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  • Complex predicates: Verbal complexes, resultative constructions, and particle verbs in German
  • Kordula De Kuthy
Complex predicates: Verbal complexes, resultative constructions, and particle verbs in German. By Stefan Müller. (Studies in constraint-based lexicalism.) Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 2002. Pp. 468. ISBN 1575863863. $35.

Stefan Müller's book is an important and ambitious contribution to the growing body of work on complex predicates in theoretical linguistics. He investigates a range of syntactic phenomena in German, among them verbal complexes, passive constructions, subject and object predicatives, depictive secondary predicates, resultative secondary predicates, and particle verbs. For each of these phenomena, M provides a detailed empirical discussion aimed at showcasing why the phenomenon is best analyzed as a complex predicate. The framework in which the resulting theory of complex predicates is formulated is head-driven phrase structure grammar (HPSG, Pollard & Sag 1994), a framework that is well suited for formalizing comprehensive linguistic proposals in a way making verifiable empirical predictions. The book is transparently organized [End Page 888] and includes a brief introduction to the relevant aspects of the HPSG framework, which makes the linguistic analyses presented in the book accessible to a general linguistic audience.

A feature of the book that sets it apart from other theoretical linguistic discussions of complex predicates is the extensive use of naturally occurring data. The examples characterizing the phenomena and showcasing specific analytical issues are for the most part drawn from the German newspaper Taz, die tageszeitung, as well as from various other corpora, including the COSMAS corpus of the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS). While the use of real-life corpus data for syntactic research has clear advantages (cf. Meurers 2005, Meurers & Müller 2008), such as providing access to rich variation in potentially relevant language properties, it also points to one potential weakness of the presentation in this book. While M provides translations for all of the German example sentences, word-by-word glossing and detailed example discussions are only provided for selected, shorter examples. To be able to make full use of the corpus examples, to identify where exactly they illustrate which linguistic issue, readers thus need a working knowledge of German.

Turning to the overview of the book, Ch. 1, 'Background: The German sentence structure and its HPSG analysis', contains the already-mentioned introduction to the key concepts of the HPSG framework, with specific attention to the comprehensive HPSG fragment for German developed in Müller 1999. The chapter focuses on how different types of phrases are licensed, before turning to aspects specific to licensing the sentence types of German (verb-final vs. verb-initial and verb-second). It also includes excursions into related topics, such as the theory of case assignment and the underlying order of arguments in verbal projections.

Ch. 2, 'The predicate complex, control, and raising', provides an introduction to the core analytical issues in complex predicate phenomena. While the book unfortunately does not contain a concise characterization of what the author considers the defining properties of complex predicates, Ch. 2 gives the reader a general idea by discussing the key properties of the German verbal complex. Based on the lexical distinctions pioneered by Bech (1955), M analyzes coherently constructing verbs as forming a head cluster consisting only of the verb and the head of its verbal complement. This complex predicate then combines with the other arguments of the two heads. Inspired by analyses in categorial grammar, Hinrichs and Nakazawa (1989) proposed to license such head cluster formation by specifying the lexical entries of coherent verbs to raise the arguments of their verbal complement. This general argument-raising analysis has been successfully applied to a wide range of phenomena, from restructuring verbs in Romance (Monachesi 1999, Abeillé & Godard 2002) to partial constituent fronting in German (De Kuthy & Meurers 2001). In this book M shows how to extend the analytical reach of argument raising as a lexical specification to additional phenomena, all of whichMthus includes under the heading of complex predicates and discusses in the following chapters.

Ch. 3 discusses passive constructions in German, which M analyzes as a complex predicate consisting of a participle and a passive auxiliary. Viewed in terms of the argument...


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