Why a folder lies in the basket although it is not lying: The semantics and use of German positional verbs with inanimate Figures

Silvia Kutscher, Eva Schultze-Berndt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this paper we will investigate the meaning and use of positional verbs in colloquial Standard German. Positional verbs are defined as those verbs which may appear in the basic construction that functions as an answer to a where-question, the so-called Basic Locative Construction (BLC). Within this class of verbs, we focus on those positionals which are used to describe the configuration of inanimate movable objects. We will demonstrate that German exhibits the characteristics of a positional (or multiverb) language, i.e., a language that uses a comparatively large set of verbs in the BLC. The ten positionals used most frequently in our data are stehen stand, liegen lie, hngen hang, lehnen lean, stecken be in tight fit, be stuck, klemmen be stuck, be jammed, kleben stick by means of glue, haften adhere, schwimmen be afloat in liquid, and schweben be afloat. We will identify the conditions under which the positional verbs are used and provide a semantic characterization for each of them, paying particular attention to alternative categorizations, fuzzy boundaries and prototype effects. © Walter de Gruyter 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-1028
Number of pages45
JournalLinguistics
Volume45
Issue number5-6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007

Keywords

  • Spatial expressions
  • Positionals
  • Cognition
  • Linguistic Typology
  • German

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