Problems of equivalence in some German and English constructions

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					                               [Mechanical Translation, Vol.7, no.1, July 1962]

    Problems of Equivalence in Some German and English
    Constructions
    by John S. Bross,* Massachusetts Institute of Technology

                                                     The time has come when well-organized and thoroughly worked out
                                                 transfer grammars should be developed. Such a grammar should be com-
                                                 posed of formal statements equating the construction-types of the input
                                                 language with those of the output language and indicating the appropriate
                                                 transformations which must be made to produce the target language
                                                 constructions.
                                                     In connection with the problem of structural transfer, a study was
                                                 made of the behavior of some English verbs and their German equivalents
                                                 in a fixed number of constructions. The verbs were grouped in syntactic
                                                 classes on the basis of their respective distributions. The conditions were
                                                 stated under which it is possible to use the same combination of con-
                                                 stituents in a construction when translating from German to English and
                                                 vice versa.
                                                     This work should be regarded as a preliminary study of that information
                                                 about syntactic restrictions on verbs which should be encoded in an auto-
                                                 matic dictionary as an aid in solving problems of structural transfer.


    The problem of translation may be divided into three                cumstances, if mechanical translation is to be realized,
stages, as suggested by Yngve1: analysis (recognition),                 some sort of exhaustive formal list of the constructions
structural transfer, and synthesis (construction). In the               in the output language which are equivalent to the con-
first stage, the syntactic structure of a sentence in the               structions in the input language is needed. The com-
input language is analyzed and noted in terms of struc-                 pilation of such a list will, admittedly, be a laborious and
tural specifiers; in the second stage, the input language               tedious task.
specifiers are mapped onto output language specifiers;                      To any one working with languages which employ
in the third stage these output language specifiers are                 similar constructions for expressing the same idea, the
used to construct the equivalent sentence in the output                 need for an exhaustive transfer grammar may not be so
language.                                                               obvious. The easier and quicker solution to the problem,
    To date considerable work has been published on the                 as it concerns similarly structured languages, appears,
analysis of languages both from the viewpoint of de-                    at first blush, to be simply to make a word-for-word
scriptive linguistics and from the viewpoint of linguistics             translation, following which a modicum of rearranging
applied to problems of mechanical translation. Also an                  of words would be carried out. The translation resulting
ever increasing amount of attention is being devoted to                 from such a procedure would presumably be under-
sentence generation and, in particular, to the construc-                standable to those familiar with the general subject mat-
tion of a generative grammar of English. In regard to                   ter, but it would be so sadly lacking in style as to be in-
structural transfer, some work has been done by Harris2                 comprehensible to others.
and his followers and recently an introductory study of                     The research problems which will be encountered in
the problem was made at Harvard by Foust and Walk-                      the compilation of a transfer grammar for structurally
ling.3 Nevertheless, comparatively little concrete progress             similar languages are probably more complex than those
has been made in the construction of adequate transfer                  encountered in the compilation of a transfer grammar
grammars, even though structural transfer is the most                   for structurally dissimilar languages, because the tempta-
crucial part of the translation process.                                tion is greater to assume that, because construction c in
                                                                        Language A is translatable by construction c' in Lan-
The Need for Transfer Grammars                                          guage B some of the time, c' will always be an accept-
The need for a transfer grammar is obvious to anyone                    able translation of c. The constructions c and c' may, in
working with languages where the syntactic construc-                    fact, be equivalent only with certain classes of words.
tions used to express a given meaning in the one lan-                   For example, the sentences Er zog vor, zu arbeiten
guage differ radically from those used to express the                   and He preferred to work are based on the same under-
same meaning in the other language. Under these cir-                    lying structure (Noun + Verb + Infinitive phrase), but
   * Now at the Computation Laboratory of Harvard University. This      only by a study of individual verbs—or of mistrans-
work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation and in    lations—would one discover that Er hoerte auf zu
part by the U.S. Army (Signal Corps), the U.S. Air Force (Office of
Scientific Research, Air Research and Development Command), and         arbeiten requires a differently structured sentence in
the U.S. Navy (Office of Naval Research). The author wishes to thank
Miss Renata A. Hofman, Mrs. Ruth Ward, and Miss Rosemarie Sträuss-      English as an equivalent, namely He stopped going to
nigg for their patient help as native German informants at various
stages in this study.                                                   school.
8
 Organization and Operation of a Transfer Grammar                 For purposes of this paper, it is assumed that a list
  There are various ways of constructing a transfer gram-     of numbers marking the word as a member of one
  mar, ranging from ad hoc statements of structural trans-    or more syntactic classes has been appended to each
  formations to elaborate statements of equivalence. In       word in the dictionary. It is also assumed that the
  any case, the final transfer grammar should consist         transfer grammar consists of statements of structural
  of a list of statements of structural transformations.      transfer in which the constituents of the output lan-
  The various kinds of structural transformations will in-    guage constructions are marked appropriately as mem-
  clude insertion, deletion, full or partial substitution     bers of these same syntactic classes.
  (modification) and rearrangement of words (permuta-            The executive program of the transfer grammar will
  tion). Whenever a construction in one language may         use syntactic information in the following way. It will
  be translated into the other language with the same type   look for and select an output language construction
  of construction, the statement to this effect can be       whose constituents are in the same syntactic classes as
  very brief in the final transfer grammar.                  the particular output language words involved. For
      As envisaged by the author, a transfer grammar will    example, if the output language equivalent of a given
  be activated after a text in the input language has        verb is intransitive, a construction will be selected which
  been analyzed syntactically and after the output lan-      calls for an intransitive verb; if, on the other hand,
  guage lexical equivalents for each input language word     the only possible translation of a given construction is
  have been found. The transfer grammar will be made         one with a transitive verb, and there are two possible
  up of a small executive program and a list of statements   translations of the given verb, then the verb which is
  which will indicate the construction or alternative con-   transitive will be selected. Thus, although work means
  structions which may be used in the output language as     both arbeiten and bearbeiten, in the context He worked
  a good translation of any given construction in the        the clay only the transitive verb bearbeiten would be
  input language.                                            selected in a translation into German because the equiv-
     The executive program will first locate the input       alent German construction requires a transitive verb
 language construction in the list of statements of struc-   and this fact would have been noted in the transfer
 tural transfer. Then it will select from the list those     grammar. This simple example illustrates how syntactic
 equivalent output language constructions in which the       compatibility can be used to decide among alternative
 particular lexical items under consideration can appear.    constructions and words in translation. If the grammar
 This selection will be made on the basis of syntactic       has been properly constructed, there should be at least
 information stored in the dictionary, and in the trans-     one construction which is compatible with the syntactic
 fer grammar.                                                class requirements of the individual words concerned.
     Along with each lexical item in the output language     When more than one construction and lexical item in
 dictionary there will be stored information not only        the output language are compatible, the appropriate
 about the general syntactic function of the item, e.g.,     intersection may have to be selected with semantic cri-
 noun, verb, adjective, but also about the particular con-   teria or according to some set of priorities.
 structions with which this item may or may not be               The following example may serve as a somewhat
 used. In other words, not only will the fact that a         more complicated illustration of how the transfer gram-
 given lexical item is, say, a verb be stored in the dic-    mar described above would operate. A statement is
 tionary, but also the various constructions which this      needed to express the fact that the German sentence
 verb governs will likewise be stored in the dictionary.     Der Mann fährt ihr den Wagen should be translated
     This information may be stored in the dictionary in     as The man drives the car for her. The following crude
various ways. One method would be simply to append to        equation could be placed in the transfer grammar:
each word in the dictionary a complete list of the con-
structions with which that word can be used. This list              NP1/case nom + VERB/x + NP2/case dat
                                                                                     + NP3/case acc
could be compressed and stored efficiently as one or
                                                                  = NP1/case subj + VERB/x' + NP3/case obj
two twelve-character machine words in any automatic
                                                                               + for + NP2/case obj
dictionary with a format similar to that of the Harvard
Automatic Dictionary developed by Oettinger.4 Each           where x stands for specifiers of tense, number, and
position in the machine word could be used to identify       person and x' stands for the corresponding English
a whole list of syntactic constructions. Another method      morphological specifiers. NP stands for either a noun
of storage would be to place the words which can             with its modifiers or a pronoun. Only in regard to pro-
occur in the same construction or groups of construc-        nouns will the case specifiers be needed in English.
tions in the same syntactic classes and then append to       The above sentences can be successfully translated by
each word in the dictionary the list of syntactic classes    applying this equation. If this statement of structural
to which that word belongs. This list would hopefully        equivalence were always valid, all that one would need
be brief enough to make elaborate encoding unnec-            to say about a verb would be that it was a verb, and
essary. This is the method of storage envisioned in this     further specification would be unnecessary.
paper.                                                            The preceding equation, however, will not yield the


                                                                                                                     9
  correct English translation for a sentence like Der Mann        were closely studied in these fifteen constructions. It
  gibt dem Mädchen ein Buch. According to the equa-               was noted which verbs can be substituted in any given
  tion, this sentence would be translated as The man              construction and which cannot. The results of this study
  gives a book for the girl, instead of the correct sentence      were compared with results of a similar study of sixty-
  The man gives a book to the girl, or more simply, The           five approximately equivalent German verbs in the
  man gives the girl a book. (We shall disregard the              corresponding German constructions. Native informants
  problem here of choosing the correct tense form of the          were regularly used in the study of the German verbs.
  verb, since this problem should be coped with at an-            The methods of substitution used were similar to
  other level in the transfer grammar.) In order that             those used by Harris and by Fries, among others. From
  mistranslations do not result, the verb give should be          the various selected predicate constructions, the verb
  marked in some way so that it will not be treated in            head was extracted. The remainders of these con-
  the same manner as drive and add.                               structions were called, after the terminology of Harris,
     Although the words in any language function to-              diagnostic environments.5 For example, He . . . into the
 gether in syntactic constructions within the overall             park is a diagnostic environment of the verb run. The
 structure of that particular language, it is possible for        string of morphemes He ... into the park cooccurs with
 limited purposes to equate some of the constructions of          various forms of the paradigm of the verb run. Also
 similarly structured languages. Thus, the sentences Der          this string of morphemes can be used as a sample diag-
 Mann gibt dem Mädchen ein Buch and The man gives                 nostic environment in which other verbs can be sub-
 the girl a book may be said to have the same structure,          stituted, e.g. in this study, jump. This was a test of
 since they both consist of subject + verb + indirect             syntactic,     not  semantic   substitutability. Therefore,
 animate object + direct inanimate object. In this par-           whenever there was any doubt as to the syntactic
 ticular construction the ordering of the elements is             substitutability of any verb in a given environment,
 also the same. The verbs give and geben may be con-              one of the words in this environment was replaced by
 sidered as structurally identical in regard to this con-         another word which can fit in the same slot, i.e. by
 struction, since they fulfill the same role and govern           another member of the same syntactic class. In the
 the same types of objects in their respective linguistic         above environment park can be replaced by ocean.
 systems. All that is needed in the transfer grammar to           Thus it may be verified that jump is substitutable in
 translate constructions in which a verb like geben ap-           this environment. Those verbs which are mutually sub-
 pears is a simple statement of structural identity. In           stitutable in one or more sample diagnostic environ-
 this study those verbs which can appear in construc-             ments or in environments similar to these, were placed
                                     gives                        in the same class.
tions exemplified by the man         buys       the girl a book
will be marked as 'Vt.indO'. Other verbs will be treated          Constructions Studied
in the same manner as drive and add in constructions              The German and English constructions which were
involving an indirect object.                                     assumed at the beginning of this study to be both
                                                                  structurally and semantically equivalent are listed be-
Method and Objective of Present Study                             low. These verb constructions will be referred to
In line with the eventual goal of compiling a transfer            throughout this report by the accompanying abbrevia-
grammar for German and English, the author under-                 tions.
took the study of a selected number of German and                    Parentheses around any constituent in one of these
English verbs and constructions involving verbs. This             constructions indicate that this constituent is an op-
study was concerned only with a restricted number                 tional member of the construction.
of those German and English constructions which are                  NP stands for a pronoun or a noun phrase containing
both structurally similar and translationally equivalent.         one or more constituents.
The purpose of this study was to determine how closely               V stands for verb.
structural similarity could be correlated with transla-              Aux stands for the appropriate bound and free mor-
tional equivalence in these two languages. This study             phemes designating the number, tense, mood and voice
was concerned, for example, with determining whether              of a verb. (Only active voice was considered here, how-
and to what extent a German verb followed by a cer-               ever.) These morphemes include —s, —ø, —ed, —te,
tain type of predicate complement can always be trans-            —ten, have, haben, sind, werden, will, etc.
lated by an English verb followed by the same type                   Advloc stands for an adverb or adverbial phrase of
of complementation. This study was an attempt at                  location.
determining which of the selected correspondences are
regular and predictable.                                          Abbreviation Construction
   Fifteen English constructions involving verbs were             SV             NP—Aux—V
compared with seventeen corresponding German con-                                Sample Diagnostic Environments (DE):
structions. Forty English verbs, selected because of the                             He... .
wide variety of constructions in which they can appear,                               Er ... .


10
SVPN            NP—Aux—V—Advloc                                                  Ger. NP1—Aux—V1—dass—NP2—(NP3)
                DE: He ... in the park.                                               —V2—Aux
                    Er ... in dem Park.                                          DE: He . . . that it was raining.
                                                                                       Er . . ., dass es regnete
SVIp           Eng: NP1—Aux—V1— ( in order) to—V2—                SVOCt          Eng: NP1—Aux—V1—NP2—that—NP3—
                      (NP2)                                                            Aux—V2—(NP4)
               Ger: NP1—Aux—V1—um—(NP2)—zu—                                      Ger: NP1—Aux—V1—NP2 —dass— NP3—
                     V2                                                                (NP4)—V2—Aux
               DE: He ... in order to please them.                               DE: He ... the man that it was raining.
                   Er . . ., um ihnen zu gefallen.                                     Er ... d— Mann—, dass es regnete.
                                            so 
SVCp           Eng: NP1—Aux—V1—in order that—                   SVIo           Eng: NP1—Aux—V1—(to)—V2—(NP2)
                     NP2—Aux—V2— (NP3)                                           Ger: NP1—Aux—V1—(NP2) —zu—V2
               Ger: NP1—Aux—V1—(so) dass—NP2—                                    DE: He. . .to do this.
                      (NP3)—V2—Aux                                                     Er ... dies zu tun.
               DE: He ... so that he might please them.           SVOIo          Eng: NP1—Aux—V1—NP2—(to)—V2—
                    Er . . ., so dass er ihnen gefalle.                               (NP3)
SVO SVOacc         The German constructions SVOacc,                              Ger: NP1—Aux—V1—NP2—(NP3) —(zu)
       SVOdat    SVOdat, and SVOgen were all assumed to                               —V2
       SVOgen     be equivalent to the English construc-                         DE: He ... the man to do this.
                  tion SVOacc (or, more simply, SVO) in                               Er ... d— Mann—, dies zu tun.
                  which case is not distinctively marked          SVintoN        NP1—Aux—V—PrepPhrasedirection
                  except when O is a pronoun.                                    DE: He . .. into the park.
SVOacc        NPnom—Aux—V—NPacc                                                       Er ... in den Park.
              DE: He. . .the book.                                SVOintoN       NP1—Aux—V—NP—PrepPhrasedirection
                   Er ... das Buch.                                              DE: He ... the book into the park.
SVO dat        NPnom—Aux—V—NPdat                                                       Er ... d— Buch— in den Park.
               DE: (not applicable in English)
                                                                   Analysis of Verb Distributions
                     Er ... dem Mann.
SVOgen         NPnom—Aux—V—NPgen                                  The entire distributions of some of the verbs considered
               DE: (not applicable in English)                    in this study, i.e. the list of constructions with which
                    Er ... des Buches.                            each verb can be used, can be determined by substi-
SVOPN          NP1—Aux—V—NP2—Advloc                               tution in the constructions analysed in this study, but the
               DE: He ... the book in the park.                   distributions of other verbs cannot be completely deter-
                   Er ... d— Buch— in dem Park.                   mined nor can the verbs, consequently, be assigned to
SVOIp          Eng: NP1—Aux—V1—NP2— (in order) to                 all of the appropriate syntactic classes, until other con-
                     —V2— (NP3)                                   structions are considered. For example, the verb choose
              Ger: NP1—Aux—V1—NP2—um—(NP3) —                      may be substituted not only in several of the environ-
                     zu—V2                                        ments listed above, but also in the environment They
               DE: He... the book in order to please              . . . the man president. This should not be confused
                        them.                                     with the similarly structured environment They . . . the
                    Er ... d— Buch—, um ihnen zu ge-              man a dog, which is semantically and tranformationally
                        fallen.                                                                for 
SVOCp         Eng:       NP1—Aux—V1—NP2— so                     related to They .. . a dog  to  the man. The environ-
                                                    in order    ment They . . . the man president was not considered
                     that—NP3—Aux—V2— (NP4)                       in this study, but should be taken into consideration
               Ger: NP1—Aux—V1—NP2—(so) dass—                     when the distributions of the various verbs are being
               NP3—(NP4) —V2—Aux.                                 determined.
               DE: He ... the book, so that he might                  Two other verbs in this study, treffen and meet are
                    please them.                                  members of a small, but noteworthy class of verbs, also
                    Er ... d— Buch—, so dass er ihnen             not considered in detail. This is the class of reciprocal
                    gefalle.                                      verbs. These verbs are obligatorily transitive when the
SVOdatOacc    Eng: NP1—Aux—V—NP2—NP3                              subject is singular, but when the subject is plural, the
               Ger: NP1—Aux—V—NPdat—NPacc                         object may be omitted, e.g. She met the man in the park
               DE: He ... her a book.                             and They met (each other) in the park, but not She met
                   Er ... ihr ein Buch.                           in the park.
SVCt           Eng: NP1—Aux—V1—that—NP2—Aux—                          In order to complete the distribution of verbs in Ger-
                     V2—(NP3)                                     man and English, it may be useful to learn whether a
                                                                  specific noun is used with the verb. A somewhat dubious


                                                                                                                                11
     example of this is the “verb” Rechenschaft ablegen              at the distributions of their various German equivalents.
     meaning account for. This was treated both as a com-            The ambiguous verbs in this study and their German
     pound verb in two parts and as a verb plus object. The          equivalents here considered are the following: add,
     author was not completely satisfied with either treat-          meaning say further—hinzufügen, add, as in add a
     ment. The German reflexive verbs present a similar prob-        column of figures—addieren; stop, meaning cease—auf-
     lem. Should a reflexive pronoun used with the verb be           hören, stop, meaning brake (an automobile)—anhalten,
     deemed an object or a part of the verb? In this study           stop (momentarily), i.e. delay—aufhalten; tell, meaning
     sich with erinnern was considered as part of the verb           relate—erzählen, tell, meaning command—befehlen,
     because sich erinnern has a different distribution from         also tell, meaning say—sagen; see (with the eyes), also
     erinnern plus object.                                           meaning understand—sehen, see meaning realize— ein-
         It may also be useful to discover if a particular prepo-    sehen.
     sition is normally used with the verb with or without an            Some German verbs also presented problems in mean-
     intervening object, e.g. account for, sich erinnern an, ac-     ing. Usually only one meaning of each of these verbs was
     cuse (Object) of.                                               dealt with and only one English equivalent for each of
         Finally, in English verbs it may be useful in a transfer    these verbs was analysed; treffen—meet, but also hit;
     grammar to know which verbs can be used with an ob-             wählen—choose, but also vote; and erklären—account
     ject verb in —ing, e.g. He stopped writing. This con-           for, but also explain.
     struction will be considered in a later section in con-
                                                                     Syntactic Verb-classes
     nection with the German constructions SVIo and SVOIo.
                                                                     All of the verbs that were selected for study were tested
         The reader may wonder why a total of eight common
                                                                     in the constructions listed above. Those verbs which are
     transitive and intransitive constructions were used in-
                                                                     substitutable in the same construction or constructions
     stead of two in determining the distribution of the in-
                                                                     were placed in the same syntactic verb-class. Because of
     dividual verbs. These constructions were used to verify
                                                                     the great variation in distribution noted among the
     the transitivity and intransitivity of the verbs. It was dis-
                                                                     verbs, it proved impractical to place in the same class
     covered that it is possible to predict that any verb may
                                                                     only those verbs which are substitutable in the same
     appear in all of the constructions SVO, SVOPN, SVOIp,
                                                                     total collection of constructions. In the interest of sim-
     and SVOCp, if it can appear in any one of them. How-
                                                                     plicity, and also to show more clearly which English
     ever, it is not always the case that a verb which can ap-
                                                                     verbs may appear in the same construction as their
     pear in one of the common intransitive constructions SV,
                                                                     German equivalents, criteria for membership in a class
     SVPN, SVIp, and SVCp, may appear in all four. Some
                                                                     were generally reduced to the criteria of transitivity (or
     verbs are acceptable as constituents of some intransitive
                                                                     intransitivity) as a minimum. Most of the verbs were
     constructions, but not of others. For example, the verbs
                                                                     members of other classes as well. These classes have
     wissen, wollen, and mögen may occur in SV when an
                                                                     been labeled mnemonically.
     object O is understood from the context, but they can-
                                                                        Three of the more noteworthy syntactic classes are
     not appear in the other three intransitive constructions.
                                                                     those which distinguish obligatorily transitive verbs from
     In this report only those verbs which may occur in all
                                                                     obligatorily intransitive verbs and from optionally transi-
     four of the common intransitive constructions have been
                                                                     tive or intransitive verbs.
     considered as members of the obligatorily or optionally
                                                                        Obligatorily transitive verbs can all appear in the con-
     intransitive verb-classes.
                                                                     structions SVO, SVOPN, SVOIp, and SVOCp, but can-
         Finally, in connection with the distribution of indi-
                                                                     not appear in the constructions SV, SVPN, SVIp, or
     vidual verbs it should be noted that in this study usually
                                                                     SVCp.—For simplicity in this study the class of transi-
     only one meaning of a verb was considered in the de-
                                                                     tive verbs has been extended to include verbs govern-
     termination of the distribution of the verb. If a verb
                                                                     ing an object in the dative or genitive case.
     could appear in a certain construction, but had a differ-
                                                                        Obligatorily intransitive verbs, unlike the transitive
     ent meaning in that construction, the construction was
                                                                     verbs cannot appear in the constructions SVO, SVOPN,
     not included as part of the distribution. For example,
                                                                     SVOIp, or SVOCp, but may appear in the constructions
     want was analysed in the sense desire. It was not con-
                                                                     SV, SVPN, SVIp, and SVCp.
     sidered as a possible constituent of the construction SV,
                                                                         Optionally intransitive verbs are transitive verbs
     as in He wants, because in this construction want means
                                                                     which may appear in the above constructions in which
     lack. Nevertheless, two meanings each were considered
                                                                     obligatorily transitive verbs cannot appear; and con-
     of three English verbs: know, live and run. These verbs
                                                                     versely, optionally transitive verbs are intransitive verbs
     were considered essentially as homographs, each of
                                                                     which may appear in the above constructions in which
     which has a different distribution. There were also other
                                                                     obligatorily intransitive verbs cannot appear.
     verbs in this study which are ambiguous in the limited
     environments provided in these constructions. Only one             In the presentation of verb-classes below, the follow-
     distribution of each of these verbs was worked out. Some        ing conventions have been adopted:
     clues as to the limitation of the distribution of the vari-     1. A comma between verbs indicates that these verbs
     ous meanings of these verbs may be found by looking             have the same total distribution, i.e. that these verbs are


12
members of the same group of syntactic classes.                   and four common intransitive constructions, but they
2. A single semicolon between verbs indicates that these          cannot appear in any other of the constructions con-
verbs are members of different groups of syntactic                sidered in this study.
classes.                                                     Vt.obl—All Vt verbs in this study which were not listed
3. A double semicolon is placed before that group of              in class Vt.opt.
verbs which may also be used in the common intransi-              None of the verbs in this class can appear in the con-
tive constructions. The double semicolon separates                structions SV, SVPN, SVIp, or SVCp.
obligatorily transitive verbs from optionally intransitive   Vt.obl.com—anblicken, annehmen, ansehen, aufrichten,
verbs.                                                            bearbeiten, bekommen, besprechen, betrachten, em-
                                                                  pfangen, erhalten, erörtern, kennen, unterstützen,
  In this study only two obligatorily intransitive verbs          account for, discuss, know (meaning be acquainted
were found. These have been classed as follows:                   with), look at, straighten, support; treffen, meet.
Vi.com—arbeiten.                                                        These verbs can be used only with the four common
                                                             transitive constructions SVO, SVOPN, SVOIp, and
   This intransitive verb can appear only in the common      SVOCp.
intransitive constructions SV, SVPN, SVIp, and SVCp.         Vt.dat—raten; befehlen; erzählen, sagen, vorschlagen;;
This class would also contain verbs like arrive, depart,          helfen.
disappear, and vanish. This class is small because many           Whenever a verb of this class appears in a construc-
normally intransitive verbs can appear in transitive con-    tion where there is an animate noun used predicatively,
structions with a cognate object. (See class Vt.opt.cog      this noun will be in the dative case.
below)                                                       Vt.gen—sich erinnern, gedenken.
Vi.to—aufhören.                                                   Any noun used predicatively with a member of this
   This verb can appear not only in the common in-           class may be in the genitive case. (With sich erinnern
transitive constructions, but also in the construction       the predicate noun may be used in the accusative case
SVIo, as in Er hört auf das zu tun.                          after the preposition an.)
    Two verbs were found in this study to be anomalous.      Vt.indO—machen,           (Rechenschaft)     ablegen;     bewirken,
These are the verbs wohnen and live (meaning dwell).              erklären, hinzufügen; befehlen; tell; erzählen, sagen,
They are anomalous syntactically because they may ap-             vorschlagen, wünschen; aufhalten; auswählen, wäh-
pear only in the construction SVPN. They have been                len, fahren; bringen, nehmen, bring, take; make;;
placed in a class designated as Va.                               addieren, anhalten, geben, kaufen, buy, give; unter-
    All the rest of the verbs in this study were placed in        schreiben; laufen, springen.
classes designated in part by Vt because they can all ap-       All of these verbs may appear in the construction
pear in the common transitive constructions SVO,             SVOdatOacc, e.g. The man bought the boy a dog.
SVOPN, SVOIp, and SVOCp. These verbs have been               Vt.that—wissen, say, suggest; raten, advise; sich erin-
classed as follows:                                               nern, gedenken; vorziehen, prefer; mögen, wollen;
Vt.opt—stop, work; addieren, anhalten, geben, kaufen,             bewirken, erklären, hinzufügen; befehlen; tell; erzäh-
    buy, give; leben, schlafen, live (not meaning dwell),         len, sagen, vorschlagen; wünschen;; begreifen, ver-
    sleep; begreifen, verstehen, einsehen, know (not              stehen, einsehen, know (not meaning be acquainted
    meaning be acquainted with), understand, add;                 with), understand, add; sehen, see; remember;
    sehen, see; remember; unterschreiben; sign; helfen;           unterschreiben.
    help, choose; run (meaning go quickly), jump;               All of the verbs in this category can be used in the
    laufen, springen; accept.                                construction SVCt, e.g. He said that the sum was shin-
                                                             ing.
   All of the verbs in this class may appear in the com-     Vt.Othat—raten, advise;           erinnern, mahnen, remind,
mon intransitive constructions SV, SVPN, SVIp, and                persuade; erzählen, sagen, vorschlagen; beraten;
SVCp in addition to the common transitive and other               tell;; sign, unterschreiben.
constructions.                                                  All of the verbs in this class can be used in the con-
Vt.opt.cog—leben, schlafen, live (not meaning dwell),        struction SVOCt, e.g. He told her that the sun was shin-
     sleep; run (meaning go quickly), jump, laufen,          ing.
     springen.                                               Vt.to—want; sich erinnern, gedenken; vorziehen, prefer;
   These are all optionally transitive verbs. They may ap-        aufhalten; wünschen;; helfen; help, choose; re-
pear in transitive constructions only when the object is          member.
either a word which is identical with or derived from           All of the verbs in this class can be used in the con-
the verb, or a word which is synonymous with a word          struction SVIo, e.g. He wanted to write a letter.
which is identical with or derived from the verb, e.g. He    Vt.Oto—raten; advise; erinnern, mahnen, remind, per-
lived his life, He ran a run, He ran a race.                      suade; want; auswählen, wählen; befehlen; tell;
Vt.opt.com—stop, work.                                            beraten,      überzeugen,      überreden;      helfen;   help,
    These verbs can appear in the four common transitive          choose; sehen, see; sign.


                                                                                                                             13
    All of the verbs in this class can be used in the con-     could test for substitutability in the construction NP—
struction SVOIo as in The girl wanted the boy to write a       Verb—NP—to—NPanim. In the transfer grammar all Ger-
letter and She saw the boy go home.                            man SVOdatOacc constructions could be equated with
                                                               NP—Verb— NP—for—NPanim. For example, Er kaufte
 Vt.into—fahren (meaning drive);; sehen, see; run              dem Jungen ein Buch would become He bought a book
     (meaning go quickly), jump; sign(?); laufen,              for the boy. This structural transfer would be made ex-
     springen.                                                 cept when the English verb equivalent is a member of the
    All of the verbs in this class, can be used in the con-    special, more easily definable class of verbs of presenting
struction SVintoN as in He jumped into the pool and            and transport. When the verb is a member of this special
in the apparently similarly structured sentence He             class, the English construction would be NP—Verb—
signed into the hotel.                                         NP—to—NPanim. For example, Er brachte dem Jungen
Vt.Ointo—bringen, nehmen, bring, take; fahren; re-             ein Buch would be translated as He brought a book to the
     ceive, run, (meaning operate); make;; run (mean-          boy. By using short-cuts such as this, the problems of
     go quickly) (?), jump; laufen, springen; accept;          translation can be simplified and dealt with more
     sign.                                                     quickly. Such short-cuts as this one have the advantage
   All of the verbs in this class can be used in the con-      also of simplification of the problem without alteration
struction SVOintoN as in He brought the book into the          or distortion of the meaning of a given construction.
room.                                                             Anyone trying to determine the exact distributions of
                                                              German and English verbs should be alert to the various
Some Comparisons of the Distributions                         constructions in which the verbs of the one language
  of German and English Verbs                                 have been observed to be substitutable, while their
The problem of determining the distributions of German        equivalents in the other language are not. While more
and English verbs and of assigning the verbs to syn-          German verbs may appear in the construction SVOdatOacc
tactic classes for use with a transfer grammar can be         than their English equivalents, more English verbs may
simplified if general rules of equivalence can be for-        appear in the constructions SVintoN and SVOintoN than
mulated so that it will be possible to predict that when-     their German counterparts. A total of eleven instances
ever a verb v is used in input language A in construction     of this difference were noted.
c, its equivalent v' in the output language B can be              Verbs of motion and transport in both German and
used in construction c'. As an aid in making general          English may appear in these two constructions, e.g. He
statements and predictions of this kind, the respective       jumps into the water, He brings the book into the park:
distributions of equivalent German and English verbs          Er springt ins Wasser, Er bringt das Buch in den Park.
were compared. The distribution of each member of             However, there is a marginal group of English verbs
sixty-three out of the sixty-five pairs of German and         which may be used in one or both of these constructions
English verbs considered were found to vary from one          while their German equivalents may not. For example,
another in not more than five constructions. Both mem-        the sentence He made the box into a table has a differ-
bers of twenty-two of these verb pairs can occur in the       ent structure in its German translation, as may be seen
same constructions, and each member of twenty-two             in the sentence Er machte aus der Kiste einen Tisch.
of the verb pairs can occur in the same constructions         The sentence He signs into the hotel requires yet another
as the other member of the pair except for one construc-      construction in German, namely a reflexive and a prepo-
tion; in this construction one member of the pair may         sitional phrase of location instead of direction in the
appear, but the other cannot.                                 sentence Er schreibt sich in dem Hotel ein. In general,
   The principal difference noted in the distributions of     it may be said that all of the German verbs in this study
the German verbs in contrast to those of their English        which can occur in the constructions SVintoN or
equivalents was that many German verbs can appear in          SVOintoN can be translated into English with the same
the construction SVOdatO acc, while their English equiva-     type of construction with minimal change in meaning,
lents cannot. This difference was noted in twenty verbs.      but this working rule does not hold in translation from
Further, this difference is one-sided, that is to say that    English into German.
while the English equivalent of a German verb in this             By using another construction in the tests of sub-
construction cannot also be used in this construction, for    stitutability the class of verbs useable in SVOintoN can
every English verb which could appear in this construc-       be subdivided into the verbs of motion and transport
tion there is a German equivalent which can appear in         and the remainder. This sub-class of verbs of motion
the same construction.                                        and transport includes an English equivalent for every
   Because this difference is so marked, it would seem        German verb in the class and vice versa. The construc-
expedient in the construction of a German-to-English          tion that would be added to the test would be
transfer grammar to eliminate the structurally similar        SVOAdvdir:NP1—Aux—Verb—NP2—Advdirection, where
English construct. This could simplify the task of deter-     Advdirection is an adverb indicating a movement to an-
mining the distribution of the English verbs. In place        other geographical position, such as the adverb dahin or
of testing for substitutability in this construction, one     the obsolete thither in Er brachte das Buch dahin and


14
 He brought the book thither. This construction makes it       bearbeitet den Ton in dem Keller → He works the clay
 possible to distinguish bring into from make into.            in the cellar.
    Striking similarities in the distributions of the German       In this study it was observed that whenever a German
 verbs and of their English equivalents were noted in          verb occurs in a common transitive or intransitive con-
 connection with the constructions SVCt, SVOCt, SVIo,          struction, it may be translated by an English verb in
 and SVOIo. There were few instances noted in the verbs        the similar English construction. When an English verb
 studied where a verb of the one language can appear in        appears in a common transitive construction, one of its
 one of these constructions while its equivalent in the        German equivalents may usually be used in a similarly
 other language cannot. This similarity in distributions       structured German sentence. When, however, an Eng-
 was particularly noticeable in the constructions SVCt         lish verb appears in a common intransitive construction,
 and SVOCt.                                                    it is not always possible to find a German equivalent
    Also in the constructions SVIo and SVOIo there is          which may be translated in the similar German con-
generally some German verb or other in the classes Vt.to       struction.
and Vt.Oto respectively which may be used as a transla-            In sum then, as may be seen in Table 1, when one is
tion of the English verb used in the input language            trying to determine the distribution of German verbs,
construction. However, this simple structural transfer         he must be particularly alert to the possibility of “poor-
cannot always be made in translation from German to            ness of fit” in the constructions SVintoN, SVOintoN,
English. Not all English verbs which are the equivalents       SVPN, SVIp and SVCp. As touched upon earlier, Ger-
of German verbs occurring in these two constructions           man and English obligatorily transitive verbs may some-
may be used in these same two constructions. For ex-           times be used in the construction SV with the object
ample, although Er hilft dies zu tun can be translated         understood. One clue that is useful in determining the
as He helps to do this, the translation of Er hört auf dies    transitivity of German verbs is the prefix be—, as in
zu tun as He ceases to do this is stilted. This sentence is    bearbeiten. All of the German verbs in this study which
more commonly translated with a construction involving         have the prefix be— were found to be obligatorily
a verb with the suffix —ing, e.g. He stops doing this.         transitive.
Consider also the verb vermeiden, which was not closely           In the determination of the distributions of English
examined in this study; this verb can occur in the con-        verbs, one should be alert to the possibility of poorness
struction SVIo, but it has no English equivalent which         of fit in the construction SVOdatOacc, if this construction
may appear in the corresponding English construction.
When vermeiden appears in this construction, its Eng-                                  TABLE 1.
lish equivalent avoid appears in a construction verb +                TRANSLATABILITY OF A FIXED NUMBER OF
gerund or gerundive. Instead of an introductory particle             GERMAN AND ENGLISH VERB CONSTRUCTIONS
to there is a suffix —ing: Er vermeidet dies zu tun → He
                                                                     German                               English
avoids doing this. Similarly, when a German verb ap-
                                                                   Constructions                       Constructions
pears in the construction SVOIo, its English equivalent
may be a verb which cannot be used in this construction.             SVOPN                 ↔           SVOPN
For example, the verb abhalten in SVOIo may be                       SVOIp                 ↔           SVOIp
translated as keep in a dissimilar construction; Er hält             SVOCp                 ↔           SVOCp
ihn (davon) ab es zu tun → He keeps him from doing it.
                                                                    SVOacc
    More English verbs proportionally may be used than
                                                                    SVOdat                 ↔           SVO
German verbs in the entire series of transitive construc-
                                                                    SVOgen
tions, SVO, SVOPN, SVOIp, and SVOCp, combined
with the common intransitive constructions SV, SVPN,                SVCt                  ↔            SVCt
SVIp, and SVCp, that is to say, more English verbs can              SVOCt                 ↔            SVOCt
be used both transitively and intransitively than German            SV                    →            SV
verbs. Because of this, the English verbs may be de-                SVPN                  →            SVPN
scribed as having more flexibility structurally than their          SVIp                  →            SVIp
German equivalents. A clear example of this is the verb             SVCp                  →            SVCp
work. It is a member of class Vt.opt.com. It may be used            SVintoN               →            SVintoN
both transitively and intransitively, but only in the com-          SVOintoN              →            SVOintoN
mon constructions. This verb has two German equiva-                 SVIo                  ←            SVIo
lents, arbeiten and bearbeiten. Arbeiten can only be                SVOIo                 ←            SVOIo
used intransitively and bearbeiten can only be used                 SVOdatOacc            ←            SVOdatOacc
transitively. The one verb work has structural flexibility
and also semantic flexibility because it can be used to        An arrow means that with the verbs studied it is always
                                                               possible to translate a given construction in the input
translate two differently structured sentences in which        language into the output construction indicated. For an
the meaning of the verb is somewhat different; Er              explanation of the structural designations, see the list of
arbeitet in dem Keller → He works in the cellar and Er         constructions studied.



                                                                                                                       15
 is included in the test, and in the constructions SVIo and              these constructs. These verbs were then placed in a
 SVOIo in contrast to constructions where the verb is                    number of syntactic classes according to the construc-
 followed by a verb with the suffix —ing.                                tions in which they can be substituted. Thus oblig-
    The above statements about structurally equivalent                   atorily transitive, obligatorily intransitive, option-
 constructions in German and English should not be                       ally intransitive, and anomalous verbs were placed
 construed as universal laws, but simply as regularities                 in separate syntactic classes. In addition to being
 of correspondence affecting certain verbs. These state-                 a member of one of these classes each verb is a
 ments concern only a few of the possible types of output                member of one or more other classes, if it can be fol-
 language constructions which are equivalent to a few                    lowed by an infinitive phrase with to or zu, a subordinate
 construction-types present in the input language.                       clause introduced by that or dass, a prepositional phrase
     The researcher in the field of mechanical translation               of direction, or a predicate containing an indirect object.
 should use the structural equivalences presented here                   The list of syntactic classes to which a given verb be-
 only as a guide in the determination of the distribution                longs may be stored in an automatic dictionary for use
 of individual verbs and in the writing of a simple trans-               with a transfer grammar.
 fer grammar.                                                                The distributions of the verbs of each language were
                                                                         compared with the distributions of other verbs of the
 Summary                                                                 same language and of the other language in order to
 The problems of structural transfer constitute an im-                   discover predictable regularities that could be used for
 portant part of mechanical translation and should be                    a more efficient determination of the distributions of
 dealt with systematically and thoroughly. This study is                 other verbs not yet studied. Sometimes the distribution
 concerned with a detailed analysis of a very small, but                 of a verb in German can be used as an aid in determin-
 frequently used number of constructions that should be                  ing the distribution of its equivalent in English and
 dealt with in a transfer grammar. Nineteen German                       vice versa. Once the distribution of a verb is known,
 verb constructions were postulated as equivalent to                     it is a relatively easy matter to assign it to syntactic
 seventeen English verb constructions. These were se-                    classes for use in mechanical translation.
 lected because a minimum of permutation and modifi-                        The German and English constructions that were
 cation is necessary to transform the constructions of the               postulated at the beginning of this report as equivalent
 one language into the constructions of the other lan-                   were found to be equivalent only with certain types, or
 guage.                                                                  classes, of verbs. This report has been an attempt at
    In order to test the postulated equivalences and to                  classifying German and English verbs and determining
 gather material needed for a rudimentary transfer gram-                 when a construction in one of the languages is equiva-
 mar, the writer tested forty English verbs and sixty-                   lent to a certain structurally similar construction in the
 four equivalent German verbs for substitutability in                    other language.


 References                              “Russian-English Structural Trans-            uage Translation, Harvard Univer-
 1. Yngve, V. H., “A Framework for       fer: A Preliminary System,” Mathe-            sity Press, Cambridge, Mass.
    Syntactic Translation,” Mechan-      matical Linguistics and Automatic             (1960), Chapter VI.
    ical Translation, Vol. 4, No. 3      Translation, Report No. NSF-6,                5. Harris, Z. S., “Co-occurrence and
    (1957), pp 59-65.                    Harvard Computation Laboratory,               Transformation in Linguistic Struc-
 2. Harris, Z. S., “Transfer Grammar,”   Section III (June, 1961).                     ture,” Language, Vol. 33 (1957),
    IJAL, Vol. 20 (1954), pp 259-270.    4. Oettinger, A. G., Automatic Lang-          p. 284.
 3. Foust, W. D. and Walkling, J. R.,




16