The diachrony of the nominalized infinitive in German

The nominalized infinitive (also known as conversion or gerund) is a phenomenon that frequently occurs in contemporary German. Aside from its usage as an abstract noun (such as das Laufen ‘the running’, das Herumstehen ‘the standing about’), the nominalized infinitive also appears in light-verb constructions (such as ins Rollen kommen ‘to get going’, zum Verschwinden bringen ‘to disperse’), in the progressive (such as Er ist am Arbeiten ‘he is working’), and potentially also in the so-called absentive, such as Er ist Arbeiten/arbeiten lit. ‘he is working (i.e. not here)’ in contemporary German. The emergence of the nominalized infinitive, i.e. its morphosyntactic development including the identification of its general motivation, has never been investigated diachronically.

For this purpose, the project combines empirical research (including diachronic corpus-based investigations and an online-questionnaire experiment for acceptability judgments of contemporary German) and theoretical research taking language typology of related and non-related languages into account. Both components aim to motivate the general emergence of the nominalized infinitive diachronically and synchronically.

Project duration

01 October 2014 – 30 September 2018