A frame-semantic approach to selectional restrictions in German support verb constructions : the case of [in X geraten]



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Support verb constructions (henceforth: SVCs) are constructions consisting of a verb with a reduced meaning (when compared to the full verb) and a noun. Previous analyses (e.g. von Polenz 1963, Winhart 2002) provide a detailed account of the function of the verb in SVCs. However, neither of the two approaches fully explains why certain verb-noun combinations are unacceptable. Geraten ('to get into') can combine with Brand ('fire') in but not with Feuer ('fire') even though the two nouns are synonyms. This dissertation proposes a novel approach towards identifying selectional restrictions in German support verb constructions by applying insights from Frame Semantics (Fillmore 1985) and Construction Grammar. It differs from syntactic-centric and lexical-conceptual structure approaches in that frame-semantic information is shown to directly influence a verb's and a noun's ability to combine with each other. I argue that the nominalization Feuer cannot combine with the support verb because the frame- semantic information evoked by Feuer is incompatible with the frame semantics of geraten. Thus, either the verb and/or the noun blocks the formation of a support verb construction. My analysis demonstrates that in order for the support verb and the noun to be able to combine, their frame-semantic information needs to be compatible. However, in some circumstances SVCs need to be listed as idioms in the lexicon because there do not seem to be any compositional restrictions that allow geraten to combine with Brand ('fire'), but not Feuer ('fire'). Based on a corpus of more than 1000 SVCs with geraten, I show that there are different patterns of productivity and idomaticity. Some SVCs, such as ins Rollen geraten ('to start rolling'), allow widespread replacement of the noun with near-synonyms. Other SVCs, such as in Brand geraten ('starting to burn'), do not allow such replacement. In this view, both the abstract meaning of an SVC (e.g., in X geraten 'to get into X') and item-specific knowledge needs to be captured to be able to account for the full range of SVCs headed by geraten. Therefore, I posit a new construction that captures all the meanings expressed by SVCs with geraten.