Edited by Ulrike Demske and Łukasz Jędrzejowski
[Journal of Historical Linguistics 5:1] 2015
► pp. 6–40
Towards coherent infinitival patterns in the history of German
According to Haider (2010), we have to distinguish three types of infinitival complements in Present-Day German: (i) CP complements, (ii) VP complements and (iii) verbal clusters. While CP complements give rise to biclausal structures, VP complements and verbal clusters indicate a monoclausal structure. Non-finite verbs in verbal clusters build a syntactic unit with the governing verb. It is only the last infinitival pattern that we address as a so-called coherent infinitival pattern, a notion introduced in the influential work of Bech (1955/57). Verbal clusters are bound to languages with an OV grammar, hence the well-known differences regarding infinitival syntax in German and English (Haider 2003, Bobaljik 2004). On the widespread assumption that German has been an OV language throughout its history (Axel 2007), we expect all three types of infinitival complements to be present from the earliest attestions of German.
This expectation, however, is not borne out. In the present article, I show that we find infinitival complements projecting either CPs or VPs in older stages of German, while verbal clusters turn out to be a quite recent phenomenon in the history of German, as already suggested in work by Askedal (1998), Demske (2008) and Maché & Abraham (2011). In line with current beliefs that German is underspecified regarding the direction of government in earlier stages of its historical development, I argue that the rise of verbal clusters is motivated by the increasing stabilization of an OV grammar since the 16th century.