Alternations of German

Alternations
Alternation name Description Examples Verbs
C
y valency decreasing alternation. A prepositional object is deleted.
(148)
Ich verschicke die Briefe.
ich
1SG.NOM
ver-schick-e
APPL-send-1SG.PRS
die
DEF.PL.ACC
Brief-e
letter-PL(ACC)
‘I send out the letters.’
2
C
y valency transposing operation
The former prepositional object becomes a direct object. (And the direct object of the original sentence becomes a prepositional object or gets omitted.)
(59)
Wir bebauen den Boden mit Reihenhäusern.
wir
1PL.NOM
be-bau-en
APPL-build-1PL.PRS
den
DEF.M.ACC
Boden
land(ACC)
mit
with
Reihenhäus-er-n
non_detached.house\PL-PL-DAT
‘We build non-detached houses on the land.’
9
U
n The relevant verbs can drop all their arguments appart from the subject and thus, can be used in an intransitive frame. The meaning becomes somewhat generic.
(3)
Er isst.
er
3SG.M.NOM
isst
eat.3SG.PRS
‘He eats. / He is eating.’
14
U
n Valency decreasing. The patient of the transitive sentence becomes the single argument of the intransitive sentence. The agent of the transitive sentence is omitted. (This way the verb can be transitive and intransitive.)
(8)
Die Windel riecht.
die
DEF.F.NOM
Windel
diaper(NOM)
riech-t
smell-3SG.PRS
‘The diaper stinks.’
3
C
y The formerly dative marked recipient-like argument becomes a prepositional object instead and possibly turns into an adjunct.

The benefactive alternation (which introduces an additional dative object) is in many cases the starting point for this alternation. Where this is the case we pretend as if the Prepositional alternation (I) occurs never, but we sometimes still provide an example for this alternation.
(18)
Das Mädchen schickt Blumen an seine Großmutter.
das
DEF.N.NOM
Mädchen
girl(NOM)
schick-t
send-3SG.PRS
Blume-n
flower-PL(ACC)
an
to
sein-e
POSS.3SG-F.ACC
Großmutter
grandmother(ACC)
‘The girl sends flowers to her grandmother.’
3
C
y The patient of the transitive sentence becomes the single argument of the intransitive sentence. The agent can be added as an adjunct.
(13)
Die Wäsche wird gewaschen.
die
DEF.F.NOM
Wäsche
laundry(NOM)
wird
be.PASS.3SG
ge-wasch-en
PTCP-wash-PTCP
‘The laundry is beeing washed.’
51
U
n Valency increasing
The verb gets normally one single argument but a second argument (a direct obejct) can be added. The number of items that can fulfill the direct object position is very limited for every verb, which is able to undergo this alternation.
(30)
Das Mädchen singt ein Lied.
das
DEF.N.NOM
Mädchen
girl(NOM)
sing-t
sing-3SG.PRS
ein
INDEF.N.ACC
Lied
song(ACC)
‘The girl sings a song.’
4
C
y prepositional object of basic verb becomes obligatory accusative object in alternation
e.g.
um etwas kämpfen - etwas erkämpfen ('fight for sth.')
(78)
Der Patient erbittet eine Krankschreibung.
der
DEF.M.NOM
Patient
patient
er-bitte-t
IPRX-ask-3SG.PRS
ein-e
INDEF-F.ACC
Krankschreibung
medical.certificate
‘The patient asks for a medical certificate.’
1
C
y X -> P'
argument added (a former adjunct or non-obligatory prepositional object becomes a P)
P -> X'
The former accusative-marked patient becomes a non-obligatory prepositional object or gets omitted.
(99)
Die Großmutter bekocht die Kranke mit Suppe.
die
DEF.F.NOM
Großmutter
grandmother(NOM)
be-koch-t
APPL-cook-3SG.PRS
die
DEF.F.ACC
Kranke
sick.person
mit
with
Suppe
soup(DAT)
‘The grandmother cooks soup for the sick person.’
5
U
n valency increasing operation, additional argument gets marked with Dative
(60)
Der Musiker baut den Waisenkindern ein Haus.
der
DEF.M.NOM
Musiker
musician(NOM)
bau-t
build-3SG.PRS
den
DEF.PL.ACC
Waisenkind-er-n
orphan-PL-DAT
ein
INDEF.N.ACC
Haus
house(ACC)
‘The musician is building a house for the orphans.’
16
C
y The original agent is completely eliminated.
An object (direct or indirect) is now the subject and the verb gets reflexive. (In the 'true' reflexive alternation, the change from object to subject does not take place.)
Ex.
Ich oeffne den Vorhang --> Der Vorhang oeffnet sich.
(Middle alternation in English)
There may be more examples on another level (
Die Kartoffeln schaelen sich gut.) but normally one uses lassen (Die Kartoffeln lassen sich gut schaelen.)
(151)
Der Konzertsaal füllt sich.
der
DEF.M.NOM
Konzert-saal
concert-hall
füll-t
fill-3SG.PRS
sich
REFL.3SG
‘The concert hall fills up.’
1
U
n An instrumental adjunct (mit+NP) is promotet to subject position. The former adjunct is removed from the frame.
(82)
Der Reis füllt meinen Magen.
der
DEF.M.NOM
Reis
rice(NOM)
füll-t
fill-3SG.PRS
mein-en
POSS.1SG-ACC
Magen
stomach(ACC)
‘The rice fills my stomach.’
7
C
y
(164)
Es wird nach Gold gegraben.
es
EXPL
wird
PASS
nach
for
Gold
gold
ge-graben
PTCP-dig
‘The gold gets dug for.’
17
C
y
(168)
Der König war nicht angezogen.
der
DEF.M.SG.NOM
König
king.SG(NOM)
war
be.PST
nicht
NEG
angezogen
dress.PASS.PTCP
‘The king was not dressed.’
2