Jens Fleischhauer

Institute of 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 (forst project phase)

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.

The project has been approved for a second project phase. In the second phase, the verb is on light verbs. We will investigate light verbs which -- at first sight -- seem to be very similar, ssuch as stehen 'stand' and sein 'be'. Sometimes, the light verbs can be exchanged without affecting the LVC's meaning. Unter Stress stehen 'be stressed' and unter Stress sein 'be stressed' appear to be synonymous. One goal of the project is raising the question whether such constructions are total synonyms or whether they are just partial synonyms. First results point into the second direction. A second topic investigated in the project is how light verbs come into existence. Is there a general grammaticalization process starting with lexical full verbs and ending with auxiliaries in which light verbs present an inzteermediate stage? To investigate this issue, we compare pseudo-auxiliary uses of, e.g., stehen with light uses.  On explicite goal consists in answering the question whether it is posssible to distinguish light verb from (pseudo-)auxiliaries or not?


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 papers & Manuscripts

Fleischhauer, Jens & Anna Riccio (eds.). under contract. Light verb constructions from a cross-linguistic perspective. Berlin: De Gruyter. [Open Access, expected Autumn 2024]

Fleischhauer, Jens. accepted. The syntactic flexibiliyt of light verb constructions - An RRG analysis. In Zahra Ghane & Vaki Rezai (eds.). The Springer Handbook of Applying Role and Reference Grammar in Persian. Berlin: Springer.

Bogaards, Marten & Jens Fleischhauer. accepted. Prospective aspect constructions in West Germanic. A comparative corpus study of German and Dutch. Leuvense Bijdragen - Leuven Contribution in Linguistics and Philology.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2023. Prospective aspect and current relevance - A case study of the German prospective 'stehen vor NP' construction. Journal of Germanic linguistics 35 (4): 371-408.

Wiskandt, Niklas & Dila Turus. in press. Verb-LVC pairs with experiencer objects in German: Differences in usage and meaning. In Jóhanna Barðdal, Gauthier Delaby, Torsten Leuschner & Anaïs Vajnovszki (eds.). How to Do Things with Corpora – Methodological Issues and Case Studies. Empirical and Theoretical Linguistics Series. Berlin: J.B. Metzler.

Wiskandt, Niklas & Dila Turus. 2023. Wie man Linguisten in Begeisterung versetzt: Drei Muster von Funktionsverben mit Objekt-Experiencern. Germanistische Werkstatt 12: 149-162.

Fleischhauer, Jens & Stefan Hartmann. 2023. Der Weg von kommen zum Funktionsverb. In Christian Braun & Elisabeth Scherr (eds.). Methoden zur Erforschung grammatischer Strukturen in historischen Quellen, 117-138. De Gruyter: Berlin. 

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2023. German light verb constructions with non-eventive nouns. In Jean-Pierre Colson (ed.). Phraseology, constructions and translation. Corpus-based, computational and cultural aspects: 387-398. Louvain: Presses Universitaires de Louvain.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2022. stehen unter-Funktionsverbgefüge und ihre Familien. Zeitschrift für germanistische Linguistik 50 (2), 247-288.

Fleischhauer, Jens & Dila Turus. 2022. Families of Light Verb Constructions in German Legal Language Contexts: A Case Study on the 'Passive'-Family of stehen unter-Light Verb Constructions. In Daniel Green & Luke Green (eds.). Contemporary Approaches to Legal Linguistics, 173-198. Münster: LIT Verlag.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. Warum steht der Fußballspieler unter Vertrag? - Eine Fallstudie zu Funktionsverbgefügen des Typs 'stehen unter NP'. Sprachwissenschaft 46 (3): 343-374.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. Light Verb Constructions and Their Families - A Corpus Study on German stehen unter-LVCs. In: Proceedings of the 17th Workshop on Multiword Expressions (MWE 2021), 63-69. Online: Association for Computational Linguistics.

Fleischhauer, Jens & Dila Turus. 2021. Der Angeklagte steht unter Schutz, wird er aber auch geschützt? Eine Analyse passivischer Funktionsverbgefüge vom Typ stehen unter. In Gabriela Jelitto-Piechulik et al. (eds.). Germanistische Werkstatt 11, 73-84. Oppeln: Uniwersytet Opolski.

Fleischhauer, Jens & Stefan Hartmann. 2021. The emergence of light verb constructions: A case study on German kommen 'come'. In Yearbook of the German Association of Cognitive Linguistics 9, 135-156. Berlin/ Boston: de Gruyter.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2020. Predicative multi-word expressions in Persian. In Proceedings of the 34th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation, 552-561. Association for Computational Linguistics: Hanoi, Vietnam.

Fleischhauer, Jens & Dila Turus. 2022. Leitfaden zur Identifikation von Funktionsverbgefügen in Korpusdaten. Universität zu Köln/ Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf. [Download]

Project presentations

Boogards, Maarten, Jens Fleischhauer & Roné Wierenga. A prospective sandwich: Prospective aspect in German, Dutch, Afrikaans and English. Germanic Sandwich 9, Lancaster.

Boogards, Maarten, Jens Fleischhauer & Roné Wierenga. A corpus-based analysis of periphrastic prospective constructions in West-Germanic. Chronos 15, Toulouse.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2024. On the presence versus absence of articles in German light verb constructions. Grammatical and semantic determination: categorization, cognition and acquisition. Amiens, France.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2023. The 'principle of no synonymy' and light verb constructions –  A case study on German stative light verbs. ICLC 16. Düsseldorf, Germany.

Fleischhauer, Jens. The non-synonymy of German light verbs – A case study on stehen and sein. CogLing Days 2022. Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Wiskandt, Niklas & Dila Turus. 2022. Systematic semantic differences between object-experiencer LVCs and corresponding simplex verbs in German. Grammar and Corpora 2022. Ghent, Belgium.

Boogards, Maarten & Jens Fleischhauer. 2022. Prospective aspect constructions in Dutch and German. A Germanic Sandwich 2022. Cologne, Germany [online].

Wiskandt, Niklas & Dila Turus. 2022. Bringing experiencers into rage and excitement: Light verb constructions with experiencer object in German. Forum for Germanic Language Studies. Reading, Great Britain.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2022. Semantic restrictions on German causative light verb constructions. The Grammar of Causation III. Paris, France.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2022. Stellen or setzen - The distribution of causative light verbs in German. 9. DGKL. Erfurt, Germany.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. A data-driven (bottom-up) approach to German light verb constructions. CLAVIER 21. Modena, Italy (online).

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. Light verb constructions and their families - A corpus study on German stehen unter-LVCs. 17th Workshop on Multiword Expressions. Bangkok, Thailand (online).

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. Families of light verb constructions - A corpus study on German stehen unter-LVCs. Europhrase 2021. Louvaine, France (online).

Fleischhauer, Jens & Stefan Hartmann. 2021. The desemantisation of German kommen and the emergence of light verb constructions. 12th International Corpus Linguistics Conference. Murcia, Spain.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. LVC-families across languages. 9. International Contrastive Linguistics Conference. Santa Margherita-Protofino, Italy.

Hartmann, Stefan & Jens Fleischhauer. 2021. Zur Analyse emergierender Funktionsverbgefüge im Mittelhochdeutschen - Methodische Herausforderungen und Lösungsansätze. Grammatische und textgrammatische Strukturen in alt- und mittelhochdeutschen Quellen. Graz, Austria.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021.The use of spatial metaphors in German light verb constructions. RaAm 14: Metaphor and Space. Volnius, Lithuania.

Fleischhauer, Jens. 2021. The expression of prospective aspect in German. New perspectives on aspect: from the 'Slavic model' to other languages. Paris, France. [Video of the presentation]

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. 2020. 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. PACLIC Workshop on Multiword Expressions in Asian languages. Hanoi, Vietnam.