Morder of vs. Mord an (German), moord op (Dutch)

ThomasK

Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I am just wondering whether German and Dutch have something special here as they do not use a genitive.

I think these are current combinations : a V (with or without a prefix), something like commit + N [with or without name of the victim] i

They murdered Kennedy/ People witnessed the murder of Kennedy/ Someone committed the murder *of Kennedy?
? Sie haben K ermordet/ Viele waren Zeugen des Mordes an K/Jemand had den Mord/ Attentat *an Kennedy verübt
Ze hebben K vermoord/ Velen ware getuige van de moord op K/ Iemand heeft de moord (aanslag) op K gepleegd.
The English version seems normal: V + DO turns in N + of + N.

Not in German and Dutch however. In those languages we suddenly see an and op (on) turn up, wheres they do not turn up after verbs.

Of course both GER and DUT translate to murder as PREFIX + V-murder. is there any rationale for why the prefix has been found necessary? And does that rationale account for the "unexpected" an/ op?

Can someone enlighten me on this?
 
  • Frank78

    Senior Member
    German
    Well, in German there is "morden" and "ermorden". The former is intransitiv (the victim does not get mentioned) "Er mordet seit Jahren in der Stadt". It's just the act of murdering while "ermorden" is always "to murder someone"

    There's also the genitiv possible:

    "Kennedys Mord" = Kennedy's murder (?), i.e. it means Kennedy is the murderer
    "Kennedys Ermordung" = the murder of Kennedy
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Indeed, quite right, interesting additions. Most relevant might be that intransive morden/moorden exists indeed, in all three West Germanic languages --- whereas think that the intransitive verb is fairly uncommon as for the use. I mainly find a sentence like Why does a mass murderer murder? But quite right: it does exist.

    Now we know true that an intransive verb cannot be nominalised using van/of/ Genitiv, I think. That might explain that whenever an object is to be added one has to resort to a real (...) preposition like Mord an, moord op. i guess that can only happen when the verb implicity requires an object: murdering implies a victim, ...

    But so far I cannot see more such unexpected N + Prep combinations. in The hope for for example is based on the V+ Prep Object construction [don't know whether this is the best wording]...





     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I must confess that if it wasn't for Frank78, I wouldn't have understood what you were asking about.

    Your question is the subject of a 2011 article by Bernard Comrie entitled Action nominals between verbs and nouns. The article demonstrates that not only is the internal argument structure (how the agent, patient, instrument etc. are expressed) of related verbs and nouns separate (though related), but also that action nouns may have a whole separate argument structure of their own, distinct from that of either verbs or pure nouns.

    English is cross-linguistically peculiar in having two genitive positions in action nouns: a pre-nominal one (Comrie calls it Saxon), and a post-nominal one (Norman). When the two are combined, the pre-nominal genitive corresponds to the verbal subject and the post-nominal to the verbal object:
    the enemy’s destruction of the city (was a major setback) <=> the enemy destroyed the city.

    When only one is used, ambiguity is possible in some cases, so that both positions will normally correspond to the object in
    the pianist's execution ~ the execution of the pianist
    as opposed to​
    the pianist's execution of the sonata.

    An object of-phrase is obligatory for a subject to appear in prenominal position, and the subject can never be expressed in an of-phrase:​
    the execution of the pianist (of the sonata) :cross:

    If this wasn't enough, English gerunds have a whole different type of syntax that mirrors a verbal direct object without any preposition, and even the subject may be left unmarked:
    the enemy(’s) destroying the city (was a major setback).

    In German, Comrie says, the pre-verbal subject Genitive is mostly limited to pronouns and personal names:
    ihre Erziehung der Kinder <=> sie erzieht die Kinder
    but to me, filling both positions with hightly animate entities already sounds off, but my German knowledge has been passive for a long time now so natives' comments are welcome:​
    Marias Erziehung der Kinder :thumbsup:/:thumbsdown:?​
    Czech uses possessive adjectives as subject genitives:
    Leninova kritika mylných názorů “Lenin's critique of erroneous views”.​
    In modern Russian this sounds old-fashioned, and a less possessive, more relative-adjectival form would be used: Лениновская.

    The choice of preposition with nominals in German at first might seem unpredictable:
    • der Angriff auf die Armee <=> die Armee angriffen
    • das Bedauern über den Fehler <=> die Fehler bedauern
    • die Beziehung zu seinem Lehrer <=> Ø
    • seine Liebe zu/für Maria <=> Maria lieben
    but actually there appear to be clear patterns of semantically connected nouns taking the same preposition:​
    Gefühl für, Begeisterung für, Leidenschaft für vs. Freundschaft zu, Beziehung zu, Bindung zu.

    This suggests that the choice of preposition isn't lexically specified but semantically derived.
     
    Last edited:

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    (I am not surprised after your "confession", as I seem to have a peculiar way of asking questions, but I wonder where things go wrong in my wording. It might be helpful to know. Thanks in advance! In part it might be due to the fact that I am longer currently involved with contemporary linguistics...)

    But indeed, it is about actions, and
    The choice of preposition with nominals in German at first might seem unpredictable:
    • der Angriff auf die Armee <=> die Armee angriffen
    • das Bedauern über den Fehler <=> die Fehler bedauern
    • die Beziehung zu seinem Lehrer <=> Ø
    • seine Liebe zu/für Maria <=> Maria lieben
    but actually there appear to be clear patterns of semantically connected nouns taking the same preposition:​
    Gefühl für, Begeisterung für, Leidenschaft für vs. Freundschaft zu, Beziehung zu, Bindung zu.

    This suggests that the choice of preposition isn't lexically specified but semantically derived.
    This is indeed the key aspect and I am pleased to find out that the choice of preposition is semantically derived. I am just wondering about "lexically specified": that would imply that the preposition must have been mentioned in a dictionary, I guess.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    (I am not surprised after your "confession", as I seem to have a peculiar way of asking questions, but I wonder where things go wrong in my wording. It might be helpful to know. Thanks in advance! In part it might be due to the fact that I am longer currently involved with contemporary linguistics...)
    The way you express things here seems particularly cryptic and difficult to follow; this has to do both with the language and the formatting. First I got confused by this:
    I think these are current combinations : a V (with or without a prefix), something like commit + N [with or without name of the victim] i
    This seems like you wanted to list the combinations in grammatical notation, but after describing one decided to list them via examples instead; it doesn't look like you even finished the sentence. Then you add the phrase “The English version seems normal: V + DO turns in N + of + N.” to the list of examples, but now it's in grammatical notation again instead of an example. Then you start the next paragraph with “Not in German and Dutch however.” which suggests that this “English version” phrase belongs to that paragraph and not to the list of examples. Then you say that an/op “do not turn up after verbs” when in fact there are many verbs after which they appear; they don't appear after the verbs you've listed, so there should be at least a definite article in “after the verbs”, but better “after the same verbs”.

    Then you say “GER and DUT translate to murder as PREFIX + V-murder.”, at which point I was unsure whether you really meant “prefix” or rather “preposition” because a prefixed verb is a single lexical item, it's not a PREFIX + V like a prepositional phrase is a PREP + N. A verbal prefix is not separate syntactically nor semantically; a prefixed verb is just a V.

    Then in the next message you say:
    But so far I cannot see more such unexpected N + Prep combinations. in The hope for for example is based on the V+ Prep Object construction
    I was confused by the fact that you suddenly switched from discussing German and Dutch, which show instances where the verb and the noun express the verbal object/thematic patient differently, to English, for which you offered no such examples and said that it behaved normally. I couldn't tell whether you were thinking about a German/Dutch verb but unconsciously translating your example into English.

    This is indeed the key aspect and I am pleased to find out that the choice of preposition is semantically derived. I am just wondering about "lexically specified": that would imply that the preposition must have been mentioned in a dictionary, I guess.
    In the mental dictionary. In linguistics, “lexicon” refers to the speaker's mental lexicon stored in their brain, while book dictionaries don't have direct access to people's brains and editing a dictionary is an arbitrary, descriptive process that cannot directly influence people's linguistic behaviour. Such a situation could be imagined after we achieve a brain-machine symbiosis, and editing a line of code could change what someone thinks, says or does.

    “Lexically specified” means that a lexical item, in our case a noun, is stored in the brain together with some grammatical information, for example its gender, number, its argument structure and the way it's syntactically expressed (also called valency). In this case it would mean that the preposition used to express the verbal object/thematic patient is specified in the brain for each noun, separately and entirely unpredictably. Needless to say, this is very inefficient, and if there's a way to do this differently one can bet that's how the brain would do it. Such a way would be to derive the preposition in real time based on semantic criteria, just how nouns and verbs are joined together largely in real time and depending on what makes sense, instead of the brain storing all the possible combinations of nouns and verbs, which is literally infinitite and literally impossible.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Very interesting to read. I can see your problem - or mine. After asking my question I had started checking what other aspects there were to be examined to arrive at an answer. I first listed three possibilities and then tried to generalize the three structures above - but I certainly missed some specific linguistic terms (like with prefixed V vs. Prefix + verbs). So I apologize for how I described or developed those things, i.e. describing while still exploring and thus complicating things. I might try to not analyse and describe at the same time...

    Lexicon/ lexically specified: thanks a lot for this specification. I did know about valency but please tell me also what theory "argument structure" refers to. Is it mainly "construction grammar"? That is one of the more recent theories that I have never studied in-depth whereas it does seem very interesting to me.

    Thanks again!
     

    OBrasilo

    Senior Member
    Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese
    ThomasK said:
    Of course both GER and DUT translate to murder as PREFIX + V-murder. is there any rationale for why the prefix has been found necessary? And does that rationale account for the "unexpected" an/ op?
    This construction exists in English as well - attempt on someone['s life] and in pretty much every other language. The only peculiarity in German is the extension of the construction to murder as well.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Very interesting to read. I can see your problem - or mine. After asking my question I had started checking what other aspects there were to be examined to arrive at an answer. I first listed three possibilities and then tried to generalize the three structures above - but I certainly missed some specific linguistic terms (like with prefixed V vs. Prefix + verbs). So I apologize for how I described or developed those things, i.e. describing while still exploring and thus complicating things. I might try to not analyse and describe at the same time...
    No problem, everyone struggles with clarity of expression from time to time but few people dare to admit that they struggle to understand someone's message or to suggest improvements, so I'm glad that my feedback has been of some use to you.
    Lexicon/ lexically specified: thanks a lot for this specification. I did know about valency but please tell me also what theory "argument structure" refers to. Is it mainly "construction grammar"? That is one of the more recent theories that I have never studied in-depth whereas it does seem very interesting to me.
    Argument Structure is just another term for Valency, “traditionally defined as the list of obligatory participants in a situation which receive syntactic expression.” These are “networks of features specifying mappings between syntactic form and semantic-pragmatic function”. It's a classical Generativist notion not limited to the more recent theories, though it does seem to be of particular interest to Construction Grammar.

    The term Valency however is way older, and can be expressed in traditional parts of speech like “this verb takes a subject, an object and an indirect object”, or “this verb is (di)transitive.” Argument Structure, on the other hand, is specifically linked to the notion of Thematic Roles or Theta Roles (θ-roles). A full schematic representation of these roles for a predicate is called a Theta Grid. See this PDF for a friendly enough outline.
    Thanks again!
    :thumbsup:
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Nostalgia is growing. I studied in Leuven twenty years after Chomsky's Syntactic Structures. The buzz was about Transformational Generative Grammar. However, Fillmore's Case Grammar attracted me more. And then I was introduced to Wim Van Calcar's Semantic Grammar, where he introduced me to syntactic valency. I'll have a better look at the PDF, but it looks promising. Thanks a lot!
     
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