The alternation between the indirect object construction and the prepositional object construction in present-day German. A corpus-based analysis

Start - End 
2016 - 2020 (ongoing)



This project investigates the motivations behind the alternation between the Indirect Object Construction (IOC) and Prepositional Object Construction (POC) in present-day German. According to WALS (World Atlas of Language Structures) German is an IOC-language. In the traditional explanation, the IOC is used with ditransitive verbs expressing transfer (geben, schicken, senden, leihen). However, corpus explorations reveal that in German there is an alternation within the IOC: the RECIPIENT may either be in the dative case (as in 1) or be preceded by a preposition, typically an in combination with the accusative case (2):

(1)  Er kann meiner Mutter ja ein Zeitlupenvideo seiner Jubelarie schicken. (IOC)

(2)  Über Umwege gelang es Florian, eine Mail an die Eltern zu schicken. (POC)

The theoretical and methodological framework of the study is a combination of quantitative and qualitative analyses. For each verb two databases are examined: one consisting of 1000 sentences with the simplex verb and another one with an equal number of complex verbs, including particle verbs (e.g., abgeben, nachschicken), prefix verbs (vergeben, verschicken) and compound verbs (preisgeben, zurückschicken).

The objectives of the project are twofold. First of all, the study aims to reveal which factors correlate with the IOC/POC alternation in a statistically significant way. To this end, representative databases are set up of naturally occurring sentences which are annotated for a large number of variables (voice, animacy, definiteness, givenness, pronominality etc.). Second, the project focuses on qualitative differences relating to lexical semantics (viz. verb semantics and its relation to nominals) and regional variation.




Phd Student(s)


Hans Boas

The University of Texas at Austin