Chapter published in:Reorganising Grammatical Variation: Diachronic studies in the retention, redistribution and refunctionalisation of linguistic variants
Edited by Antje Dammel, Matthias Eitelmann and Mirjam Schmuck
[Studies in Language Companion Series 203] 2018
► pp. 231–268
Manner of motion and semantic transitivity
A usage-based perspective on change and continuity in the system of the German perfect auxiliaries haben and sein
Based on a corpus of the major Old High German texts and a corpus of contemporary German newspapers, the paper shows that the German auxiliary system is characterised by both continuity and change. While transitivity proves to be a stable predictor of haben selection throughout German language history, auxiliary selection of intransitive verbs has been partly reorganised. At the expense of telicity, the sein perfect became productive within the intransitive group of manner of motion verbs. This reorganisation of the distributional contexts will be explained in terms of entrenchment. Based on several highly frequent motion verbs such as gehen ‘go’, an abstract schema has evolved which systematically connects manner of motion semantics and sein selection. However, semantic transitivity proves to be an antagonist to this recently entrenched manner of motion schema. Highly transitive manner of motion verbs disallow sein selection. The incidence of the haben perfect rises with increasing transitivity. Here, the patienthood of the direct object turns out to be crucial, with individuation being particularly important.
Keywords: auxiliary selection, semantic transitivity, entrenchment, usage-based approach
Published online: 24 October 2018
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