Nonlocal-Dependencies and Infinitival Constructions in German

  • Klaus Netter
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 35)


Drawing on the example of infinitival constructions in German this paper will contrast two different approaches to the treatment of non-local dependencies within the framework of Lexical Functional Grammar. The essential difference between the two accounts is that the first and older approach, Constituent Control (CC), operates on phrase structure, whereas the second approach, Functional Uncertainty (FU), operates on functional structure. A further difference between the two approaches is that FU allows one to do without empty strings (as traces), which are indispensable in CC for purely technical reasons. This paper concentrates on the linguistic aspects rather than the mathematical properties of FU, arguing in favour of FU on the basis of linguistic data.

To compare the two approaches a small fragment of German infinitival constructions will be described. The phenomena considered are primarily extraposition and ‘wh-movement’.

A grammar for the basic clauses is presented in section 1., which illustrates the underlying grammatical relations. It will be argued that, given these basic assumptions, in LFG extraposition to the right in LFG must be treated as a kind of non-local dependency in German. To introduce and compare the mechanisms of CC and FU, the grammar is extended in section 2. for both mechanisms, to cover the extraposition phenomena. The simple case of extraposed infinitival clauses governed by verbs serves to show that for a CC-based analysis, an equivalent grammar based on FU cam be constructed.

By expanding the grammar further to include infinitival claused subcategorized for by nouns (section 3.), evidence is presented which suggests that grammatical relations rather than the phrase structure configuration determine the gramatical process of extraposition. For these phenomena, the FU approach permits to capture certain generalizations more directly than the phrase structure oriented CC.

In section 3., a more classical type of non-local dependencies, wh-movement, illustrated by German relative clauses, will be discussed. Certain restrictions on wh-movement with respect to its interaction with extraposition are described. It will be shown that, given the correctness and adequacy of the generalization outlined in the previous sections, FU allows the formulations of restrictions which cannot be expressed in the traditional approach of constituent control.


Regular Expression Phrase Structure Empty String Control Domain Rule Schema 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus Netter
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Maschinelle SprachverarbeitungUniversität StuttgartGermany

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