Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles
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Verbless directives in German. Typological and contrastive description

Coordination centre(s)

Séminaire des Sciences du Langage (SeSLa).


As a satellite-framed language (Talmy 2000) German favors the expression of the motion path with so-called satellites (Talmy 2000). Therefore it does not surprise that short verbless constructions consisting only of a directional prepositional phrase are common in German, e.g.

(1) Ab ins Bett ! (lit. ‘Off into the bed!’)

(2) Rauf auf den Berg! (lit. ‘Up onto the mountain!’)

(3) Hinein ins Vergnügen! (lit. ‘Into in the pleasure’).

With a collection of examples from the Datenbank gesprochenes Deutsch (DGD, IDS Mannheim) and of comic strips in German, French and Italian (Hergé 1947, 1998, 1999; Jacobs 1980, 1991, 1993) the study first describes the semantic, syntactic, morpho-syntactic (German cases) and pragmatic (illocutionary potential) constraints of such ‘verb-free’ examples (compare Jacobs' (2008) and Müller's (2010) studies on “verblose Direktiva”; see also Wilder 2008) in Goldberg’s (1995; 2006) Construction Grammar model. This description is compared with a traditional approach (see Jacobs 1980 and Müller 2010).

For Italian and French-speaking learners of German, verbless directives constitute a challenge. Because Romance languages express the path of motion mainly with full verbs, learners tend to use a full verb also in German, which does not necessarily reflect the authentic expressions of motion. This was confirmed with some translation tests that were conducted with Italian and Belgian French-speaking master students in translation studies (proficiency level B2-C1). The constructionist model with the postulate of entrenched units called constructions offers some avenues for a more efficient teaching and learning of verbless constructions. We propose a teaching methodology based on abstract constructions, structural priming (Gries 2005; Loebell & Bock 2003) and the embodied representation of the verbless directive constructions with pictures. The efficiency of this methodology was tested with further translation tests designed for the Italian and French-speaking master students.



De Knop Sabine.


linguistic typology / verbless directives / motion / satellites / German.


Elsa Liste Lamas & Barbara Lübke (Université Santiago de Compostela)
Fabio Mollica, Universita degli Studi di Milano.