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Review of  Complex Predicates

Reviewer: Miguel Ayerbe Linares
Book Title: Complex Predicates
Book Author: Stefan Müller
Publisher: CSLI Publications
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): German
Issue Number: 14.3283

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Müller, Stefan (2002) Complex Predicates: Verbal Complexes,
Resultative Constructions, and Particle Verbs in German, CSLI
Publications, Studies in Constraint-Based Lexicalism.

Announced at

Miguel Ayerbe Linares, Faculty of Philology,
University of the Basque Country (Spain).

This book is a monograph study of the so-called Complex Predicates in
German. In it the author examines linguistic phenomena such as
auxiliary + verb combinations in future, perfect and passive
constructions, causative constructions, subject and object
predicatives, resultative constructions, and finally particle + verb
constructions. As the author himself claims in the introduction of the
book these constructions are studied based on a broad empirical basis,
with data drawn from different sources like German newspapers (taz,
Süddeutsche Zeitung, and others), magazines (Der Spiegel, zitty),
novels and scientific texts on linguistics. The author has also used
data from electronic corpora such as the COSMAS Corpus, provided by
the Institut für Deutsche Sprache in Mannheim, the NEGRA Corpus,
annotated by the Computational Linguistics Department in
Saarbrücken, and the VERBmobil Corpus which consists of some CD-ROMs
of spoken language. The way in which the analyses are carried out are
formulated within the framework of Head-Driven Phrase Structure
Grammar (HPSG).

The book is divided into the following chapters:

Introduction (pp. vii-xiii)
1)Background: The German Sentence Structure (pp. 1-36)
2)The Predicate Complex, Control, and Raising (pp. 37-115)
3)Passive (pp.117-172)
4)Depictive Secondary Predicates (pp. 173-207)
5)Resultative Secondary Predicates (pp. 209-251)
6)Particle Verbs (pp. 253-390)
7)A Comparison with Other Approaches to Complex Predicates
(pp. 391-408)
8)Summary (pp. 409-410)
References, Expression Index, Reverse Expression Index,
Name Index and Subject Index

In the Introduction, Müller mentions the aim of his book and the
various phenomena (already mentioned at the beginning) he is going to
examine: that some constructions should be considered and treated as
Complex Predicates.

This part of the book is somewhat short but at the same time very well
organized, since it presents -in general terms- not only the purpose
of the author but also the way in which he is going to carry out the
analysis, the sources from which he draws the data, and the extent to
which previous studies have dealt with the object of his analysis and
the results they have reached. In this sense, Müller describes
through several subsections what each chapter focuses on, the
structure and the method he intends to follow in his analyses. In
another subsection he also mentions the Corpora that he has used for
his study, providing the electronic links.

By describing the matter of each chapter the author points out the
complexity of Particle Verbs (chapter 6) because of the controversy
reflected in scientific discussions over the last decades. Müller
tackles the question of whether Particle Verbs as combinations are
single morphological objects or whether they must be considered to be
the result of a syntactic process. According to him the discussion
about the combination of verbs with particles has become very
complicated, and in spite of previous studies there are some claims
that remain unclear or are wrong, for instance, that particles cannot
be fronted nor modified. He states that a broad empirical study will
prove that claims like this are wrong.

The Introduction ends with a subsection in which the author expresses
his acknowledgments to concrete persons and to his employer for their
help, stimulating discussion, and opportunities to present his ideas
in several events. At this point the author mentions the places where
he has presented some issues and ideas dealt with in this book.

In chapter one Müller widely describes the German sentence
structure, focusing on the analysis of verb placement in German. In
this way he introduces what he calls the topological fields model in
order to describe the structure of the German clause. This
classification is made according to the position of the finite verb in
the sentence: a) final position, b) initial position, and finally c)
verb- second position.

He also discusses the notion of sentence bracket that allows to divide
the German sentence in the so-called parts: Vorfeld ('initial field'),
Mittelfield ('middle field'), and Nachfield ('final field'). With the
aid of several sentences he explain how each one of these topological
fields are usually filled in the German sentence.

After this description Müller introduces the version of the
Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) that he is going to assume
throughout the book. He describes HPSG as a theory in the sense of
Saussure (1915), consisting of linguistic signs building form/meaning
pairs. After introducing the HPSG and its key concepts, he then turns
to the analysis of German sentence patterns from this new
perspective. In this analysis he describes the syntactic relations
between heads and their dependents.

Chapter two could be divided into the two following main subsections:
the first one is devoted to the description of notions such as verbal
complexes, coherent and incoherent constructions and their
analysis. For this purpose Müller refers to Bech (1955) concerning
non-finite verbs in German. After introducing the phenomena and its
terminology following Bech, the author deals with the so-called
'Tests of coherence' in order to distinguish between coherent and
incoherent constructions in German: a) Scope of adjuncts, b)
Permutation in 'middle field', c) Intraposition, d) Extraposition, and
e) Fronting. He also applies these tests to the German sentence in
order to show how coherent and incoherent constructions can be
distinguished from each other in this language.

But this is not the only goal of the chapter. Müller also discusses
the distinction between 'control verbs' and 'raising verbs' in
German. According to him the main difference between them is that
control verbs have an argument that is assigned a semantic role by the
control verb and that is coreferent with the subject of the embedded
predicate, whereas raising verbs do not assign a thematic role to an
argument of the embedded predicate (p. 46). Müller demonstrates
this by analysing the sentence: 'weil Karl zu schlafen versucht'
('because Karl tries to sleep'). As it can be seen, the subject of the
German verb 'versuchen' ('try')is assigned a semantic role and at the
same time it is coreferent with that of the embedded verb 'schlafen'
('sleep'). Nevertheless this is not the case of verbs like scheinen
('seem'), because scheinen does not assign a role to its subject.

Chapter three deals with the formation of Passive in German. Müller
begins with the description of the two main kinds of Passive in
German: the agentive Passive ('Vorgangspassive' in German) and the
stative Passive ('Zustandspassiv'), the former being formed with the
verb 'werden' and the latter with the verb 'sein'. At this point it
must be said that this initial description by Müller is extremely
useful because such a distinction is very important in German. It is
only the terminology used in this study that is not satisfactory to a
certain extent. There is no problem with speaking of 'stative
Passive' when dealing with constructions formed with the verb 'sein'
('to be'), but it is the term 'agentive' when speaking of passive
constructions using the verb 'werden' that is not adequate since the
main reason for distinguishing in German between both kinds of Passive
depends upon regarding the verb action either as one in progress (with
'werden') or as one already finished (with 'sein'). Therefore it would
be better to speak of 'progressive Passive' rather than of 'agentive

Having introduced these two main kinds of Passive in German the author
discusses the reasons for using the Passive, for instance the fact
that the subject of the verb action may be of little
relevance. Müller also discusses the formation of Passive with verbs
that do not select an accusative as object. This is the case of verbs
like 'helfen' ('help'), 'dienen' ('serve'), that govern a dative
object instead of an accusative one -in the active voice- which
remains dative in the passive construction, as it can be seen in the
sentence: 'Die Frau hilft dem Mann' ('the woman helps the man') to
'Dem Mann wird geholfen' ('the man is being geholfen'). Though not
mentioned by Müller there are also verbs in German that govern a
genitive object, like 'gedenken' ('remember') in sentences like 'Wir
gedenken des Toten' ('we remember the Dead') to 'Des Toten wird
gedacht' ('the Dead is being remembered'). When dealing with the
Passive in German Müller distinguishes between personal Passive
(cases where the verb has an accusative object that is realized as
nominative or promoted to subject in the Passive voice) and impersonal
Passive (cases where the verb in the active voice does not govern an
accusative object). Therefore there is no nominative argument because
neither the dative nor the genitive object are realized as nominative
in the Passive so that the Passive construction in each case remains

After describing the Passive in German Müller discusses several
variants of the Passive, such as the agentive, stative, dative,
'lassen' Passive and modal infinitive with 'sein' as
auxiliary. Müller claims that the analysis of the German Passive
interacts with that of predicative constructions (in the previous
chapter) and that it is very important in the context of resultative
constructions which are dealt with in chapter five.

Chapters four and five are devoted to the analysis of Secondary
Predication. Here Müller distinguishes between Depictive Secondary
Predicates and Resultative Secondary Predicates. The distinction lies,
according to Müller (p. 173), in whether the Secondary Predicate
provides information about the state of the entity it refers to
(Depictive) or about the result of a verb action (Resultative). After
presenting this distinction Müller claims that Depictive Secondary
Predicates have to be analyzed as adjuncts whereas Resultative
Secondary Predicates are, on the one hand, part of a predicate complex
and, on the other hand, form a complex predicate with the matrix verb.

By analyzing the Resultative Secondary Predicates (Chapter 5) Müller
points out another important difference between Depictive and
Resultative Secondary Predicates: while Iteration -i.e. to have more
than one predicate per verb- is possible in the former it is
impossible in the latter. In other words, there can be at most one
(resultative) predicate per base verb.

Chapter six deals with the so-called Particle Verbs and it is the
largest one in the book. Nevertheless it must be said that the
extension of the Chapter is perfectly justified due to the nature of
these verb constructions and to the excellent way in which the author
analyzes them. For these reasons, especially for the last one, this
chapter is doubtless easily understandable to the reader.

In it Müller claims that Particle verbs should also be analyzed as
Predicate Complex since their syntactic properties resemble those of
constructions analyzed in previous chapters. Here the author describes
what a Particle verb is and the different kinds of particles that may
appear with the base verb.

In general terms it must be said that Müller provides here a very
useful study of German Complex Predicates, and there are several
reasons that reinforce this consideration: it is not only the fact
that the book is written in English but also the fact that Müller
always introduces to the reader the item he is going to analyze. This
makes the understanding of German Predicate Structure much easier for
readers who do not have any previous knowledge of this language. In
other words, when Müller talks about, for instance, Particle Verbs
he begins with an introduction into the very basic concept of what a
Particle Verb is in German.

Another good point of this book is the fact that the author always
supplies the reader with the English translation of the German
examples he analyzes. And he does so in two ways: firstly the
word-for-word translation and then the idiomatic version in English,
according to English syntax.

Another good advantage of this book is the fact that the author always
provides the English translation of the German examples, he
analyzes. And he does it in two ways: firstly the word for word
translation and then the logical version in English, according to the
normal English syntax.

One is aware of the relevance one of the issues -the Particle Verbs-
has in the book, as Müller himself seems to justify the fact of
beginning this study with the description of verb placement in German
by stressing its importance when discussing Particle Verb
constructions (see page 1 and also the number of pages devoted to
it). This can be considered to be a second call to the reader in order
to draw their attention to this sort of verb combination, after
referring to its complexity already in the introduction of the book.

At this point it can be said that the structure of the book is very
well organized. The chapters are rightly connected to each other since
the first ones are presented as an introduction to the last ones. So
one can understand why the Particle Verbs are analyzed at the last
place: once the reader has understood and analyzed other well-known
sorts of Complex Predicates, one can understand why Particle Verbs can
also be considered and treated as Complex Predicates.

Due to the structure of the book and to the way in which Müller
carries out the analysis of Complex Predicates in German, this book is
highly recommendable for scholars of German Linguistics, especially
for those who are working on verb constructions in German.


Saussure, Ferdinand de (1915) Grundfragen der allgemeinen
Sprachwissenschaft, Walter de Gruyter & Co.

Bech, Gunner (1955) Studien über das deutsche Verbum infinitum, Max
Niemeyer Verlag, Historisk-filologiske Meddekekser udgivet af Det
Kongelike Danske Videnskabernes Selskab 35/36.

The reviewer works at the Department of English and German
Philology at the University of the Basque Country (Spain).
He has studied German Philology in Seville, Cologne and
Munich. His research interests include the historical
development of Germanic languages and historical mutual
influences between Germanic and Romance languages,
especially in their oldest stages, from the perspective of
Areal Linguistics.