German MIT

Thomas Hanke thhanke at GOOGLEMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 17 10:06:02 UTC 2009

Dear Wolfgang,

very interesting issue.
Sorry for the un-cross-linguistic comment, but I've got some
observations that complicate the German data.

1. For me, at least a direct postverbal position is ok, too.

Wir haben mit Eva eine wahre Freundin verloren.
Uns verließ mit Paul ein guter Freund.

This may still be an issue of topic, of course. I agree that "mit"
following the regular NP doesn't work – some kind of binding perhaps
at work? That fits with your idea about meronymy, too.
I'll be glad to get other native speakers' feedback, especially on the
second sentence, where "mit Paul" displaces the subject from its
regular position next to the inflected verb.

2. I'm not sure about the ergative constraint you proposed, either,
looking at the 'Paul left us' example with an accusative object.
Mit Paul hat uns ein guter Freund verlassen.

"Verlassen" may not be "very ergative", but the following examples
sound fine, too.

Mit Hans hat mich ein Weltmeister geschlagen.
'With Hans, a world champion beat/hit me.' (awkward English of course)
Uns hat mit Robert ein Spitzenkoch eingeladen.
'With Robert, a top cook invited us.' (awkward English of course)

Could this rather be an issue of (in)definiteness?
Your ungrammatical transitive example has definite "der Mann" as the A subject.

> *Mit ihm verlor [der Mann]:A seine Ehre.
>  with he:DAT lose:PAST:3SG DEF:MASC:NOM Mann his-FEM:ACC honor

A constructed example like the following sounds ok for myself.

Mit Napoleon verlor nicht nur ein Kaiser seine Ehre, sondern auch...
'With Napoleon lose:PST:3SG not only a:M:NOM emperor his.FEM.ACC
honor, but also...

All the best,

Thomas Hanke


Thomas Hanke
Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena
Berlin Utrecht Reciprocals Survey

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