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The German bekommen passive: A case study on frequency and grammaticality 


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This paper asks to what extent the German bekommen ('get') passive has been grammaticalized. As a lexical verb, bekommen obligatorily requires an accusative object. A corpus study and three experiments (two judgment experiments and a forced-choice selection experiment) assessed whether this requirement is transfered to the bekommen passive, that is, whether dative verbs without an accusative object are excluded from this construction. The corpus study and the three experiments converge on the conclusion that for dative verbs without an accusative object, the bekommen passive is intermediate between fully acceptable and fully unacceptable. This conclusion concurs with the characterization of the bekommen passive as a case of grammaticalization-in-progress.