Coherent construction

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The terms coherent construction and incoherent construction designate two different types of constructions with verbs in the infinitive in German grammar . In the coherent construction, the infinite verb is part of a compound predicate , as it is traditionally called in German grammar. This also leads to peculiarities in the grammatical behavior that the additions of this infinitive show.

In the incoherent construction, the infinite verb and its additions have the status of an independent subordinate clause . The incoherently constructed infinitive is therefore also referred to as a sentence-valued infinitive .

Only infinitives that are marked with the particle "to" can form an incoherent (sentence-valued) construction. In particular, constructions with " um ... zu" are always incoherent. Overall, however, to-infinitives need not always be incoherent; for example, the verb seem always requires a coherent construction (something like: "it seems to be raining").

Distinguishing features of the incoherent construction

A rule of thumb for recognizing incoherent constructions is that the infinitive group can be followed as a whole in the sentence, i.e. H. can appear in the aftermath , where there are also finite subordinate clauses that are introduced with conjunctions. There are rare exceptions in the form of trailing infinitives that are not sentence-valued; their acceptability is then sometimes considered controversial.

  • Examples of incoherent construction:
(1) Er versuchte, nicht zu lachen
(2) …da er ihn zwang, sie zu heiraten

Compare also:

a. Er schaffte es, [ nicht zu lachen ]
b. Er schaffte es,  [dass er nicht lachen musste].
  • Examples where the incoherent construction is excluded:
(4) *Er erzählte, dass er gesehen hat, ihn tanzen
(5) *… dass es schien, ihm zu gefallen.

In the example (4) no adjustment of the infinitive is possible, so no incoherent construction as regularly in all bare infinitives without to . Example (5) shows that some too-infinitives also exclude the incoherent construction.

The "field of coherence"

The coherent construction is possible with different types of infinitives that come before a finite verb at the end of a sentence. A distinguishing feature of the coherent construction is that it is not possible to assign individual additions to individual verbs; rather, all verbs of the sentence are summarized in a single verb complex, and the additions form a coherent field in which each clause is considered a complement to the entire verb complex . This can be seen in several effects:

Freedom of word order

One effect of the coherent construction is that those parts of the sentence can be exchanged in their order that would correspond to different verbs. In the following examples this is illustrated using the infinitive, which depends on the verb try ; The special thing about this verb is that it allows either a coherent or incoherent construction of its dependent infinitive. Therefore, sentences (6a) and (6b) (with the brackets indicated) show an incoherent construction of the infinitive; however (6c) a coherent one:

  • Diagnosis of the coherent construction:
a. dass Ella versucht, sich zu erinnern (inkohärente Konstruktion)
b. dass Ella [sich zu erinnern] versucht (Klammerung nach sinngemäßer Gliederung)
c. dass sich Ella zu erinnern versucht (Umstellung möglich: alle Ergänzungen in einem Kohärenzfeld)

In contrast to the above construction with trying , no coherent construction is possible with the verb zwingen , even if the infinitive is inside the sentence:

  • Compare: Incoherent construction inside the sentence:
a. dass ihn Ella [sich zu entschuldigen] zwang
b. *NICHT: dass ihn sich Ella zu entschuldigen zwang

Interpretation of the negation

Another effect of the coherent construction is that the cover of the negation ( negation ) can be ambiguous. In the following example (given as a subordinate clause so that you can see all parts of the predicate together) there is a negation in the word nothing that would be an object of the verb essen :

(8) … weil die Frau ihrer Tochter nichts zu essen erlaubte.

This sentence is ambiguous, and the ambiguity is because a coherent construction can be formed. However, the verb permit also allows circumlocutions in incoherent construction, which are then unambiguous:

a. Die Frau erlaubte ihrer Tochter, nichts zu essen.
b. Die Frau erlaubte ihrer Tochter nicht, etwas zu essen.

If in the example shown at the beginning there is a coherent construction, this means that the separation of a subordinate clause as in the paraphrases a./b. is being leveled. The coherent construction then becomes ambiguous because the object can not function as a connection + something (the so-called " cohesion" ), and because with a coherent construction this word is treated grammatically as a complement to the entire compound predicate. This creates the possibility of interpretation to relate the negation , which is not contained in the cohesive form , to another part of the compound predicate, namely to allow .

For the relation of negation see also the article Scopus (Linguistics)

See also


  • Peter Gallmann: To the comma for infinitive groups. In: Gerhard Augst u. a. (Ed.): The new regulation of German spelling. Justification and criticism. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1997 (= German Linguistics Series, 179). Pages 435-462. Available online
  • Hubert Haider: The Syntax of German. Cambridge University Press 2010.
  • Karin Pittner, Judith Berman: German Syntax. A work book. 4th edition. Narr, Tübingen 2010.
  • Duden - The grammar. 9th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2009.

Individual evidence

  1. The so-called “third construction”, see Haider 2010, p. 284ff.
  2. after Pittner & Berman 2010, p. 119
  3. Example from Pittner & Berman, p. 121.
  4. Pittner & Berman, p. 121.
  5. From: Irene Rapp, Angelika Wöllstein: sentence-valued to-infinitive constructions. In: Jörg Meibauer, Markus Steinbach, Hans Altmann (Hrsg.): Satztypen des Deutschen. DeGruyter, Berlin 2013, pp. 338-355. - The example discussed: p. 348.