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Title: The Semantics of be-verb Constructions and the German Locative Alternation
Author(s): DEWELL, Robert E.
Journal: Leuvense Bijdragen - Leuven Contributions in Linguistics and Philology
Volume: 93    Date: 2004   
Pages: 15-59
DOI: 10.2143/LB.93.0.2011691

Abstract :
German constructions with the verb prefix be- do not just alternate with simple-verb constructions that express a 'goal' argument obliquely; they can also contrast with simple-verb constructions in which the 'goal' argument appears as an accusatice incremental theme. By focusing on these contrasting constructions we can distinguish the semantic contribution of be- from the meaning of the transitive construction itself, enabling a cognitive-semantic account of be-verb constructions that differs significantly from previous proposals. Be- describes a sustained (and typically interative) interaction directed at a focal accusative landmark whose existence is independent of the event being described. In the process of examining be-verbs we can also gain a better understanding of incremental themes and of 'holistic effects'. The discussion also has general implications for the semantics of argument roles, challenging the idea that semantic roles are global units that can be transported from one constructrion to another.

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