Jens Fleischhauer

Department of General Linguistics, Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf

Funktionsverbgefüge: Familien und Komposition (FFK) / Light verb constructions: Families and composition (October 2020 - September 2023)

Funded by 'Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) / German Research Foundation'

Project stuff: Jens Fleischhauer (PI), Dila Turus

Light verb constructions (LVCs; German Funktionsverbgefüge) are complex predicates consisting of a semantically light verb and a phrasal element (NP or PP). German examples are ein Bad nehmen ‘to take a bath’ and unter Beobachtung stehen ‘to be under surveillance’. Light verbs are semantically reduced compared to their corresponding heavy use. The verb nehmen ‘take’ in die LVC ein Bad nehmen does not express a transfer of possession as it does in sentences like Ich nahm das Buch das Tisch ‘I took the book from the table.’ Does the light verb contribute to the meaning of the light verb construction? If it does, how is the meaning of the light verb related to the lexical meaning of the corresponding heavy verb? Is it possible to derive the meaning of the light verb systematically from the meaning of the heavy verb?

The project builds on the assumption that light verb constructions are semantically compositional in the sense of Nunberg et al. (1994). Evidence in favor of this view is: (i) LVCs license internal modification (Ernst 1981) and (ii) LVCs build ‘families’. LVC form a family iff (i) they are headed by the same light verb and (ii) show the same interpretation pattern. Within the project we  adopt the hypothesis that the meaning of the individual components of an LVC can be identified by investigating LVC-families.   

Current work on LVCs primarily focused on the composition of argument structure and event structure. The composition of the lexical meaning of LVCs has rarely been addressed in previous literature. The project aims at an explicit modelling of the semantic composition of LVCs based on corpus data. The general goals of the project are:

(i) A systematic analysis of the semantic contribution of the different components of LVCs (light verb, nominal element, preposition, articles).  

(ii) Semantic modelling of the composition of LVCs. 

The languages to be investigated are German and Persian.


Ernst, Thomas. 1981. Grist for the linguistics mill: idioms and ‘extra’ adjectives. Journal of Linguistic Reserach 1. 51–68.

Nunberg, Geoffrey, Ivan A. Sag & Thomas Wasow. 1994. Idioms. Language 70(3). 491–538.

Project presentations

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. The syntactic expression of prospective aspect in German. DGfS Workshop Encoding aspectuality in Germanic languages – empirical and theoretical approaches. Freiburg, Germany.

Fleischhauer, Jens. Light uses of 'stehen' - A corpus-study on German light verb constructions. 56th Linguistics Colloquium. Athene, Greece.

Fleischhauer Jens & Dila Turus. 2020.  'Der Angeklagte hat unter Alkoholeinfluss gestanden' – Funktionsverbgefüge in der Rechts- und Alltagssprache. 9. Internationale Germanistische Werkstatt. Oppeln, Polen.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2020. Predicative multi-word expressions in Persian languages. PACLIC Workshop on Multiword Expressions in Asian languages. Hanoi, Vietnam.