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Academic Paper


Title: Adjectival Conversion of Unaccusatives in German
Author: Helga Gese
Institution: Universität Tübingen
Author: Claudia Maienborn
Institution: Universität Tübingen
Author: Britta Stolterfoht
Institution: Universität Tübingen
Linguistic Field: Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics; Syntax; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: German
Abstract: The paper presents an in-depth study of the conditions under which unaccusative verbs in German take part in the formation of so-called Adjectival Passives. It provides corpus-linguistic as well as psycho-linguistic evidence arguing that combinations of sein ‘to be’ with the participle of an unaccusative verb are systematically ambiguous between a present perfect reading (with sein as auxiliary) and an adjectival reading (with sein as copula). The first part of the paper highlights the adjectival character of the construction in question. The second part presents the results of three rating studies that help unravel the pragmatic conditions that govern the adjectival conversion of unaccusatives. This leads to the conclusion that what has become known as the ‘adjectival passive’ construction is a rather general, broadly available word formation process that is characteristically shaped and controlled by pragmatic factors.

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This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 23, Issue 2.

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