The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 175–228

Verb clusters in colloquial German

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10828-009-9032-x

Cite this article as:
Bader, M. & Schmid, T. J Comp German Linguistics (2009) 12: 175. doi:10.1007/s10828-009-9032-x


Although verb cluster formation has long been a topic of syntactic research, many of its properties are still controversial. In this paper, we contribute to the ongoing discussion by looking at verb order variation in 3- and 4-verb clusters in German on the basis of new empirical evidence. First, we present several experiments that have used the method of speeded grammaticality judgments in order to determine the orders within a verb cluster that are accepted by native speakers. A major result of our experiments is that native speakers accept more orders than are allowed in Standard German. Second, we give a theoretical account of the data which applies and extends Williams’ (2003) CAT-language. We show how the variation between Standard German and the more liberal Colloquial German that was revealed in our experiments follows from slightly different lexical entries within this system. Standard German is characterized by a complexity requirement on modal verb complements that restricts verb order variation. The more liberal Colloquial German system lacks this feature and thus allows a larger variation of verb orders.


CATExperimental evidence (speeded grammaticality judgments)GermanVerb clustersVerb order variation

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fachbereich SprachwissenschaftUniversität KonstanzKonstanzGermany