Dative subjects in Germanic: A computational analysis of lexical semantic verb classes across time and space

Jóhanna Barodal, Carlee Arnett, Stephen Mark Carey, Thórhallur Eythórsson, Gard B. Jenset, Guus Kroonen, Adam Oberlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


One of the functions of the dative is to mark non-prototypical subjects, i. e. subjects that somehow deviate from the agentive prototype. The Germanic languages, as all subbranches of Indo-European (cf. Barodal et al. 2012. Reconstructing constructional semantics: The dative subject construction in Old Norse-Icelandic, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old Russian and Old Lithuanian. Studies in Language 36(3). 511-547), exhibit structures where the subject or the subject-like argument is not in the nominative case, but in the accusative, dative or genitive, for instance. The focus of this article is on the dative, leaving accusative and genitive subjects aside, in particular homing in on lexical semantic similarities and differences between the individual Germanic languages. We compare Modern Icelandic, Modern Faroese, and Modern German, on the one hand, and the historical Germanic languages, i. e. Gothic, Old English, Old Saxon, Old High German, Middle English, Middle Dutch, Middle German, Old Norse-Icelandic and Old Swedish, on the other. The goal is to document the semantic development of the construction across time. This, in turn, is a part of a more general research program aiming at reconstructing the origin and the development of the Dative Subject Construction in Germanic and Indo-European. As the Germanic languages are both genealogically and areally related, we suggest a computational model aiming at disentangling genealogical and geographical factors, in order to estimate to which degree the two interact with each other across languages and across historical eras.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-84
Number of pages36
JournalSTUF - Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Other keywords

  • Areal factors
  • Computational methods
  • Dative subjects
  • Germanic
  • Historical development
  • Lexical semantic verb classes


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