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Zeitschrift für germanistische Linguistik

Deutsche Sprache in Gegenwart und Geschichte

Ed. by Ágel, Vilmos / Feilke, Helmuth / Linke, Angelika / Lüdeling, Anke / Tophinke, Doris

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Das Zustandspassiv. Grammatische Einordnung – Bildungsbeschränkung – Interpretationsspielraum

Claudia Maienborn

Adresse der Verfasserin: Deutsches Seminar, Universität Tübingen, Wilhelmstr. 50, D-72074 Tübingen. E-mail:

Citation Information: Zeitschrift für Germanistische Linguistik. Volume 35, Issue 1-2, Pages 83–114, ISSN (Online) 1613-0626, ISSN (Print) 0301-3294, DOI: 10.1515/ZGL.2007.005, April 2008

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The German adjectival passive, or “Zustandspassiv”, belongs to the most controversial topics of German grammar. The controversy centers around the following questions: What is the grammatical status of the Zustandspassiv: Does it belong to the verbal paradigm or is it a combination of copula plus adjectivized verbal participle? What are the restrictions governing its construction and combination? And what is its characteristic meaning range? The paper reviews a set of diagnostics, which will turn out to provide ample evidence for a “copula plus adjective”-account of the Zustandspassiv. It then goes on to discuss one particular problem for such an account, viz. the combination with event-related modifiers and it offers a new solution for the interpretative variability of the Zustandspassiv, aiming at a more balanced division of labor between grammar and pragmatics. Basically, the Zustandspassiv is analyzed as assigning an (arbitrarily complex) ad hoc property to the subject referent. While the grammar imposes only few constraints on the construction, legitimating and interpreting such an ad hoc property in context is basically the task of pragmatics. Adopting the notion of ad hoc properties from cognitive psychology, this article is an attempt to explore the fruitfulness of applying Lawrence Barsalou's theory of mental representations to linguistic analysis.

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