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On the notion of roles in formal semantics


In German, bare singular nouns are in general uncommon, but occur in at least three contexts in which they intuitively contribute roles: (a) nominal copular sentences, (b) certain "als"-phrases, and (c) as complements of nouns like "Rolle" ('role'), "Beruf" ('job') etc. (see De Swart et al. 2007, Geist 2014, 2016; Landman 1989, Jäger 2003, Szabo 2003, Asher 2006, 2011). While the English counterparts of this data do not usually feature bare singular nouns, the same intuitive role interpretation can be also found in these contexts.

(1) a. Paul ist Richter. / Paul is a judge.
b. Als Richter ist Paul korrupt. / As a judge, Paul is corrupt.
c. Paul genießt seine Rolle als Richter. / Paul enjoys his role as a judge.

After introducing the data in detail, I discuss the proposal by De Swart et al. (2007) for bare nominals in copular clauses and its shortcomings. Afterwards I introduce my proposal for a role structure based on insights from German "als"- and English "as"-phrases. This role structure will form the basis for a new analysis of "als"- and "as"-phrases in their role use, as in (1-b).