Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

On the semantics of German 'bar'-adjectives

Vortragende(r) Sarah Zobel and Frank Sode
Institution(en) Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Datum 16.04.2024, 11:00 - 14:00 Uhr
Uhrzeit 11:00 Uhr
Ort ZAS, Pariser Str. 1, 10719 Berlin; Room: 1.02 (First floor)


In this talk, we discuss deverbal adjectives formed with the German suffix '-bar', like 'lesbar' (Engl. 'readable') in (1). We set aside all 'bar'-adjectives that are not deverbal and/or have developed an idiomatic meaning (e.g., 'offenbar'/'apparently') and focus only on those 'bar'-adjectives for which the semantic contribution follows the same transparent pattern, where a sentence of the form 'X is V-bar' can be roughly paraphrased with 'X can be V-ed', so (1) ~ (1').

(1) Die Schrift ist les-bar. ('The handwriting is readable')
(1') Die Schrift kann gelesen werden. ('The handwriting can be read')

Hence, very roughly, these 'bar'-adjectives express a modal property of the internal argument of the verbal root -- the possibility of being affected by an action of the type described by the verbal root. The goal of this talk is to, first, characterize this subset of 'bar'-adjectives in more detail and to, then, address three aspects of the semantics of these 'bar'-adjectives that a formal account needs to capture:
(i) the properties of the implicit agent (i.e., Who does the reading in (1)?)
(ii) the type of possibility that is expressed
(iii) their gradability and how it connects to their modal semantics (e.g., 'unlesbar'/'unreadable' and 'lesbarer'/'more readable')