Complementizers in Infinitival Clauses

Complementation in Pennsylvania German infinitival clauses differs in some instances from those in Standard German. Theoretically, four different strategies are at the disposal of Pennsylvania German speakers:

1 A for ... tsu construction which most closely resembles StGer. um ...

2 The use of only tsu;

3 The use of only for as a complementizer;

4 A zero option with the infinitive alone.

Today the two options for ...tsu or simply tsu are relic forms associated with older speakers, while for or zero represent the viable construction. A clause of purpose, e.g____for grumbero (tsu) eso...4(in order) to eat potatoes' will in modern Pennsylvania German omit tsu and maintain for at the head of the clause. Inasmuch as English is influencing changes in Pennsylvania German, it has been suggested that in those cases where it is grammatical for English to use an infinitive or -ing form, Pennsylvania German opts for a zero construction, e.g. si hat gftart lano 'she started/began to study/studying'. It appears that this trend towards simplification in complementation is a result of convergence with English.


Mention has already been made of as 'that' as the introducer of subordinate clauses; it is in fact the invariant relativizing particle for relative clauses. Unlike Standard German, there are no true relative pronouns in Pennsylvania German. Historically, two complementizers as 'that' and wu 'which, who' were used to relativize elements in embedded clauses, e.g. di med as/wu mor gseno hen 'the girls whom we saw'. Except for remnants of wu in dialect poetry and by older speakers, the usage of as 'that' is now the standard. The above notwithstanding, one genuine relative pronoun in possessive clauses has been substantiated by Pennsylvania German grammarians, e.g. dos is dor man dom sai hund gragg is 'that is the man whose dog is sick'. This construction requires a dative noun phrase + possessive pronoun. However, the single viable complementizer used today by sectarian speakers is as, e.g. dos is dor man, as sai hund grarjg is, which in (non-standard) English is 'that is the man that his dog is sick'.

Passive Voice

Another periphrasis to be considered is the passive, a grammatical contrast which Pennsylvania German and Standard German traditionally have shared. The marking occurs with the passive auxiliary sai 'to be' + past participle for perfective functions (statal passive), e.g. dor pai is gobako 'the pie is baked' versus the auxiliary waro 'to become' + past participle to signal not yet completed activity (agentive passive), e.g. dor pai wat gobako 'the pie is being baked'. Events in the past are expressed with the present or preterite of sai + past participle + waro - here representing the participial form of the auxiliary waro, StGer. (ge)worden - as in, e.g. dor pai is/wat gobako waro 'the pie was/had been baked'. An optional agent introduced by fun 'by' +

dative noun phrase may be added, e.g. dor pax wat fun dor maem gobako 'the pie is being baked by (the) mother'. Influence from English has been suggested to account for an observed trend in some communities to (a) replace the auxiliary waro with sai in passive constructions; (b) replace the preposition fun 'by' with bai 'by'; (c) substitute the dative with a common case noun phrase; (d) postpose the prepositional phrase, e.g. dorpai is gobako bai di maem 'the pie is being baked by (the) mother'; (e) permit non-logical objects to passivize, e.g. ix bm gsagt waro 'I have been told'.

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