The morphosyntax of the German inseparable prefixes in a figure/ground framework
niis study attempts a comprehensive analysis of the German so-called inseparable prefixes be-, ge-. er-, ver-, ent-. The framework Is Talmy's (1978) Figure/Ground distinction, in which a Figure is perceived as located or moving with respect to a frame of reference, the Ground. The pre-syntactic templates of X categories [Figure V [[±LOC] Ground]] and [Agent V Figure [[+LOC] Ground]]derive Das Heu war auf dem Wagen "The hay was on the cart' and Er bid Heu avf den Wagen ‘He loaded hay onto the cart'. The be- prefix and its inverse the ent- prefix are prepositional allomorphs which alternatively realize the feature (+LOC]. Foregrounding of [[+LOC] Ground]] causes the feature [+LOC] to be adjoined to the verb as the prefix be-: Er belud den Wagen mitt Heu 'He be-loaded the cart with hay’. The Figure argument may also be incorporated by substitution into the verb forming a denominal be- or ent-verb (bewaffnen 'be-weapon, arm', entwaffnen 'ent-arm, disarm'. Adjunction of [+LOC] and substitution of the Figure are according to Van Riemsdijk's (1998) Head Adjacency Principle for syntactic head movement A set of verb Classes is established according to whether the Figure and Ground arguments are VP-internal, subjects, or incorporated, thus rendering the traditional notions of 0-roles (Patient, Experiencer, theme. etc.) superfluous. I propose a crucial development of Talmas Figure/Ground distinction, the hidden’ Ground, whereby the Ground is the prior location or state of the Figure, hi tills case the prefixes are allomorphs of the change of state' P that 1 denote as (-*). On simplex verbs this feature means simply 'forth, onward', as in geleiten 'ge-lead, escort', bestehen 'be-stand, continue to exist', verführen 'ver-lead, tempt". The Figure N can substitute into a null V : The template [[ env ] N [ → Film ]] gives Er machte Hamlet zu einem Film He made Hamlet into a film'. The Ground is the prior state of Hamlet (not a film). The same template permits adjunction of (→) and substitution of Film into the null verb slot: [[ver-(_i) Film(_j) –en(_v) ] [ t(_i) t(_j) ]]. Thus. we get Er verfilmte Hamlet He filmed Hamlet'. Deadjectival prefixed verbs are of two types. The prefix er- alternatively realizes (→) with positive degree adjectives ( from not-A → A), ver- alternatively realizes the (→) that is the feature [COMPARATIVE]. Thus, erblassen 'er-pale' (from not-pale to pale) means '(suddenly) become pale', whereas verblassen 'ver-pale' (from pale to more-pale) means (gradually) fade, lose colour". The feature (←) on ent- is the inverse of [→) and denotes 'return to prior state", as in entfalten "ent-fold, unfold", entwaffnen "ent-weapon. disarm'. Connotations such as inchoative, pejorative, concealment that are associated with certain prefixes are accounted for by the underlying change of state template. Key concepts: Figure/Ground, inseparable prefix, incorporation, abstract feature, alternative realization. Locative Alternation. Dative Alternation, diachronic. morphological cases, prepositions.