LINGUIST List 11.2688

Tue Dec 12 2000

Sum: Preposition Stranding in German

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. C.F. Hempelmann, Prepositions/German

Message 1: Prepositions/German

Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2000 19:03:26 -0500
From: C.F. Hempelmann <>
Subject: Prepositions/German

Dear Listmembers,

This is the summary to my request for information on stranded 
prepositions in northern German dialects, posted on Mon, 20 Nov 2000 
( It incorporates the 
helpful information from the colleagues listed below and acknowledged 
in parentheses with a (*).

The question I raised boils down to why (1c) is ungrammatical in 
standard German, but acceptable in several predominantly northern, 
low German (*Reese), but also southern dialects (*Fletcher, Menzel, 
Schmirler) and common in Dutch (*Brand, Fletcher, Reese) and 
Plattdeutsch (which I know passively through my parents):
(1) a. Ich weiss nichts davon.
 I know nothing that-of
 b. Davon weiss ich nichts t. (standard)
 c. Da weiss ich nichts von. (dialectal)

While PPs are islands, the pronominal adverbs/prepositional 
contractions (pro-PPs) like "davon," "damit" make extraction of the 
[-case] expletive pronoun "da(r)" possible. It is an R-pronoun in 
Riemsdijk's terms (1978), for which this "escape hatch" is open.

Here is a range of examples, illustrating the issue at hand and 
related phenomena:
(2) a. Es ist die Rede [PP von der Sache ] standard
 It is the talk of the thing
 This thing is being talked about
 b. Es ist die Rede [PP davon ]	 standard
 It is the talk that-of
 This is being talked about
 c. Es ist davon die Rede [PP t ]	 standard
 d. Davon ist die Rede [PP t ]	 standard
 e. Da ist die Rede [PP davon ]	 southern/northern
 f. Da davon ist die Rede. southern
 g. Da ist die Rede [PP t von ]	 northern
 h. Da ist t von die Rede [PP t ] northern
In view of this I side with (*Schmirler): "komisch kommt mir nun die 
standardform vor [now the standard form looks odd to me]."
Another possibly related issue are splitable prepositional verbs, 
like "anerkennen" (*Koller).

According to Hornstein and Weinberg (1981) the complement which the 
preposition subcategorizes for is reanalyzed as a standard object of 
the verb, which in turn is reanalyzed to simply incorporate the 
seemingly stranded preposition: The expletive pronoun is free to go.

What makes the partial extraction possible for Klumpp (1997) is that 
the prepositions are rather to be understood as adverbs and as such 
enjoy a much larger range for movement.

Oppenrieder's (1991) is an interesting approach (not least because 
his examples are by J�rgen von der Manger) based on the assumption 
that the so-called stranded prepositions are rather remnants of the 
following doubling construction with subsequent (optional) deletion 
of the basis of the doubling (*Menzel).
(3) a. da will ich nichts davon h�ren
 b. da will ich nichts t von h�ren

M�ller (2000) touches on the issue in his optimality-theory based 
approach to explain the pro-PPs as a repair method for the 
"Wackernagel-Ross dilemma." They can occupy the preferred position in 
the sentence because they are "weaker" than other pronominal 
constructions. Variation between standard and non-standard German can 
be explained by different, but related, hierarchies of constraints.

The following colleagues provided me with valuable input and 
interesting questions:

Mark Brand
Eva Breindl
William H. Fletcher
Veronika Koller
Peter Menzel
Johannes Reese
Karl Reinhardt
Klaus Schmirler

These sources are a good starting point to work on such constructions 
(special thanks to Eva Breindl who pointed me to her bibliographic 
database on prepositions at and to most 
of the following):

Hornstein, Norbert and Amy Weinberg. 1981. "Case Theory and 
Preposition Stranding." Linguistic Inquiry 12: 55-91.

Klumpp, Franziska. 1997. "Zu den Ursachen der Ungrammatikalit�t von 
Pr�positionsstranden im Deutschen." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 
98/2: 147-159.

M�ller, Gereon.2000. "Das Pronominaladverb als Reparaturph�nomen." 
Linguistische Berichte 182: 139-178.

Oppenrieder, Wilhelm. 1991. "Preposition Stranding im Deutschen? - Da 
will ich nichts von h�ren!" In: Fanselow, Gisbert and Sascha Felix. 
Eds. Strukturen und Merkmale Syntaktischer Kategorien. T�bingen: 
Narr: 159-173.

Riemsdijk, Henk C. van. 1978. A Case Study in Syntactic Markedness: 
the Binding Nature of Prepositional Phrases. Lisse: The Peter de 
Ridder Press.

Thanks again for the help. I will continue working on the issue and 
will be glad to share thoughts individually,

Christian F. Hempelmann
Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics
Purdue University
Heavilon Hall
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue