On partial control in German

  • Marcel PitteroffEmail author
  • Artemis Alexiadou
  • Jeannique Darby
  • Silke Fischer
Original Paper


The phenomenon of Partial Control (PC; cf. Landau in Elements of control: structure and meaning in infinitival constructions, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 2000) has received a great deal of attention in recent literature, with two general approaches: while some authors take PC to be a core phenomenon that should be captured by control theory (e.g., Landau 2000 et seq.; Pearson in The sense of self: topics in the semantics of de se expressions. Ph.D. dissertation, 2013; NLLT 34:691–738, 2016), others deny the relevance of PC to control theory by treating it as an instance of exhaustive control (EC) with a covert comitative (Hornstein, in: Hendrick (ed) Minimalist syntax, Blackwell, Oxford, pp 681, 2003; Boeckx et al. in Control as movement, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010). In this paper, we take a closer look at what German can contribute to this debate. Since PC-data are known to be subtle in terms of acceptability, we submitted the phenomenon to experimental investigation. The results of our study clearly show that both the matrix and the embedded predicate are relevant for the availability of a PC-reading in German: if the embedded predicate does not license comitatives, the matrix predicate must be attitudinal (a PC-predicate in Landau’s 2000 terminology), while if the matrix predicate is non-attitudinal (Landau’s EC-type), the embedded predicate must license comitatives. We thus conclude that two mechanisms exist in German to derive a PC-reading (i.e., singular controller with an embedded collective predicate): (i) true PC via, e.g., extension in the sense of Pearson (2013), and (ii) fake PC, which is, in fact, exhaustive control with a covert comitative (Hornstein 2003; Sheehan in Camb Occas Pap Linguist 6:1–47, 2012; in: Lahousse, Marzo (eds) Romance languages and linguistic theory 2012: selected papers from ‘Going Romance’ Leuven 2012, pp 181–198, 2014). These conclusions have an impact on the discussion of obligatory control structures insofar as control theory must account for the inclusion relation that holds in cases of true PC. Based on our results, we propose that a multi-factor approach such as argued for by Pearson (2013, 2016) or Landau (A two-tiered theory of control. Linguistic inquiry monographs, vol 71, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2015) is most adequate to capture the variation found in instances of true PC. However, our study also shows that the peripheral nature of PC requires experimental methods in order to investigate its status as a grammatical phenomenon in a language, and, furthermore, that any study focusing on PC must ensure that its discussion is based on true instances of PC, given that fake PC is a real option in languages.


Control theory Partial control Exhaustive control PRO Comitatives German 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexopoulou, Theodora, and Frank Keller. 2007. Locality, cyclicity, and resumption. Language 83: 110–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bates, Douglas, Martin Maechler, and Ben Bolker. 2012. lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 1.1-10.Google Scholar
  3. Bates, Douglas, Reinhold Kliegl, Shravan Vasishth, and Harald Baayen. 2015. Parsimonious mixed models., ms., arXiv, June 2015.
  4. Boeckx, Cedric, Norbert Hornstein, and Jairo Nunes. 2010. Control as movement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Ina, and Matthias Schlesewsky. 2007. The wolf in sheep’s clothing: Against a new judgment-driven imperialism. Theoretical Linguistics 33: 319–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowers, John. 2008. On reducing control to movement. Syntax 11: 125–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bresnan, Joan. 1982. Control and complementation. Linguistic Inquiry 13: 343–434.Google Scholar
  8. Chomsky, Noam. 1965. Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. den Dikken, Marcel, Judy Bernstein, Christina Tortora, and Raffaella Zanutti. 2007. Data and grammar: Means and individuals. Theoretical Linguistics 33: 335–352.Google Scholar
  10. Dimiatridis, Alexis. 2004. Discontinuous reciprocals. Utrecht: Manuscript, Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS.Google Scholar
  11. Duffley, Patrick. 2014. Reclaiming control as a semantic and pragmatic phenomenon. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fanselow, Gisbert, and Stefan Frisch. 2006. Effects of processing difficulty on judgments of acceptability. In Gradience in grammar: Generative perspectives, ed. Gisbert Fanselow, Caroline Fery, Matthias Schlesewsky, and Ralf Vogel, 291–316. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gerken, Louann, and Thomas G. Bever. 1986. Linguistic intuitions are the result of interactions between perceptual processes and linguistic universals. Cognitive Science 10: 457–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grano, Thomas. 2015. Control and restructuring. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hornstein, Norbert. 1999. Movement and control. Linguistic Inquiry 30: 69–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hornstein, Norbert. 2003. On control. In Minimalist syntax, ed. Randall Hendrick, 6–81. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kratzer, Angelika. 2009. Making a pronoun: Fake indexicals as windows into the properties of pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 40: 187–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Landau, Idan. 2000. Elements of control: Structure and meaning in infinitival constructions. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Landau, Idan. 2004. The scale of finiteness and the calculus of control. NLLT 22: 811–877.Google Scholar
  20. Landau, Idan. 2007. Movement-resistant aspects of control. In New horizons in the analysis of control and raising, ed. William D. Davies, and Stanley Dubinsky, 293–325. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Landau, Idan. 2008. Two routes of control: Evidence from case transmission in Russian. NLLT 26: 877–924.Google Scholar
  22. Landau, Idan. 2013. Control in generative grammar. A research companion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Landau, Idan. 2015. A two-tiered theory of control. Linguistic Inquiry Monographs 71. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Landau, Idan. 2016a. Agreement at PF: An argument from partial control. Syntax 19 (1): 79–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Landau, Idan. 2016b. Against the null comitative analysis of partial control. LI 47 (3): 572–580.Google Scholar
  26. Miller, George A., and Noam Chomsky. 1963. Finitary models of language users. In Handbook of mathematical psychology, vol. 2, ed. R. Duncan Luce, Robert R. Bush, and Eugene Galanter, 419–493. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Modesto, Marcello. 2010. What Brazilian Portuguese says about control: Remarks on Boeckx & Hornstein. Syntax 13: 78–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pearson, Hazel. 2013. The sense of self: Topics in the semantics of de se expressions. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  29. Pearson, Hazel. 2016. The semantics of partial control. NLLT 34: 691–738.Google Scholar
  30. Poole, Ethan. 2015. An argument for implicit arguments. Amherst: Manuscript, University of Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  31. Rákosi, György. 2003. Comitative arguments in Hungarian. In Uil-OTS yearbook 2003, ed. W. Heeren, et al., 47–57. Utrecht: Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS.Google Scholar
  32. Rákosi, György. 2013. Down with obliques? In From quirky case to representing space: Papers in honor of Annie Zaenen, ed. Tracy Holloway King, and Valeria de Paivaszerk, 127–138. Stanford: CSLI.Google Scholar
  33. Rodrigues, Cilene. 2007. Agreement and flotation in partial and inverse partial control configurations. In New horizons in the analysis of control and raising, ed. William D. Davies, and Stanley Dubinsky, 213–229. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  34. Schütze, Carson T. 1996. The empirical base of linguistics: Grammaticality judgments and linguistic methodology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Sheehan, Michelle. 2012. A new take on partial control: Defective thematic intervention. Cambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics 6: 1–47.Google Scholar
  36. Sheehan, Michelle. 2013. Portuguese, Russian and the theory of control. In Proceedings of NELS 43, ed. Hsin-Lun Huang, et al., 115–126. Amherst, MA: GLSA.Google Scholar
  37. Sheehan, Michelle. 2014. Partial control in romance languages: The covert comitative analysis. In Romance languages and linguistic theory 2012: Selected papers from ‘Going Romance’ Leuven 2012, eds. Karen Lahousse and Stefania Marzo, 181–198. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  38. Sheehan, Michelle. to appear. On the difference between exhaustive and partial control. In Understanding null subjects: A synchronic and diachronic perspective, eds. F. Cognola and J. Casalicchio. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Sorace, Antonella, and Frank Keller. 2005. Gradience in linguistic data. Lingua 115: 1497–1524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Siloni, Tal. 2011. Reciprocal verbs and symmetry. NLLT 30 (1): 261–320.Google Scholar
  41. Sprouse, Jon, Carson T. Schütze, and Diogo Almeida. 2013. A comparison of informal and formal acceptability judgments using a random sample from ‘Linguistic Inquiry’ 2001–2010. Lingua 134: 219–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stiebels, Barbara. 2007. Towards a typology of complement control. In ZAS papers in Linguistics 47. Studies in complement control, ed. Barbara Stiebels, 1–80. Berlin: ZAS.Google Scholar
  43. Stiebels, Barbara. 2015. Control. In Syntax—Theory and analysis. An international handbook (HSK 42), ed. Tibor Kiss, and Artemis Alexiadou, 412–446. Berlin: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  44. van Urk, Coppe. 2010. On obligatory control: A movement and PRO approach. Utrecht: Manuscript, University of Utrecht.Google Scholar
  45. White, Aaron Steven, and Thomas Grano. 2014. An experimental investigation of partial control. In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung, ed. U. Etxeberria et al., vol. 18, 469–486.
  46. Wiemer, Björn, and Vladimir P. Nedjalkov. 2007. Reciprocal and reflexive constructions in German. In Reciprocal constructions, ed. V. Nedjalkov, vol. 2, Part 2, 455–512. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  47. Williams, Edwin. 1980. Predication. Linguistic Inquiry 11: 203–238.Google Scholar
  48. Wurmbrand, Susi. 1999. Modal verbs must be raising verbs. In Proceedings of the 18th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, ed. Sonya Bird, Andrew Carnie, Jason D. Haugen, and Peter Norquest, 599–612. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  49. Wurmbrand, Susi. 2002. Syntactic vs. semantic control. In Studies in comparative Germanic syntax: Proceedings of the 15th Workshop on Comparative Germanic Syntax, ed. J.-W. Zwart, and W. Abraham, 93–127. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wurmbrand, Susi. 2003. Infinitives: Restructuring and clause structure. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcel Pitteroff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Artemis Alexiadou
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jeannique Darby
    • 4
  • Silke Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of StuttgartStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Humboldt Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics (ZAS)BerlinGermany
  4. 4.University College VoldaVoldaNorway

Personalised recommendations