alternative to pflegen is to use the light verb belieben (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.2).

(4.7) a. Sie lacht laut.
b. Sie pflegt laut zu lachen.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) sie laut zu lachen pflegte.

4.3.6 Progressiv (sein+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.20] The progressiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.4.1) consists of sein with the prepositional am‑In­fi­ni­tiv. In this construction the infinitive is clearly a nominalised form of the verb, so it is regularly (though not universally) written with a capital letter in German orthography (4.8). The sein+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv expresses a progressive aspect, though its usage is frowned upon in a formal written register and a simple Präsens is preferred, possibly using adverbs for disambiguation of the aspectual structure. In spoken language the sein+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv appears to be pervasive, though.

(4.8) a. Das Kind jammert.
b. Das Kind ist am Jammern.

4.3.7 Mutativprogressiv (sein+im‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.21] The mutativprogressiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.4.2) is a variant of the Progressiv (see Sec­tion 4.3.6), using the preposition im instead of am. The sein+im‑In­fi­ni­tiv is much less frequent than the am progressive. However, the available examples suggest a clear semantic characterisation. The im progressive is typically used with verbs that either describe an ongoing process of expansion (9.71 a) or an ongoing process of reduction (4.9 b).

(4.9) a. Die eigene Fahrerflotte entsteht.
Die eigene Fahrerflotte ist im Entstehen
b. Die Schwellung klingt ab.
Die Schwellung ist im Abklingen.

4.3.8 Kontinuativprogressiv (bleiben+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.22] The kontinuativprogressiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.4.3) is the first of various continuative constructions that use the light verb bleiben. Parallel to the Progressiv with the light verb sein (see Sec­tion 4.3.6), the Kontinuativprogressiv (4.10) uses the light verb bleiben with the am‑In­fi­ni­tiv to express that an activity is ongoing (progressive) and remains ongoing (continuative).

(4.10) a. Er lebt.
b. Er bleibt am Leben.

4.3.9 Zustandskontinuativ (bleiben+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.23] The zustandskontinuativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.4.4) is constructed with bleiben and an infinitive. This construction and the next three construction all express different ways in which a state is continued. The current Zustandskontinuativ is frequently used with state verbs like stehen ‘to stand’, liegen ‘to lie’ or sitzen ‘to sit’ (4.11 a,b). These combinations are so prominent that their infinitives are usually written as single words in German orthography, i.e. stehenbleiben, liegenbleiben, sitzenbleiben. These constructions are often even listed as single verbs in German dictionaries. Yet, there is no grammatical reason to give these combinations a special status compared to other constructions of bleiben+In­fi­ni­tiv that are usually separated by a space, like for example wohnen bleiben ‘to remain living somewhere’(4.11 c).

(4.11) a. Er liegt im Bett.
b. Er bleibt im Bett liegen.
c. Er bleibt in München wohnen.

4.3.10 Perfektkontinuativ (bleiben+Partizip)

[4.24] The perfektkontinuativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.10) is constructed with bleiben and a participle. It expresses simultaneously that a process is finished (perfect) and that the resulting state continues (continuative). Only participles of intransitive verbs can be used in this construction. Additionally, applicable verbs need to have a sein perfect (see Sec­tion 4.3.1) and should describe a potentially reversible event, like verschwinden ‘to vanish’ (4.12). When used with transitive verbs this construction results in a passive diathesis, here called the Fortsetzungspassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.3).

(4.12) a. Der Schlüssel verschwindet.
b. Der Schlüssel bleibt verschwunden.

4.3.11 Permissivkontinuativ (lassen+Partizip)

[4.25] The permissivkontinuativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.11) uses the light verb lassen with a participle (4.13). It expresses the permission of the nominative subject for the result of a transitive action to continue. The name establishes a connection to the Permissiv­kau­sativ diathesis (constructed as lassen+In­fi­ni­tiv, see Sec­tion 3.11.5), while highlighting the fact that semantically this construction is one the various continuative constructions.

(4.13) a. Ich schalte den Fernseher ein.
b. Ich lasse den Fernseher eingeschaltet.

4.3.12 Kausativkontinuativ (halten+Partizip)

[4.26] The kausativkontinuativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.12) uses the light verb halten with a participle (4.14). It expresses an explicit action by the nominative subject to keep a finished state in place. The same light verb halten is also used in the related Kontinuitäts­kausativ (constructed as halten+am‑In­fi­ni­tiv, see Sec­tion 3.11.7).

(4.14) a. Ich schließe die Tür.
b. Ich halte die Tür geschlossen.

4.4 Spatial aspect

[4.27] The grammatical marking of aspect is commonly defined as linguistic expressions that specify the “internal temporal constituency of a situation” (Comrie 1976: 3). In this sense, the term spatial aspect might seem contradictory. However, spatial aspect simply expresses a change in the spatial constituency of an event. In German, there are few “pure” examples of such spatial aspect, like the Absentiv. However, most categories described in this section actually combine spatial and temporal aspects. The light verb gehen and kommen are used here in a few different, but highly similar constructions.

4.4.1 Absentiv (sein+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.28] The absentiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.4.1) uses sein with an infinitive (4.15 b). This construction is a kind of progressiv with the additional twist that the nominative participant is absent because s/he is pursuing the activity as described by the verb. An absentive is commonly classified as a kind of aspect. However, different from most aspectual categories it is not the temporal structure of the event that is crucial here, but the spatial structure.

(4.15) a. Ich besuche meinen Freund.
b. Ich bin meinen Freund besuchen.

4.4.2 Abitiv (gehen/fahren+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.29] The abitiv (from Lat. abire ‘to depart’, full discussion in Sec­tion 11.4.2) consists of the light verbs gehen or fahren together with an infinitive (4.16). This construction express that the subject is leaving to pursue the activity as described by the verb. It is closely related to the Absentiv (see Sec­tion 4.4.1).

(4.16) a. Ich besuche meinen Freund.
b. Ich gehe/fahre meinen Freund besuchen.

4.4.3 Aditiv (kommen+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.30] The aditiv (from Lat. adire ‘to approach’, full discussion in Sec­tion 11.4.3) consists of the light verb kommen with an infinitive (4.17). It conveys that the subject is approaching to pursue an activity, i.e. the reversal of the Abitiv (see Sec­tion 4.4.2).

(4.17) a. Ich besuche meinen Freund.
b. Ich komme meinen Freund besuchen.

4.4.4 Absentivfrequentativ (sein+beim‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.31] The absentivfrequentativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.4.4) is a variant of the Absentiv (see Sec­tion 4.4.1). It also uses the verb sein, but now with a beim‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.18). It still expresses that the subject is not present (absentive), but there is a an extra semantic aspect added, namely that the activity if performed regularly or habitually (frequentative).

[4.32] Parallel to the previous Absentiv, Abitiv and Aditiv there also exist frequentative variants of all these three constructions using different prepositions in each, namely sein+beim, gehen/fahren+zum and kommen+vom (discussed subsequently).

(4.18) a. Ich arbeite.
b. Ich bin beim Arbeiten.

4.4.5 Abitivfrequentativ (gehen/fahren+zum‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.33] The abitivfrequentativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.4.5) uses gehen/fahren, just like the Abitiv (see Sec­tion 4.4.2), but now with a zum‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.19). It expresses a movement away (abitive) to pursue an activity that is frequently or habitually performed (frequentative).

(4.19) a. Sie schwimmt.
b. Sie geht zum Schwimmen.

4.4.6 Aditivfrequentativ (kommen+vom‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.34] The aditivfrequentativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.4.6) uses kommen with a vom‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.20) to express the reversal of the Abitivfrequentativ (see Sec­tion 4.4.5). It conveys a movement approaching a point of reference (aditive) coming from an activity that is frequently or habitually performed (frequentative).

[4.35] Note that the preposition used with kommen is vom. There exists also a construction using kommen with zum, but that one has completely different semantics (see Sec­tion 4.4.8).

(4.20) a. Er ist einkaufen.
b. Er kommt vom Einkaufen.

4.4.7 Aditivprogressiv (kommen+(an‑)+Partizip)

[4.36] The aditivprogressiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.9) expresses both a temporal aspect (progressive) and a spatial aspect (aditive). It uses the light verb kommen with a participle (4.21 a) to convey that the subject is approaching while performing a specific kind of movement. A frequent variant uses a participle with the prefix an-, even when the finite verb with this prefix does not exist. For example, the verb anrennen does not exist, only the participle angerannt exist in the construction with the light verb kommen (4.21 b). Note that there does not exists any symmetrically opposing abitive construction with gehen.

(4.21) a. Die Kinder laufen herbei.
Die Kinder kommen herbeigelaufen.
b. Die Kinder rennen.
Die Kinder kommen angerannt.

4.4.8 Bewegungsende (kommen+zum‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.37] The bewegungsende (full discussion in Sec­tion 13.4.7) again uses the light verb kommen to express a spatial aspect, this time with a zum‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.22). However, in contrast the previous uses of kommen, this construction does not express an approaching movement. The kommen+zum‑In­fi­ni­tiv indicates that a movement has come to an end. There does not exists any symmetrically opposing construction with gehen.

(4.22) a. Das Auto steht vor der Ampel.
b. Das Auto kommt vor der Ampel zum Stehen.

4.5 Modality

[4.38] The grammatical marking of modality expresses a personal stance of the speaker towards the state-of-affairs. In grammars of European languages it is commonly discussed in the context of modal verbs, like können, müssen or dürfen. However, German has various other monoclausal structures to express modality. This includes some categories from the less-trodden paths of grammatical description like the (almost Caesarian) trinity of Kogativ ‘to intend’, Konativ ‘to try’ and Effektiv ‘to succeed’.

4.5.1 Modalverben

[4.39] The modalverben (full discussion in Sec­tion 11.4.7) are dürfen, können, mögen, müssen, sollen and wollen. These light verbs are combined with an infinitive (4.23 a). Functionally, the light verbs brauchen (4.23 b), see Sec­tion 11.4.8, and werden (4.23 c), see Sec­tion 11.4.9, should probably also be included in this group. Especially the status of werden+In­fi­ni­tiv is widely discussed in the German grammatical literature. It is traditionally analysed as a marker of future tense, but future reference in German is mostly expressed without it. A modal meaning of expectation and/or presumption seems to be a more suitable analysis.

(4.23) a. Ich baue ein Haus.
Ich will ein Haus bauen.
b. Du brauchst nicht kommen.
c. Ich werde ein Haus bauen.

4.5.2 Obligativ (haben/brauchen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.40] The obligativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.5) consist of the light verb haben with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.24 a). This construction is closely related to the English to have to construction, both in form and meaning. This epithesis expresses an obligation to perform an activity (i.e. similar to modal müssen). The German construction is clearly monoclausal, because the finite verb is positioned at the end of the clause in subordinate position (4.24 b).

(4.24) a. Die Schüler lösen die Aufgaben.
Die Schüler haben die Aufgaben zu lösen.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) die Schüler die Aufgaben zu lösen haben.

[4.41] A related construction uses the light verb brauchen ‘to need’ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.6). When brauchen is used with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv a negative element (4.25 a) or a particle like nur or bloß (4.25 b) has to be present. This construction is monoclausal (4.25 c). Note that brauchen can also be used with a bare infinitive without zu without any obvious change in meaning (see Sec­tion 4.5.1). The meaning of this construction is similar to English need not. It expresses ‘not be obliged’, but often it is quite close to ‘should not’ or even ‘ought not’.

(4.25) a. Du brauchst nicht zu schreien.
b. Du brauchst nur zu rufen.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) du nur (zu) rufen brauchst.

4.5.3 Abilitiv (wissen/verstehen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.42] The abilitiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.3) uses the verb wissen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.26 a) in a coherent monoclausal construction (4.26 b). The independent lexical verb wissen means ‘to know’, but in this construction it expresses the ability to perform an action (i.e. similar to modal können). Instead of wissen it is also possible to use the verb verstehen. Likewise, the verb verstehen has a lexical meaning, namely ‘to understand’, but in a construction with zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv it is grammaticalised to express ability. There is no obvious difference between wissen and verstehen when used in this construction. A more formal variant exists with the light verb vermögen (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.4).

(4.26) a. Der Lehrer begeistert die Schüler.
Der Lehrer weiß/versteht die Schüler zu begeistern.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) der Lehrer die Schüler zu begeistern weiß/versteht.

4.5.4 Kogitativ (denken+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.43] The kogitativ (from Lat. cogitare ‘to consider, to intend’, full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.9) uses the verb denken with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.27 a). In this old-fashioned or maybe just slightly poetic construction the verb denken has lost its lexical meaning ‘to think’. Instead, it expresses an intention to perform a certain action (i.e. similar to modal wollen). In this light-verb usage it is coherent (4.27 b). In its lexical meaning ‘to think’ it is not coherent (4.27 c). This construction is used infrequently.

(4.27) a. Ich überrasche ihn.
Ich denke ihn zu überraschen.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) ich ihn zu überraschen denke.
c. Er denkt mich überraschen zu können.
(Es ist bekannt, dass) er denkt, mich überraschen zu können.

4.5.5 Konativ (suchen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.44] The konativ (from Lat. conor ‘to try’, full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.8) is a category that expresses an attempt at an activity. In German it can be expressed with suchen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.28 a). In this construction, the meaning of suchen is similar to versuchen ‘to try’ and not to the lexical meaning of suchen ‘to search’. In the meaning of ‘to try’ the construction is coherent (4.28 b), while the semantically similar versuchen does not result in a coherent construction (4.28 c). This construction is used infrequently.

(4.28) a. Er hilft ihr.
Er suchte ihr zu helfen.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) er ihr zu helfen suchte.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) er versuchte, ihr zu helfen.

4.5.6 Effektiv (bekommen/kriegen+Partizip)

[4.45] The aspired outcome when intending something (Kogativ, see Sec­tion 4.5.4) or when trying something (Konativ, see Sec­tion 4.5.5) is to achieve something. This achievement can be expressed with the effektiv (from Lat. effectus ‘accomplishment’, full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.13), consisting of the light verbs bekommen or kriegen with a participle (4.29 a). The same construction is also used for the Rezipientenpassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.7). It is even possible to construct ambiguous sentences that can both have an Effektiv and a Rezipientenpassiv interpretation (4.29 b).

(4.29) a. Der Eigentümer vermietet die Wohnung nicht.
Der Eigentümer kriegt die Wohnung nicht vermietet.
b. Der Zahnarzt kriegt den Zahn gezogen.
(Effektiv = Der Zahnarzt schafft es, den Zahn zu ziehen.)
(Rezipientenpassiv = Dem Zahnarzt wird der Zahn gezogen.)

4.5.7 Fortunativ (haben+gut/leicht+In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.46] The fortunativ (from Lat. fortunatus ‘blessed, lucky’, full discussion in Sec­tion 11.4.5) consists of haben with an infinitive and an obligatory adverbial. It is only possible with intransitive verbs. The adverbial is almost always positiv, usually leicht ‘easy’ (4.30 a) or gut ‘well’ (4.30 b). This construction expresses that the subject is in a fortunate situation to perform the action described by the verb. This contrasts to the closely related constructions with sein (see Sec­tion 3.3.3) and lassen (see Sec­tion 3.3.4) that occur both with positiv and negativ evaluations.

(4.30) a. Er lacht.
Er hat gut lachen.
b. Er redet.
Er hat leicht reden.

4.6 Evidentiality

[4.47] The grammatical marking of evidentiality is a linguistic structure by which the speaker indicates the evidence for the stated utterance. It has been observed in languages all over the world. In German, grammaticalised evidentials exist in various variants Mortelmans & Stathi (2022). As for the German names for these categories, I propose to distinguish between Inferenz for inferential evidentials and Evidenz for direct evidentials.

4.6.1 Imperfektinferenz (scheinen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.48] The marking of imperfektinferenz (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.10) is expressed by the verb scheinen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.31 a). This construction conveys an inferential evidential, in which the speaker expresses some confidence in the stated event based on a deduction from available information. There is also a closely related Perfektinferenz as discussed in the next Sec­tion 4.6.2. The main difference between the two is the perfectivity of the verb. By using the zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv the construction is marked as imperfect. The verb scheinen has various further uses, among them a lexical meaning expressing ‘to shine’. Crucially, in its evidential usage with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv this construction is coherently monoclausal (9.40 b).

(4.31) a. Der Plan scheitert.
Der Plan scheint zu scheitern.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) der Plan zu scheitern scheint.

4.6.2 Perfektinferenz (scheinen/erscheinen+Partizip)

[4.49] The marking of perfektinferenz (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.14) consists of the verbs scheinen or erscheinen with a participle of an intransitive verb (4.32 a). Typical agentive intransitive verbs like schlafen ‘to sleep’ do not allow for this construction (4.32 b). Similar to the previous Imperfektinferenz (see Sec­tion 4.6.1) it expresses an inferential evidential, in which the speaker indicates confidence in the state-of-affairs based on a deduction from available information. By using the participle the event is marked as perfective. When used with a transitive verb the (er)scheinen+Partizip construction leads to an anticausative diathesis called Inferenzantikausativ (see Sec­tion 3.7.5).

(4.32) a. Der Plan scheitert.
Der Plan scheint gescheitert.
b. * Das Kind scheint geschlafen.

4.6.3 Sinnesevidenz (aussehen/wirken+Partizip)

[4.50] sinnesevidenz (full discussion in Sec­tion 10.4.15) is marked by the verbs aussehen or wirken with a participle of an intransitive verb (4.33). Typical agentive intransitive verbs like schlafen ‘to sleep’ do not allow for this construction (4.33 b). This structure expresses that the speaker has first-hand knowledge based on sensory evidence that the state-of-affairs holds. When used with a transitive verb this construction results in an anticausative diathesis called Sinnesantikausativ (see Sec­tion 3.7.6).

(4.33) a. Er schläft aus.
Er wirkt ausgeschlafen.
b. * Er wirkt geschlafen.

4.6.4 Negative Bewertungsevidenz (drohen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.51] The marking of negative bewertungsevidenz (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.11) consists of the verb drohen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.34 a). This construction conveys that the speaker of the utterance has direct evidence for the proposition, while implying a negative evaluation from the speaker’s point of view. When used as a speech-act verb drohen means ‘to threaten’ and can also be used with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv. However, only in its evidential usage will drohen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv construct coherently (4.34 b). The meaning of ‘to threaten’ does not result in a coherent construction (4.34 c).

(4.34) a. Das Wetter droht schlecht zu werden.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) das Wetter schlecht zu werden droht.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) er droht, das Licht auszuschalten.

4.6.5 Positive Bewertungsevidenz (versprechen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.52] The marking of positive bewertungsevidenz (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.11) is composed of the verb versprechen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.35 a). Similar to the previous construction with drohen, the verb versprechen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv also expresses a direct evidential, though now with a positive evaluation. When used as a speech-act verb versprechen means ‘to promise’ and is commonly used with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv. However, only in its evidential usage will versprechen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv construct coherently (4.35 b). The meaning of ‘to promise’ does not result in coherent constructions (4.35 c).

(4.35) a. Das Wetter verspricht gut zu werden.
b. (Es ist bekannt, dass) das Wetter gut zu werden verspricht.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) er verspricht, das Licht auszuschalten.

4.7 Diathetical epithesis

[4.53] By definition (see Sec­tion 1.2), diathesis has to include changes to the grammatical marking of the participants. The alternations described in this section do not show any change in the marking of the participants, so, again by definition, they are classified as examples of epithesis. However, functionally these constructions are close to diatheses in that the relation between the participants and the verb is changed in some way. For lack of a better term I call such a construction a diathetical epithesis.

4.7.1 Verbalkomitativ (mit-)

[4.54] The verbalkomitativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 8.4.1 and Sec­tion 8.4.3) uses the preverb mit- to indicate that the main lexical verb is performed together with somebody else, like with lachen ‘to laugh’ (4.36).

(4.36) a. Die Schüler haben gelacht.
b. Der Lehrer hat (mit den Schülern) mitgelacht.

4.7.2 Zustandskausativ (kommen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.55] Covert causatives exists in two variants. The first kind, the (verborgener) zustandskausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.12), uses the light verb kommen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.37 a,b). This construction conveys that there is some unexpressed force or agent that has caused a state to be reached. It can only used with intransitive state verbs like stehen and is obligatorily coherent (4.37 c). This construction is no diathesis because the roles are not remapped.

(4.37) a. Sie stand neben mir.
b. Sie kam neben mir zu stehen.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) sie neben mir zu stehen kam.

4.7.3 Rezipientenkausativ (bekommen/kriegen+zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv)

[4.56] The (verborgener) rezipientenkausativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 12.4.13) consists of the light verbs bekommen or kriegen with a zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv (4.38 a,b). Like with kommen (see Sec­tion 4.7.2), there is an unnamed force or agent that causes the situation to come about. The light verb bekommen/kriegen is typically combined with a transitive verb of sensation, like sehen ‘to see’, or consumption, like essen ‘to eat’. By using this covert causative construction, the nominative subject is semantically depicted as an experiencer of the verb. The centrality of the experiencer role is reminiscent of the Rezipientenpassiv (see Sec­tion 3.8.7). However, in this construction there is no role-remapping, so it is not a diathesis.

(4.38) a. Die Schüler sehen einen Film.
b. Die Schüler bekommen/kriegen einen Film zu sehen.
c. (Es ist bekannt, dass) die Schüler einen Film zu sehen bekommen/kriegen.

4.7.4 Selbstbezogenes Reflexiv

[4.57] The selbstbezogener reflexiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.4.5 and subsequent sections) is marked with a reflexive pronoun and can optionally be reinforced by adding selbst. This construction is traditionally simply called Reflexiv in German grammar (and beyond). However, reflexive pronouns have a bewildering number of different functions, including many diatheses, so a more precise naming is necessary (see Chapter 7 for an extensive discussion). Crucially, the marking of roles do not change in a Selbstbezogener Reflexiv, so there is no diathesis.

[4.58] The Selbstbezogener Reflexiv can be identified by the following characteristics:

  1. There is a reflexive pronoun that can be negated and stressed.
  2. The pronoun selbst can optionally be added.
  3. The roles of the verb do not change, i.e. (4.39 b) still contains the roles of “washer” and “washee”.
  4. The reflexive pronoun references an object role (here “washee”).
  5. The participant who takes the role of subject (here “washer”) is identical to the participant that is encoded by the reflexive pronoun.
(4.39) a. Der Vater wäscht das Kind.
b. Der Vater wäscht sich (selbst).

4.7.5 Reziprok

[4.59] The reziprok (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.4.14 and subsequent sections) often looks similar to the Selbstbezogener Reflexiv. However, there are various characteristics that clearly distinguish the two. The Reziprok can be identified by the following characteristics:

  1. There is a reflexive pronoun or einander in the sentence.
  2. When there is a reflexive pronoun, then gegenseitig can be added optionally. In contrast, selbst is not possible.
  3. The roles of the verb do not change, i.e. (4.40 b) still contains the roles of “crosser” and “crossee”.
  4. The subject is obligatorily plural, as it references the participants of both roles simultaneously.
  5. The reflexive pronoun/einander marks that both participants take both roles simultaneously.
(4.40) a. Die Straßen kreuzen den Fluss.
b. Die Straßen kreuzen sich (gegenseitig).

4.7.6 Freies Reflexiv

[4.60] The freier reflexiv (full discussion in Sec­tion 7.4.1 and subsequent sections) is a somewhat mysterious alternation in German in which a reflexive pronoun can be added without any obvious change in meaning. For example, the verb ansehen ‘to look at’ can be used both with reflexive pronoun (4.41 a) and without reflexive pronoun (4.41 b). The difference between these expressions needs more investigation, but intuitively there appears to be a slight difference in the affectedness of the subject-participant.

(4.41) a. Ich habe mir das Haus angesehen.
b. Ich habe das Haus angesehen.

4.7.7 Reflexiv Resultativ

[4.61] The reflexiv resultativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.4.3) is an alternation that can be used with a subset of all intransitive verbs, for example with schlafen ‘to sleep’ (4.42 a). By adding a reflexive pronoun and a resultative preverbial, like gesund‑ ‘healthy’ (4.42 b), the sentence conveys that the subject participant achieves a state (expressed by the preverbial) by performing an action (expressed by the verb). In other words, (4.42 b) means approximately ‘by sleeping I will become healthy’. The combination of gesund‑ with the verb schlafen arguably is a new separable verb gesundschlafen (4.42 c), syntactically similar to a Partikelverb like einschlafen. With the resultative preverbial tot- ‘dead’ this construction seems to be developing into an intensifying aspect (see Sec­tion 4.3.4).

(4.42) a. Ich schlafe.
b. Ich schlafe mich gesund.
(= Durch zu schlafen werde ich gesund.)
c. Ich werde mich gesundschlafen.

4.7.8 Transitiv Resultativ

[4.62] The transitiv resultativ (full discussion in Sec­tion 9.4.5) is the transitive counterpart to the previous Reflexiv Resultativ (see Sec­tion 4.7.7). The only difference is that no reflexive pronoun is necessary with transitive verbs. For example, the verb pflegen ‘to nurse’ (4.43 a) can be combined with a resultative gesund‑ ‘healthy’ (4.43 b) to form a new separable verb gesundpflegen ‘to heal by nursing’ (4.43 c). The preverbial gesund‑ has a resultative meaning, expressing the effect of the action (pflegen ‘to nurse’) on the accusative object (Mutter ‘mother’), i.e. ‘by nursing my mother will be healed’.

(4.43) a. Ich pflege meine Mutter.
b. Ich pflege meine Mutter gesund.
(= Durch meine Pflege wird meine Mutter gesund.)
c. Ich werde meine Mutter gesundpflegen.

4.8 Summary of recurrent light verbs

[4.63] The light verbs listed in Table 4.1 occur in more than one derived clause construction. Shown in the table is whether these constructions induce epithesis (E) or diathesis (D). The ordering of the rows and columns in the table reflects an approximate top-left to bottom-right cline of the frequency of diathesis. More research is needed to establish whether there is any deeper insights to be gained from this distribution.

Table 4.1: Summary of light verbs that occur in more than one derived clause construction (D = diathesis, E = epithesis)
Partizip zu‑In­fi­ni­tiv In­fi­ni­tiv Präpositions­infinitiv
haben D+E E D+E D
sein D+E D E D+E
bleiben D+E D E E
gehen D D E E
geben D D - -
sehen D D
werden D E
scheinen D+E E -
bekommen D+E E -
wissen D E -
halten E - - D
lassen E E D -
kommen E E E E

5 Case-marking alternations

5.1 Introduction

[5.1] Diathesis typically involves variation in the marking of case as governed by the verb, including alternations between case marked arguments and adpositional phrases. The notion of “flagging” was (re)introduced in Haspelmath (2005: 2) as a cover term to capture the intuition that case marking and adpositional marking express very similar functions in linguistic marking. The first two data chapters in this book discuss exactly those kind of marking, viz. case and adpositional marking as governed by a verb. This chapter discusses diatheses involving case-marked constituents, and the next chapter focusses on prepositional constituents.

[5.2] All diatheses in this chapter are covert diatheses. Covert case-marking diatheses are characterised by (a) one and the same verb that can be used with different case-marked roles and, crucially, (b) the fact that there is no additional overt morphosyntactic marking of the alternating constructions. Such alternations include, for example, possessor raising like (5.1 a) or anticausative alternations like (5.1 b).

(5.1) a. Ich schneide seine Haare.
Ich schneide ihm die Haare.
b. Die Sonne verbrennt den Rasen.
Der Rasen verbrennt.

[5.3] The crucial (and somewhat problematic) aspect of such alternations is that there is no formal indication of the presence of a diathesis, except for the marking of the arguments themselves. Prototypical examples of diathesis (as defined in Sec­tion 1.2) include some overt linguistic marking that indicates that a diathesis has taken place (i.e. some affix, particle, light verb, or other morphosyntactic means). And indeed, all diatheses that will be discussed in Chapters 7-13 will be of that kind. In contrast, the diatheses discussed in this chapter and the next Chapter 6 are “covert” alternations, or “zero marked” alternations, in that there is no other indication of a diathesis, except for the marking of the arguments themselves (Zúñiga & Kittilä 2019 introduce the term “covert” diathesis for this). The problem with such covert diatheses is that there is no overt directionality in the alternation – there is no way to distinguish between a base form and a derived form. Both alternants have an equal status as far as the morphosyntax is concerned. Still, I have attempted to infer a direction based on parallels to other diatheses.

[5.4] The unmarked nature of covert diatheses implies that there is some slight redundancy and fuzziness in presentation. This redundancy arises because, for example, when a verb occurs in four different constructions, then there are logically six different alternations. I have nonetheless decided to approach the descriptive organisation in this chapter from the perspective of such pairwise alternations, because (i) it highlights the possible connections attested between constructions, and (ii) very many verbs only occur in just one or two alternations anyway (with only a smaller subset of verbs appearing across many different constructions).

[5.5] There are seven diatheses that seem prominent enough to be given a German name. I propose the following names for these:

5.2 Delimiting case-marked arguments

5.2.1 Identifying case marking

[5.6] The German case marking system is rather straightforward. Noun phrases in German occur in one of four case forms. There are various syncretisms in the case paradigm, which conceal the identity of the case in many sentences. For this reason, I will attempt to use first/second person singular pronouns or masculine singular nouns in constructed examples. These forms can easily be unambiguously identified, as shown in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1: German marking of case
Case 1st 2nd 3rd Masc. Masc. noun
Nominative ich du er der Tisch
Genitive meiner deiner seiner des Tisches
Dative mir dir ihm dem Tisch
Accusative mich dich ihn den Tisch

[5.7] Basically, almost all case-marked constituents are governed arguments. Yet, there are a few situations (to be discussed in detail below) in which overtly case-marked constituents are not arguments (or, alternatively, a very special type of arguments): quantified objects (5.2 a), named objects (5.2 b), cognate objects (5.2 c), lexicalised noun-verb combinations (5.2 d) and adnominal constituents (5.2 e).

(5.2) a. Er schläft [den ganzen Tag].
b. Er nennt mich [einen Egoisten].
c. Er hat [einen gesunden Schlaf] geschlafen.
d. Er stirbt [einen qualvollen Tod].
e. Ich beschuldige den Verdächtigten [des Diebstahls] von weiteren Gegenständen.

5.2.2 Quantified object

[5.8] A special kind of constituent is a quantified object (cf. “Mensuralergänzung”, Eroms 2000: 203–204), exemplified in (5.3 a-e). Quantified objects are overtly mark­ed accusative objects that often contain numerals, like in (5.3 d) or (5.3 e), in which einen is not an article, but the numeral one. Except for numerals, the quantification can also be instantiated by adjectives, e.g. ganzen ‘complete’ in (5.3 a), indefinites, e.g. jeden ‘each’ in (5.3 b), or measure phrases, e.g. zu laut ‘too noisy’ in (5.3 c).

(5.3) a. Er schläft den ganzen Tag. (wie lange? ‘how long’)
b. Er fällt jeden Tag. (wann? ‘when’)
c. Er hustet einen Tick zu laut. (wie? ‘how’)
d. Er ist drei mal gefallen. (wie oft? ‘how often’)
e. Er steigt einen Stock höher. (wo? ‘where’)

[5.9] These quantified constituents are not governed arguments. First, they can easily be left out (all verbs in the examples are typical intransitive verbs). Second, and more importantly, they cannot be replaced by a pronoun nor be questioned by a question pronoun (viz. wen/was). Instead, they are questioned by adverbial interrogative words as listed at the examples above, indicating that the quantified constituents are adverbial phrases, not arguments. Still, there are a few verbs that obligatorily require such a quantified object, like kosten ‘to cost’ or dauern ‘to last’. With those verbs, quantified constituents can be considered to be arguments. These verbs will be discussed in Sec­tion 5.3.4.

5.2.3 Named objects

[5.10] A special group of verbs can be used to performatively name persons or things. When realised with proper names, such arguments are arguably without case in standard German (5.4 a), but with regular nouns these phrases are clearly accusatives (5.4 b). The result of such accusatively marked names are constructions with two accusative arguments. These arguments are normally questioned by the manner interrogative wie ‘how’, though in some situations was ‘what’ seems possible (6.40 c). The small group of verbs like nennen ‘to name’ that obligatorily takes such arguments will be discussed in Sec­tion 5.3.10.

(5.4) a. Ich nenne dich [Lukas].
b. Ich nenne dich [einen Egoisten].
c. Was nennst du [dein Eigen]?

5.2.4 Cognate objects

[5.11] There is a special construction available for many verbs to add an object that is a nominalisation of the verb itself, exemplified here in (5.5 a,b).

(5.5) a. Er hat einen gesunden Schlaf geschlafen.
b. Er hat viele Träume geträumt.

[5.12] This construction is known as a cognate object construction (e.g. Levin 1993: 95–96), because the object is etymologically related to the verb. In many cases, this cognate object is simply a zero nominalisation (conversion) of the verb stem (e.g. schlafen – der Schlaf, ‘to sleep – the sleep’), but in some cases different nominalisations like the infinitive are used (e.g. lächeln – das Lächeln, ‘to smile – the smile’).

[5.13] Examples like (5.5 a,b) seem to suggest that intransitive verbs like schlafen ‘to sleep’ and träumen ‘to dream’ allow for accusative arguments. However, besides these cognate objects there are no other accusative arguments allowed with these verbs. Further, such cognate objects seem to be theoretically possible for all verbs, though often quite some imagination is needed to find a suitable context to use verb and nominalised verb together. Because of their special status, such cognate object nominalisations are not counted as regular arguments here.

5.2.5 Lexicalised noun-verb combinations

[5.14] There is a common pattern in German in which nouns are combined with a verb, like eislaufen ‘ice skating’. Such constructions are highly reminiscent of the typologically widespread process of noun incorporation. However, in German such noun incorporation only occurs with individual lexeme combinations, so they are probably better interpreted as grammaticalised noun-verb collocations (Eisenberg 2006b: 339ff.; Gallmann 1999). For a survey of different kinds of noun incorporation see Berik & Gehrke (2015). Using their terminology, the German constructions might be analysed as “pseudo” incorporation.

[5.15] Most such combinations are written as separate words in German orthography, e.g. Wache stehen ‘stand guard’, so they might look like nominal arguments. However, they normally do not allow for any determiners or modifiers (5.6 a). Only very few fixed combinations allow for an adjective (5.6 b) and/or a determiner (5.6 c).

(5.6) a. Er hat (*das) Blut gehustet.
b. Er hat bittere Tränen geweint.
c. Er stirbt einen qualvollen Tod.

[5.16] The typical examples like Blut ‘blood’ in (5.6 a) do not show much indication of case-marking. It is clearly not a genitive (because then it should be Blutes), but nominative, dative or accusative are all possible. The few examples with determiners and/or adjectives seem to indicate that these constituents are accusatives. However, even in undoubtedle accusative examples like (5.6 c) the accusative is not an argument, because it is strange (if not completely ungrammatical) to pronominalise (5.7 a) or question (5.7 b) this accusative. Also, the accusative seems unusable as an answer to a manner question (5.7 c). Just like cognate objects, such nouns in lexicalised noun-verb combinations are not counted as arguments here.

(5.7) a. * Er stirbt es.
b. * Was ist er gestorben?
c. Wie ist er gestorben? ? Einen qualvollen Tod.

5.2.6 Adnominal case-marked constituents

[5.17] Semantically, adnominal constituents can easily be identified as modifiers inside a noun phrase. However, there is no formal difference between adnominal and sentential case-marked constituents, leading possibly to ambiguous sentences like (5.8 a). In this sentence, both the accusative constituent for the accusee den Verdächtigen and the genitive constituent for the accusation des Diebstahls can be read as arguments being governed by the verb beschuldigen ‘to accuse’ (5.8 b). Alternatively, these two constituents can be interpreted as a single complex noun phrase, as can be seen by the possibility to add a further constituent describing a different accusation (5.8 c). Such adnominal constituents are (obviously) not counted as arguments of the main predicate.

(5.8) a. Ich beschuldige den Verdächtigten des Diebstahls.
b. Ich beschuldige [den Verdächtigten] vor Gericht [des Diebstahls].
c. Ich beschuldige [den Verdächtigten des Diebstahls] auch des Mordes.

5.3 Deponent verbs

[5.18] Before delving into the actual alternations, I will first present an inventory of verbs that do not show alternation as far as flagging is concerned. These verbs can, and many will, occur in other diatheses as discussed in subsequent chapters, but for the alternations discussed in this chapter (on case-marked arguments) and the next chapter (on prepositional arguments) these verbs are invariable. The most interesting insight from building this collection is that it is not easy at all to find verbs that do not allow for at least some kind of flagging variation.

5.3.1 [ – ] No arguments

[5.19] Some verbs do not need any argument at all, not even a nominative subject. These include the well-known weather verbs like schneien ‘to snow’ (5.9 a). However, most weather verb actually allow for some nominative subjects as well (5.9 b), see Sec­tion 5.6.1, or accusative arguments (5.9 c), see Sec­tion 5.8.2. There do not seem to be any verbs that only allow for constructions without any arguments.

(5.9) a. Heute schneit es.
b. Die Granaten regneten auf uns.
c. Gestern hat es riesengroße Körner gehagelt.

5.3.2 [ N ] Nominative

[5.20] Some verbs only allow a nominative argument, which necessarily also shows agreement with the finite verb. Such verbs are traditionally called “intransitive”. The verbs discussed in this section are strictly intransitive, in that they do not allow for any other case marked arguments or governed prepositions (see Sec­tion 6.2). Intransitive verbs, of course, allow for additional non-governed prepositional phrases, e.g. locational (5.10 a) or temporal (5.10 b), instrumental/comitative with mit (5.10 c,d), or beneficiary/goal with für (5.10 e,f).

(5.10) a. Er reist immer in die Berge.
b. Er reist immer am Wochenende.
c. Er reist immer mit dem Bus.
d. Er reist immer mit seinem Freund.
e. Er reist immer für seinen Chef.
f. Er reist immer für seine Arbeit.

[5.21] An attempt has been made below to classify the strictly intransitive verbs into broad semantic categories. However, these categories are in no way intended to define the kind of verbs allowed in this class. Yet, the semantic classes give a good indication of the kind of verbs that tend to be strictly intransitive. Note that this list is in no way intended to be exhaustive, but only illustrative.

Attested verbs


[5.22] Some of the verbs of housing allow for accusative arguments in non-housing related meanings, like ausziehen ‘to undress’ (5.11 a), einziehen ‘to build’ (5.11 b), aufziehen ‘to build’ (5.11 c) or wegziehen ‘to pull away’ (5.11 d).

(5.11) a. Ich ziehe meine Hose aus.
b. Ich ziehe eine Wand ein.
c. Ich ziehe die Mauer auf.
d. Ich ziehe die Karre weg.

5.3.3 [ NA ] Nominative+accusative

[5.23] The verbs in this class are strict transitives: they need a nominative subject argument and an additional accusative argument. Further arguments are not allowed, and no governed prepositions are allowed either. It turns out that this group is not very large, because very many verbs allow for dative arguments (traditionally called “free” datives) or alternations with governed prepositions. For example, an apparently typical transitive verb like bauen ‘to build’ allows for a dative to mark the beneficiary of the building, as in Ich baue dir ein Haus ‘I will build a house for you’ (see Sec­tion 6.8.10). Conversely, there are also many apparently typical transitive verbs that can just as well be used without accusative object, including well-known ambitransitive verbs like essen ‘to eat’ (see Sec­tion 5.7.1). All such verbs are discussed in their respective sections. Still, even with all those verbs removed, the current set of “pure” transitive verbs can easily be extended and the list given below is not at all intended to be complete.

[5.24] The number of monomorphemic “strictly” transitive verbs seems to be very limited. Preverbs (see Chapter 8) regularly induce an applicative alternation and subsequently often lexicalise, leading to transitive verbs (5.12 a,b).

(5.12) a. Ich schreite über den Teppich.
b. Ich schreite den Teppich ab.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.3.4 [ NA ] Nominative+quantified object

[5.25] A special kind of arguments are quantified objects (cf. “Mensuralergänzung”, Eroms 2000: 203–204), exemplified in (5.13 a-e). Quantified objects are overtly mark­ed accusative objects that often contain numerals (like in (5.13 d) or (5.13 e), in which einen is not an article, but the numeral one). Except for numerals, the quantification can also be instantiated by adjectives (like ganzen in (5.13 a)), indefinites (like jeden in (5.13 b)) or measure phrases (like zu laut in (5.13 c)).

(5.13) a. Er schläft den ganzen Tag. (wie lange? ‘how long’)
b. Er fällt jeden Tag. (wann? ‘when’)
c. Er hustet einen Tick zu laut. (wie? ‘how’)
d. Er ist drei mal gefallen. (wie oft? ‘how often’)
e. Er steigt einen Stock höher. (wo? ‘where’)

[5.26] These quantified constituents are mostly not arguments. First, they can easily be left out (all verbs in the examples above are typical intransitive verbs). Second, and more importantly, they cannot be replaced by a pronoun, nor be questioned by a question pronoun (viz. wen/was). Instead, they are questioned by adverbial interrogative words as listed at the examples above, indicating that the quantified constituents are adverbial phrases, not governed arguments.

[5.27] Yet, there is a special class of verbs that appear to obligatorily need such a quantified object, like kosten ‘to cost’ (5.14 a), called measure stative dimensional verbs in Gamerschlag (2014: 318). These objects are interrogated by wie viel? ‘how much’ (though interrogation with was ‘what’ seems also possible with some of them). Though debatable, I tend to classify these accusative constituents as arguments. Whatever the interpretation, whether they are arguments or not, there is something special with these verbs.

[5.28] A further argument to consider these accusative constituents as something special is that these verbs cannot be passivised, just like typical intransitive verbs (5.14 a). Even with non-quantified objects, these verbs still prohibit passivisation (5.14 b).

(5.14) a. Die Aussage kostet sie den Wahlsieg.
b. Ich bin der Herausforderung gewachsen.

[5.29] An exception to this rule blocking passivisation for quantified objects are the verbs verdienen ‘to earn’ and zahlen ‘to pay’. They can be used with quantified objects (5.15 b) and with non-quantified objects (5.15 a), similarly to kosten above. However, with these verbs passivisation is possible (5.15 c,d), so these verbs are considered to be taking regular accusative objects.

(5.15) a. Er verdient 50 Euro. Er verdient den Nobelpreis.
b. Er zahlt (mir) 50 Euro. Er zahlt (mir) die Miete.
c. Praktisch der gesamte Umsatz wird mit Werbung verdient.
d. Die Miete wird monatlich gezahlt.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.3.5 [ ND ] Nominative+dative

[5.30] The verbs in this class need both a nominative subject and a dative argument, like trauen ‘to trust’ (5.16 a). Both arguments are obligatory and cannot be dropped (except in extremely marked meta-linguistic contexts) and no other case-marked arguments or governed prepositions are possible. A noteworthy subset of such nominative+dative verbs are verbs like unterlaufen ‘to occur’ (5.16 b), for which human participants can only occur in the dative. Yet, there does not appear to be any structural difference between verbs with (typically) human participants in the nominative, like trauen, and verbs with (typically) human participants in the dative, like unterlaufen.

(5.16) a. Ich traue der Sache nicht.
b. Mir unterläuft ein Fehler.

[5.31] There are more nominative+dative verbs in which the dative is not obligatory. Those verbs will be discussed in subsequent sections. Some of these verbs allow for the dative to be completely dropped (see Sec­tion 5.7.4) and a few allow for the dative to be replaced by a prepositional phrase (see Sec­tion 6.7.11) or by a possessor (see Sec­tion 5.8.3).

Attested verbs

Further examples


[5.32] The following verbs also exist as intransitive “only nominative” verbs (see Sec­tion 5.3.2), but in a clearly different lexical meanings.

(5.17) a. Mir bleibt nur harte Arbeit. Ich bleibe noch eben.
b. Mir gehört die Schreibmaschine. Die Schreibmaschine gehört auf den Tisch.
c. Mir liegt diese Sportart. Ich liege am Boden.
d. Mir steht der Mantel. Ich stehe um die Ecke.
e. Der Journalist verfiel dem Alkohol. Das Haus verfiel.

5.3.6 [ NG ] Nominative+genitive

[5.33] There are a few verbs in German that have a genitive argument. These verbs are slowly disappearing from the German language, and many of the verbs that are still around are considered old-fashioned. They are listed for comprehensiveness only, as they do not play an important role in the current German language anymore. The verbs listed here need a genitive argument and there seems to be no possibility for alternations with other case or adpositional marking.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.3.7 [ NAD ] Nominative+accusative+dative

[5.34] This class consists of the classical ditransitive verbs with an obligatory nominative, accusative and dative arguments. It turns out to be extremely hard to find good examples of verbs that always, or at least in the large majority of their uses, overtly show all three arguments. Most apparently ditransitive verbs, like geben ‘to give’, easily allow for the dative to be dropped or replaced by a prepositional phrase (for the verb geben, see De Vaere, De Cuypere & Willems 2018 for an in-depth study). The few remaining obligatorily ditransitive verbs seem to be semantically more specialised verbs, in which a very specific meaning is forcing the overt marking of all three roles, in contrast to the more broader semantic range of a verb like geben.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.3.8 [ NAG ] Nominative+accusative+genitive

[5.35] There are also verbs that allow nominative, accusative and genitive, but those verbs often have a possible alternation dropping the genitive (see Sec­tion 5.7.8). In a few cases, the genitive argument seems to be in a process of replacement by an accusative (see Sec­tions 5.9.5-5.9.6). I have only found a single verb that obligatorily requires case-marked nominative, accusative and genitive arguments, viz. bezichtigen ‘to accuse’ (5.18).

(5.18) a. Ich bezichtige dich des Diebstahls.
b. * Ich bezichtige dich.
c. * Ich bezichtige des Diebstahls.

Attested verbs

5.3.9 [ NAA ] Nominative+accusative+accusative

[5.36] There are a few verbs that allow for two accusative objects, like with lehren (5.19 a) or abfragen (5.19 b). However, all of these verbs also allow for other constructions, either dropping one of the accusative arguments (see Sec­tion 5.7.2) or allowing an alternation between an accusative and a dative (see Sec­tion 5.9.4). There do not seem to be any verbs that obligatorily need two accusative objects.

(5.19) a. Er lehrt mich den Trick.
b. Er fragt mich den Stoff ab.

[5.37] Double accusatives further appear with quantified objects (5.20 a), see Sec­tion 5.3.4, and with named objects (5.20 b), see Sec­tion 5.3.10. Also these verbs regularly allow for one of the accusatives to be dropped (5.20 c,d).

(5.20) a. Das Buch kostet mich keinen Pfennig.
b. Ich nenne dich einen Egoisten.
c. Das Buch kostet viel.
d. Er nennt den Namen des Kindes.

[5.38] In summary, there are only few verbs in German with double accusatives. In general, there seems to be a strong generalisation that the German language disprefers verbs that govern multiple noun phrases in the same case. However, there are a few diatheses that result in multiple accusatives in the same clause (see Sec­tion 11.2.3).

5.3.10 [ NAA ] Nominative+accusative+named object

[5.39] A special group of verbs can be used to performatively name persons or things. As proper names, such arguments are arguably without case in standard German (5.21 a), but with regular nouns these phrases are clearly accusatives (5.21 b). The effect are constructions with two accusative arguments. These arguments are normally questioned by the manner interrogative wie ‘how’, though in some situations was ‘what’ seems possible (5.21 c).

(5.21) a. Ich nenne dich [Lukas].
b. Ich nenne dich [einen Egoisten].
c. Was nennst du [dein Eigen]?

[5.40] The name in such naming constructions cannot be passivised (5.22 a,b), which also indicates that these accusative arguments have a special status in the grammar of the German language.

(5.22) a. Du wirst einen Egoisten genannt.
b. * Ein Egoist wird dich genannt.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.4 Alternations without diathesis

[5.41] This section is empty. It is only added here for the numbering to be parallel across chapters. By definition, alternations without diathesis do not exist for covert alternations as discussed in this chapter.

5.5 Diatheses with subject demotion

5.5.1 sbj › ø : [ N | – ] Nominative drop

[5.42] In German it is typically not possible to have a sentence in which the nominative subject is dropped. For the few verbs that allow the nominative subject to be absent, a valency-simulating pronoun es has to be inserted (see Sec­tion 2.2.3 for more details on this pronoun). For example, with some intransitive dispersion verbs like stinken ‘to stink’ (5.23 a) it is possible to leave out the origin of the dispersion (5.23 b) to indicate the effect without knowledge of the cause. In German I propose to use the term auslöserentfall for this diathesis.

(5.23) a. Der Müll stinkt.
b. Hier stinkt es aber.

[5.43] For weather verbs like wehen ‘to be windy’ (5.24) it is arguably not a nominative that is dropped, but a nominative that is optionally added. I will discuss such additions separately (see Sec­tion 5.6.1). However, there does not appear to be a clear overt grammatical distinction between a verb like stinken that allows for an optional nominative drop and a verb like wehen an optional nominative addition.

(5.24) a. Es weht.
b. Der Wind weht.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.5.2 sbj › ø : [ NA | –A ] Nominative drop+accusative

[5.44] A few additinoal apparently dropped nominatives are discussed here for completeness’ sake. They appear to be highly idiosyncratic. Both examples allow for the nominative to be dropped, but an accusative argument is obligatorily present and cannot be dropped. The first example is the drop of the nominative with the verb geben when used in the meaning of ‘to produce’ (8.40). Note that there is close connection to another diathesis with a light verb geben ‘to give’ (see Sec­tion 12.5.4). The second example of a nominative drop with a retained object is with the verb brauchen ‘to need’ (5.26).

(5.25) a. Die Trauben geben dieses Jahr einen guten Wein.
b. Dieses Jahr gibt es einen guten Wein.
(5.26) a. Ich brauche euch alle.
b. Es braucht euch alle im Kampf gegen die Diktatur.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.5.3 sbj › ø : [ ND | –D ] Nominative drop+dative

[5.45] In a few exceptional examples a verb with a nominative and a dative allows for the nominative to be dropped and replaced by a valency-simulating pronoun es, like with gefallen ‘to appeal’ (5.27 a,b).

(5.27) a. Das Buch gefällt mir.
b. Hier gefällt es mir gar nicht.

[5.46] In contrast, in most sentences with a pronoun es and a dative the pronoun es is either phoric (5.29 a) or position-simulating (5.29 b), both of which do not count as the drop of an argument (cf. Sec­tion 2.2.3).

(5.28) a. Es galt mir.
b. Es ist mir ein Unfall widerfahren.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.5.4 sbj › ø : [ NG | –G ] Nominative drop+genitive

[5.47] A few verbs with nominative and genitive arguments allow the nominative to be dropped, but the genitive to be retained, like with bedürfen ‘to require’ (5.29) and entbehren ‘to do without’ (5.30).

(5.29) a. Der Kranke bedarf der Ruhe.
b. Hier bedarf es körperlicher Kraft.
(5.30) a. Der Vorwurf entbehrt jeglichen Beweises.
b. Insofern entbehrt es jeglichen Beweises.

Attested verbs

5.5.5 obj › sbj › ø : [ NA | –N ] haben anticausative

[5.48] A typical anticausative verb allows for both a transitive (5.31 a) and an intransitive construction (5.31 b) in which the intransitive nominative expresses the same participant as the transitive accusative. This is attested in German with verbs like beginnen ‘to start’ (5.31). However, because this diathesis is formally unmarked it is difficult to decide whether this should be classified as an anticausative or as a causative (cf. Scheibl 2006: 355).

[5.49] Whatever the ultimate best analysis will be, it is important to realise that there are two different classes of verbs in German. With verbs like beginnen the perfect of the intransitive exists with both auxiliaries sein (5.31 c) and haben (5.31 d). In contrast, with verbs like zerbrechen ‘to break’ the intransitive perfect only allows for sein (see Sec­tion 5.6.2 for an extensive discussion). These two classes of verbs should be distinguished and I propose to consider the beginnen-class as an anticausative diathesis (this section) and interpret the zerbrechen-class as a causative diathesis (see Sec­tion 5.6.2).

[5.50] Semantically, the intransitive haben-construction in (5.31 d) seems to be the regular perfect of the intransitive (5.31 b). The intransitive sein-construction in (5.31 c) is probably best analysed as the Zustandspassiv (see Sec­tion 10.5.16) of the transitive (5.31 a). The temporal structure of the two intransitive participle constructions agrees with this proposal. As argued in Sec­tion 10.2.6, the Zustandspassiv is result-oriented and as such not compatible with gradual time specification, like schrittweise ‘gradually’ (5.31 c,d). Note that the adverbial schrittweise would be possible in the ist begonnen worden construction. However, though superficially similar, that is clearly a different construction (see Sec­tion 10.5.16 for a detailed discussion).

(5.31) a. Er beginnt den Krieg.
b. Der Krieg beginnt.
c. Der Krieg ist (*schrittweise) begonnen.
d. Der Krieg hat (schrittweise) begonnen.

Attested verbs

Further examples


[5.51] A causative reading seems to be available with duschen ‘to take a shower’ (5.32 a). With an accusative this verbs means ‘to give someone else a shower’ (5.32 b). However, both intransitive perfekt auxiliaries haben and sein are possible (5.32 c,d), so I classify this alternation here with the anticausatives (and not with the causatives). A parallel situation arises with baden ‘to bathe’.

(5.32) a. Ich dusche.
b. Ich dusche den Elefanten.
c. Ich habe geduscht.
d. Der Elefant ist geduscht.

[5.52] The verb abnehmen is possibly better analysed as two different lexemes, either with the meaning ‘to take away’ (5.33 a) or ‘to reduce’ (5.33 b).

(5.33) a. Ich habe (dir) den Ausweis abgenommen.
Der Ausweis ist (dir) abgenommen.
b. Der Regen hat abgenommen.

[5.53] Similarly, the verb anhalten has two different meanings. In the meaning ‘to stop’ this verb can clearly be used both transitively and intransitively with a haben-Perfekt (5.34 a). However, the sein-Zustandspassiv is not possible (5.34 b). The lexeme anhalten has another meaning, viz. ‘to admonish’ which does allow for a sein-Zustandspassiv (5.34 c), but not for an intransitive haben-Perfekt.

(5.34) a. Ich habe den Bus angehalten.
Der Bus hat angehalten.
b. * Der Bus ist angehalten.
c. Ich habe meinen Sohn angehalten, pünktlich zu sein.
Mein Sohn ist angehalten, pünktlich zu sein.

[5.54] The verbs öffnen ‘to open’ and schließen ‘to close’ appear here in a special usage, for example when related to the opening and closing of a Laden ‘shop’ (5.35 a). In that context an unmarked anticausative can be used (5.35 b). In contrast, with other objects like Tür ‘door’ (5.35 c) the anticausative needs an obligatory reflexive pronoun (5.35 d), see Sec­tion 7.5.2. The exact conditions governing this difference need more research.

(5.35) a. Der Mitarbeiter öffnet den Laden.
Der Laden ist geöffnet.
b. Der Laden öffnet.
Der Laden hat geöffnet.
c. Er öffnet die Tür.
Die Tür ist geöffnet.
d. Die Tür öffnet sich.
Die Tür hat sich geöffnet

5.5.6 obj › sbj › ø : [ NAD | –ND ] haben anticausative+dative

[5.55] The verb anhängen literally (but not commonly) means ‘to attach to’ (5.36 a). However, more widespread is the metaphorical extension with a meaning of ‘to put a burden on somebody’ with the ‘somebody’ encoded in the dative case (5.36 b). In this meaning it can be used intransitively (5.36 c) and the dative cannot be dropped (5.36 d). Note that there is variation in the form of the participle (angehängt vs. angehangen), which is a vestige of causative morphology (see paragraph 6.56). Also note that the auxiliary sein does not seem to be possible in the intransitive (5.36 e), so this verb does not align with other vestiges of causative morphology in German (see Sec­tion 5.6.3).

(5.36) a. Das ist der Titel einer Abhandlung, die er dem “ABC der Anschauung” angehängt hat. dwds: Blättner, Fritz: Geschichte der Pädagogik, Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer 1961 [1951], S. 202.
b. Ich habe meinem Widersacher einen Prozess angehängt.
c. Er hat einer Illusion angehangen.
d. * Ich habe angehangen.
e. * Er ist einer Illusion angehangen.

Attested verbs

5.6 Diatheses with promotion to subject

5.6.1 ø › sbj : [ – | N ] Weather agents

[5.56] With some weather verbs like wehen ‘to be windy’ it seems to be semantically rather obvious that the addition of an agent (5.37 b) is an extension of a basically avalent verb (5.37 a). However, formally there is no difference between an unmark­ed “nominative addition” as discussed in this section and an unmarked “nominative drop” as discussed in Sec­tion 5.5.1. One possible avenue to distinguish these two classes is to consider the range of possible nominative agents. For verbs like wehen there appears to be only a small closed class of options for the nominative.

(5.37) a. Es weht.
b. Der Wind weht.

[5.57] Such additions of an agent like with wehen appear to be rare. It is crucial to distinguish agent-like subjects that are the originators of the phenomenon expressed by the verb, like Wind ‘wind’ in (5.37 b), from patient-like subjects that are propelled by the phenomenon, like Blätter ‘leaves’ (5.38 a). These patient-like nominatives can be easily identified because a location phrase is necessary (5.38 b). These constructions are discussed in Sec­tion 6.8.2. Another diathesis adding arguments to weather verbs is the addition of objects, discussed in Sec­tion 5.8.2.

(5.38) a. Die Blätter wehen durch die Luft.
b. * Die Blätter wehen.

Attested verbs

Further examples

5.6.2 ø › sbj › obj : [ –N | NA ] sein causative

[5.58] A typical causative verb like zerbrechen ‘to break’ allows for both an intransitive (5.39 a) and a transitive construction (5.39 d), in which the participant in the intransitive nominative (here Krug ‘jar’) is the same as the participant in the transitive accusative.

(5.39) a. Der Krug zerbricht.
b. Der Krug ist zerbrochen.
c. * Der Krug hat zerbrochen.
d. Der Junge zerbricht den Krug.

[5.59] The crucial characteristic of the causative verbs discussed in this section is that they only allow for a perfect with sein in the intransitive (5.39 b,c). This differentiates these verbs from verbs like kochen ‘to cook’ that allow for both haben and sein in the intransitive perfect (5.40). I propose to analyse verbs like zerbrechen with only sein in the intransitive as causatives (this section), while verbs like kochen with both haben and sein in the intransitive are classified as anticausatives (see Sec­tion 5.5.5).

(5.40) a. Der Kaffee kocht.
b. Der Kaffee ist gekocht.
c. Der Kaffee hat gekocht.
d. Der Junge kocht den Kaffee.

[5.60] Note that the intransitive perfekt with sein is strongly reminiscent of an anticausative construction known in German linguistics as the Zustandspassiv (see Sec­tion 10.5.16). However, that construction is available for a much larger group of predicates like bauen ‘to build’ (5.41). Crucially different from zerbrechen, a verb like bauen does not allow for the anticausative to occur in the present tense (7.117 a). The resulting three classes of verbs can be distinguished by comparing the grammaticality judgements of the four constructions listed here for the verbs zerbrechen (5.39), kochen (5.40) and bauen (5.41).

(5.41) a. * Das Haus baut.
b. Das Haus ist gebaut.
c. * Das Haus hat gebaut.
d. Der Junge baut ein Haus.

[5.61] Although there is no overt derivational direction in German between an unmarked anticausative like kochen and an unmarked causative like zerbrechen, there are a few indications substantiating this analysis. First, many verbs with only sein in the intransitive have preverbs like zer‑ and such preverbal derivations are typically causatives, resulting in transitive constructions (see Chapter 8 on preverbal diatheses). Crucially, almost all verbs in the current causative class are attested both with and without preverb with often only minimal differences in meaning, e.g. compare brechen ‘to break’ in (5.42) with zerbrechen ‘to break’ in (5.40).

(5.42) a. Der Stock bricht.
b. Ich breche den Stock.
c. Der Stock ist gebrochen.
d. * Der Stock hat gebrochen.

[5.62] Second, there are very many (though not exclusively) verbs denoting natural processes in this class, like altern ‘to age’ or verderben ‘to rot’, which can be argued semantically to be basically intransitive.

Attested verbs

Further examples