Werden – ein Chamäleon der Sprache : Zum Werdegang von werden

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The topic of this thesis is the evolutionary history of werden in German with reference to its four functions – as full verb, as copula and as auxiliary verb in combination with the past participle in the Vorgangspassiv and also in combination with the infinitive to denote future and, in some circumstances, epistemic modal events.
On the basis of scrutiny of diachronic results and a discussion of views put forward in the synchronic literature and empirically corroborated by a detailed analysis of a corpus, it is argued that the unique position of werden in the German verb arena was made possible by its non-specified meaning of dynamic existence, by its medial, non-agentive diathesis and, crucially, by its additivity, and its actional and aspectual underdetermination.
The unique combination of these characteristics is the prerequisite for weerden´s special developmental strategy, i.e. connecting with diverse partners, e.g. noun, adjective participle, infinitive. These interactions with various partners made it possible for werden to acquire a developmental history characterised by increasing complexity and diversity. The outcome was a development that extends into the areas of aspect, voice, tense and mood.
The thesis shows how that development progressed, differing from the ‘normal’ course of a grammaticalization in that it involved no morphological, scarcely any phonological and no true lexical impoverishment of the verb werden. All that was required of the verb was its extreme adaptability, and this property was inherent in its complex of characteristics. As to the lexical meaning of the verb, werden seems to manifest itself as a marker of dynamic existence, that may appear in any of the verb’s functions partly as an inherent change element and partly as a confirmation effect implying speaker-guaranteed confirmation of the statement.


  • Margret Osterkamp
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • auxiliary, scalarity, actionality, aspectuality, Vendler classes, internal temporal properties, inchoativity, speaker reference, implied speaker confirmation
Original languageGerman
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2013 Jun 1
  • Lunds universitet
Print ISBNs978-91-7473-471-3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2013-06-01 Time: 10:15 Place: Sal L201, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Leiss, Elisabeth Title: Professor Affiliation: Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität München, Tyskland ---

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