Research Article Open Access

On the Systematic Variation of German Idioms: Converse Pairs as a Constructional Phenomenon

Dmitrij Dobrovol′skij1
  • 1 Russian Language Institute, Russia


This paper presents some findings of my research on the systematic variation of German idioms, with attention focused on converse transformations such as (jmdm.) eins/eine/einen aufs Dach geben literally "to give someone <let someone have> one on the roof", meaning 'to strike <beat> someone' or 'to punish someone' – eins/eine/einen aufs Dach bekommen (von jmdm.) literally "to get one on the roof from someone", meaning 'to be struck <beaten> by someone' or 'to be punished by someone'. To be subjected to converse transformations an idiom must have two active valencies. These valencies are usually filled by the Agent and Patient, more seldom by the Agent and Addressee or Beneficiary. This semantico-syntactic condition is also a constructional phenomenon because it is governed by the argument structure of a given expression. Within every semantic field, a certain constructional pattern underlies the converse transformation. Cf. for the semantic fields (1) PHYSICAL COERCION, PHYSICAL VIOLENCE and (2) PUNISHMENT, which is derived from (1): [X gab eins in/auf "gave one in/on" {body part} of Y] meaning 'X struck <beat> Y' ↔ [Y bekam eins in/auf "got one in/on" {body part} of Y vom "from" X] meaning 'Y was struck <was beaten> by X'.

Journal of Social Sciences
Volume 11 No. 3, 2015, 248-257


Submitted On: 2 May 2015 Published On: 13 August 2015

How to Cite: Dobrovol′skij, D. (2015). On the Systematic Variation of German Idioms: Converse Pairs as a Constructional Phenomenon. Journal of Social Sciences, 11(3), 248-257.

  • 4 Citations



  • Idiom
  • Systematic Variation
  • German
  • Converse Pair
  • Constructional Pattern