German MIT

johanna.barddal at UIB.NO johanna.barddal at UIB.NO
Thu Dec 17 11:35:57 UTC 2009

Icelandic also has this construction:

Með Páli höfum við svo sannarlega misst góðan vin.
with paul have we so truly lost good friend

In fact, all the examples suggested so far this morning are ok in  
Icelandic, even the last two:

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

Við höfum með Evu misst sanna vinkonu.
we have with Eva lost true friend.f

Okkur yfirgaf með Páli mjög góður vinur.
us left with Paul very good friend

This last sentence would be better without the topicalization, as  
topicalizations are restricted in Icelandic.

I would certainly also use the label 'explicative' for examples of the  
following kind:

Með þessu yfirgaf hann veisluna.
with this left he party-the

where 'with this' can refer to whatever event referred to in the  
preceding discourse. The same goes for the following example:

Með þessu sendum við hana heim.
with this sent we her home

So Icelandic does not require an animate 'explicative' NP, nor that  
the subject is not A.


> Dear friends,
> during a lecture on German syntax, we came across the following
> problem: German makes use of a topic (?) construction that goes this
> way:
> /*Mit ihm *haben wir ein-en Freund verloren.
> /with  he:DAT have:PRES:1PL we INDEF-MASC:ACC friend lose:PPP
> I have difficulties to translate this into good English (my fault,
> sorry!): The meaning of the /mit-/NP is not instrumental or comitative,
> but  'identifying' or 'explicative' ('in terms of', or so), that is
> (here:) the anaphor is correferential with /Freund /(a paraphrase would
> perhaps be: 'We have lost him in terms of ~ being ~ as a friend').
> This pattern also works with names or (less obvious) with ordinary
> nouns, such as:
> /*Mit Eva* haben wir eine Freundin verloren.
> /'We have lost Eva in terms of a friend' (or so).
> /*Mit der Feldforschung *ist der erste Schritt gemacht.
> /'The first step has been taken in terms of fieldfwork' (or so).
> This construction seems to be dependent from placing the/ mit-/NP into
> the preverbal topic field, compare:
> /*Mit Paul *verließ uns ein Freund.
> /Paul left us in terms of a friend (or so)'.
> But (comitative reading):
> /Ein Freund verließ uns *mit Paul*
> /A friend left us (together) with Paul.'
> Interestingly enough, the /mit-/construction at issue shows an ergative
> distribution (S=O;A): As a far as I can see, we can use this
> 'identifying' strategy with NPs in S or O function only, but not in A
> function, compare:
> /Mit ihr  starb/ [/eine gute Freundin/]:*S*
> She died being a good friend (or so).
> /
> Mit ihr verlor ich/ [/eine gute Freund/]:*O*
> I have lost a good friend in terms of her (or so).'
> But not:
> */Mit ihm verlor/ [/der Mann/]:*A* /seine Ehre/.
> with he:DAT lose:PAST:3SG DEF:MASC:NOM Mann his-FEM:ACC honor
> My question now is whether some of you know about analogous
> constructions in other languages, and, if yes, which strategies are
> applied (including a possible constraint regarding
> accusativity/ergativity) . In German, the pattern seems to based on the
> extreme polysemy of the preposition /mit/, covering (among many others)
> a true instrumental, a comitative, and some kind of 'equipment'
> function. This equipment function (that is a comitative-like function
> used with non-animates) seems to be a possible candidate for the
> development of the  above-mentioned 'explicative' pattern, even though
> it strongly favors animate NPs. I also have the impression that the
> referent in the /mit/-NP stands in a meronymic relation with the
> 'correferential' expression in the second NP, but I'm not fully sure
> about that.
> Finally, I would be happy if you know of a better and more precise term
> for the function at issue.
> Many thanks in advance for sharing with me your expertise and best wishes,
> Wolfgang
> -- 
> *Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze    *
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> /Primary contact:
>                                         /
> Institut für Allgemeine & Typologische Sprachwissenschaft     Dept. II
> / F 13
>                                  Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
>                                                      Ludwigstraße 25
>     Postanschrift / Postal address: Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
> D-80539 München
>                                                        Tel.:
> 0049-(0)89-2180-2486 (Secretary)
>                            0049-(0)89-2180-5343 (Office)
>                            Fax:  0049-(0)89-2180-16567 //
> 0049-(0)89-2180-5345
>                          Email: W.Schulze at
> <mailto:W.Schulze at> /// Wolfgang.Schulze at
> <mailto:Wolfgang.Schulze at>
>                 Web:
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> /Second contact:
>                                                               /
> Katedra Germanistiký
>                                   Fakulta humanitných vied
> Univerzita Mateja Béla / Banská Bystrica
>     Tajovského 40
> SK-97401 Banská Bystrica
>                                 Tel: (00421)-(0)48-4465108
>                                            Fax: (00421)-(0)48-4465512
>   Email: Schulze at <mailto:Schulze at>
>                                                             Web:
> ----------------------------------------------------------

Jóhanna Barðdal
Research Associate Professor
Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies
University of Bergen
P.O. box 7805
NO-5020 Bergen
johanna.barddal at

Phone +47-55582438 (work)
Phone +47-55201117 (home)
Fax   +47-55589660 (work)

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