November 26th: Martin Schäfer (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena) – Utrecht

We are happy to announce that on Thursday, November 26th, Martin Schäfer (Friedrich-Schiller-Universtiät Jena) will give a LUSH talk in Utrecht. We hope to see you all there!

Date: Thursday, November 26th, 2015

Time: 15:00-17:00

Location: Utrecht, Drift 25, room 2.06

Speaker: Martin Schäfer (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)

Title: What do manner adverbs modifiy?

Many fundamental issues in the domain of manner adverbs remain elusive. One such issue is the modification target in manner modification. Semantically, the ontological type of the modification target is unclear: is it a Davidsonian event, or something else?
Syntactically, it is unclear in how far the modification target is linked to a specific syntactic position. At least two further factors complicate the issue: 1. There is no general agreement on the number of different readings of a single adverb (cf., e.g., the paired clausal vs. manner readings in Ernst 2002 vs. the distinction of two sub-clausal usages in Schäfer 2013). 2. The distinction between different readings often involves nuances that leave it open in how far the observed contrast can be construed as a class contrast, and in how far the observed contrast corresponds to other descriptions of contrasts in the literature. This is problematic even within one language, and even for adverbs with straightforward lexical semantics, cf., e.g.,`loudly’ and ‘woodenly’, which Ernst 2002 argues have only one reading, whereas Shaer 2003 maintains that they both have distinctive high and low readings.

I argue for the need to (semantically and syntactically) distinguish more than one sub-clausal reading in English, too. Based on the assumption that true manner modification requires a match between the conceptual structure made available through the verb and the modifying potential of the adverb, I hypothesize that distinctive patterns of adverb/verb combinations exist predominantly in syntactic positions close to the verb, where conceptual constraints from adverb and verb alike must be met. Preliminary evidence from a corpus study on the co-occurrence patterns of selected adverbs and verbs shows that this hypothesis is on the right track. Further, these results are in line with analyses that assume a) that true manner modification is not event predication and b) that the syntactic position of the modifier guides the selection of the modification target even at the level of sub-clausal modification.


Ernst, T. (2002). The Syntax of Adjuncts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schäfer, M. (2013). Positions and Interpretations. German adverbial adjectives at the syntax-semantics interface. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
Shaer, B. (2003). “Manner” adverbs and the “association” theory: Some problems and solutions. In E. Lang, C. Fabricius-Hansen, and C. Maienborn (Eds.), Modifying Adjuncts, Berlin. Mouton de Gruyter.


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