meine Seele spannte weit ihre Flügel aus (Eichendorff) - weit: Adjective/adverb?

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alberto29

New Member
Spanish-Spain
Hallo!
I'm doing the translation of a german poem called "Mondnacht" by Eichendorff. On the first two stanzas the poet describes the night and its little noises and characteristics. The last stanza is like this:

"und meine Seele spannte
weit ihre Flügel aus

flog durch die stillen Lande
als flöge sie nach Haus"

The thing is that I don't really know if the word "weit" works here as an adverb of the verb "spannte" or it's and adjective for "ihre Flügel" for saying that the soul has gone out of the body or something like that.

Danke!
 
  • Demiurg

    Senior Member
    German
    It's clearly an adverb. An adjective would be inflected and in a different position: spannte ihre weiten Flügel aus.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    The phrase is "die Flügel weit ausspannen".
    I give you a prosa version:

    Und meine Seele spannte ihre Flügel weit aus.
    And my soul spread out widely her wings.
    Sie flog durch die stillen Lande, als ob sie nach Hause flöge.
    She flew across the silent regions/shores as if she flew home.

    I'd say poetically it is like
    She lew across the silent shires ...

    "Lande" is poetically for "Landgebiete", not for "Länder".
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    My initial reaction was the same as Demi's: clearly an adverb.

    Now, the obvious English translation for the phrase is "spread wide its wings". Since English regularly distinguishes adjectives and adverbs (in this case, "wide" vs "widely"), the question arises why I opt for the adjective form and why "widely" seems deviant here.

    The answer seems to be that "wide" describes not the manner in which the spreading is done but rather the form of the wings as a result of the spreading. The wings have spread and are now wide (wings), thus an adjective.

    Getting back to the German, I wonder if I'm being overly influenced by English in suggesting that "weit" is not necessarily an adverbial modifier of ausspannen, that a possible interpretation of the phrase is,
    meine Seele spannte ihre Flügel aus, damit sie dann weit waren (als Folge davon waren sie weit)
    Note that "weit" is an adjective here.

    This analysis would be similar to what one would say about "Er wurde müde": "müde", despite following a verb, is not an adverbial modifier of the verb (describing in what manner the becoming happened), but rather an adjectival description of the result of the becoming.

    In any case, however one analyzes the German phrase, if Alberto is doing a translation of it to English, I suggest "wide". :)
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    I think there is another difference between adverb and adjective in German than in English. They are formal classes in German.
    During the spelling reform some of the reformers even tried to change adverbs to nouns (es tut mir Leid) - but this was revised.
    I am not sure whether the direct translations of the grammatical categories are fully exact: Adverb = adverb/ Adjektiv= adjective(?).

    I our case we have another problem, we do not translate Adverbs to adverbs or Adjective to adjectives, but poetic sentences or phrases.

    We see this in Demiurgs example: spannte ihre weiten Flügel aus. - this is the German usage of adjectives - or better Adjektiven (?).

    So in German it is clearly an Adverb.
    But if we translate, we consider more than formal word forms.

    We do not have the "...ly" difference in German.

    You can translate "Spread wide its wings (is the soul neuter in English?).

    This would become German "spreizte/spannte ihre Flügel weit".

    In #3 I used "widely" but the reason was I was not sure whether "wide" is correct in English.

    "Flügel weit spannen" is a phrase, where "weit" modifies "Flügel spannen" rather than "spreizen" or "spannen" alone. You cannot use "weit" without a related object.
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Interesting comments, Hutschi. I'd like to continue the discussion a bit further (at least till the mods declare it off-topic...).

    > I think there is another difference between adverb and adjective in German than in English. They are formal classes in German.
    Why do you think they're not formal classes in English?

    > During the spelling reform some of the reformers even tried to change adverbs to nouns (es tut mir Leid)
    I think there are arguments for either analysis. One needs to make a decision here only because it affects capitalization.

    > In our case we have another problem, we are not translating Adverbs to adverbs or Adjective to adjectives, but poetic sentences or phrases.
    Right - note that I ended by saying that however one analyzes the German, for the English translation I suggest ...

    > We see this in Demiurgs example: spannte ihre weiten Flügel aus. - this is the German usage of adjectives
    We can of course do this in English too ("Spread its wide wings"). But this introduces a meaning difference. Here we have preexistingly-wide wings, which are then spread. But when a bird spreads its wings wide, we mean it changes the configuration of its wings from non-wide to wide.

    > So in German it is clearly an Adverb.
    Wait a minute! :) The fact that we have a clear case (ihre weiten Flügel) of adjectival use of "weit" doesn't imply that some other, less clear, use is necessarily adverbial!

    > But if we translate, we consider more than formal word forms.
    No argument with this, as noted above.
     

    Gernot Back

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    Hi Dan2,

    I think you are thinking too much in terms of traditional Latin grammar here:
    Prädikativum nennt man ein Adjektiv, das in KNG mit einem Beziehungswort übereinstimmt, vom Sinn her aber eine adverbiale Bestimmung zum Prädikat darstellt. Ein prädikatives Adjektiv wird mit einem Adverb wiedergegeben.
    Marcus laetus in hortum currit.Marcus läuft froh in den Garten.
    laetus stimmt zwar wie ein adjektivisches Attribut mit Marcus überein; es antwortet aber nicht auf die Frage „Was für ein?“, „Welcher?“, sondern auf die Frage „Wie?“, „Auf welche Weise?“. Deshalb ist es kein Attribut, sondern ein Prädikativum.
    http://www.ewetel.net/~martin.bode/Gramheft.pdf#page=34
     

    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Whether I'm right or wrong in my speculation, Latin grammar, about which I know nothing (I'm really interested only in spoken languages), has nothing to do with it.:)

    English actually allows both "Marcus is running happy in the garden" and "Marcus is running happily in the garden". The first means essentially that Marcus is running in the garden, and, by the way, is happy (maybe better with commas around "happy"). In the second "happily" describes the manner of running. So, yes, "happy" in the first sentence is "ein Adjektiv, das ... mit einem Beziehungswort übereinstimmt" but you certainly can't say that it "vom Sinn her aber eine adverbiale Bestimmung zum Prädikat darstellt."

    Consider these sentences:
    1. Paint the car red!
    2. Paint the car slowly!

    The sentences look syntactically identical, but in the first case the result is a red (adj) car; in the second the result is not a slow car; "slowly" is an adverb that describes the action of the verb. Corresponding examples can be constructed for German. If you're unwilling to call "red" in (1) an adjective, at least admit that whatever it is, it is very different from the true adverb in (2). I guess what I was really trying to do above was to make that claim with respect to
    Spread your wings wide!
    vs. something like
    Spread your wings slowly!
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    A very interesting discussion! As I see it, German does not actually distinguish morphologically between adverbs and predicative adjectives. We touched on this in the recent discussion of voll/voller, where voll, as in “er ist voll Glaubens”, looks like an adverb or even a preposition, but is in fact (at least historically) a predicative adjective. In English there is a clear distinction between an adverb in –ly (plus the irregular adverbs like “well”) and an adjective without any ending. There is a very famous poem by Dylan Thomas beginning: “Do not go gentle into that good night”, where in prose one might be tempted to say “Do not go gently”, but where, in the poem, the adjective “gentle” is not only correct, but absolutely necessary. The poet is saying that we must not be gentle when we go into the night of death. And here too in “spannte weit ihre Flügel aus” = “spread its wings out wide”, in English as least “wide” is an adjective (“spread its wings, with the result that they were wide”), but in German the adjective/adverb distinction is blurred.
     
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    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Interesting comments, Hutschi. I'd like to continue the discussion a bit further (at least till the mods declare it off-topic...).

    > I think there is another difference between adverb and adjective in German than in English. They are formal classes in German.
    Why do you think they're not formal classes in English?

    I do not think this. I just wanted to say that they are formal in German. I did not speak about English here.


    > During the spelling reform some of the reformers even tried to change adverbs to nouns (es tut mir Leid)
    I think there are arguments for either analysis. One needs to make a decision here only because it affects capitalization.

    In this special case the noun has another meaning. "Es tut mir leid"= "I'm sorry", "Es tut mir Leid"= "it injures me/hurts me"=elliptic form for: Es tut mir Leid/Leides an.

    > In our case we have another problem, we are not translating Adverbs to adverbs or Adjective to adjectives, but poetic sentences or phrases.
    Right - note that I ended by saying that however one analyzes the German, for the English translation I suggest ...

    > We see this in Demiurgs example: spannte ihre weiten Flügel aus. - this is the German usage of adjectives
    We can of course do this in English too ("Spread its wide wings"). But this introduces a meaning difference.

    Exactly.

    Here we have preexistingly-wide wings, which are then spread. But when a bird spreads its wings wide, we mean it changes the configuration of its wings from non-wide to wide.

    So it is the same meaning as in the German poem, and you use an adjective in English.

    > So in German it is clearly an Adverb.
    Wait a minute! :) The fact that we have a clear case (ihre weiten Flügel) of adjectival use of "weit" doesn't imply that some other, less clear, use is necessarily adverbial!

    Of course, you are right. It is the same logic as "They are formal classes in German."
    "Why do you think they're not formal classes in English?"

    In German school grammar it is strange. I learned that in "der Flügel ist weit" it is an adjective, but in "Er streckt den Flügel weit" it is an adverb. I never understood this fully, for me it seems to be illogical.
    (By the way; there are German grammars which omitted the adverbs from word classes fully.)

    ...
    Without considering word classes, I'd translate after the discussion "spread its wings out wide” as you.
    A question: Is "out" necessary or is it just style?
     

    Gernot Back

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    1. Paint the car red!
    2. Paint the car slowly!
    This reminds me of the standard example I always used to explain the difference between a predicative and an adverbial adjective to my students, when I worked as a teacher.

    Depending on context,

    Ich finde das Auto schnell.

    ... , can mean two different things:

    In:

    Mensch, dein Auto fährt ja eine Spitzengeschwindigkeit 200 km/h!
    Ich finde dein Auto schnell!

    ... it means that I think that your car is fast and schnell is a predicative adjective, whereas in:

    Mach dir keine Sorgen, du hast mir ja die genaue Parkplatznummer genannt!
    Ich finde dein Auto schnell!

    ... it means that the process of searching the car won't take long, I will find it quickly, and schnell is an adverb.
    When translating this as I will find it fast in this second context, the distinction between adverb and predicative adjective would be just as "blurred", since the adverb fast lacks the adverb marking -ly ending and looks like the adjective fast.

    In the above first context of Ich finde das Auto schnell a predicative adjective schnell is referring to the object of the sentence, whereas in the Latin example (Marcus laetus in hortum currit), laetus is referring to the subject.

    The sentences look syntactically identical, but in the first case the result is a red (adj) car; in the second the result is not a slow car; "slowly" is an adverb that describes the action of the verb. Corresponding examples can be constructed for German. If you're unwilling to call "red" in (1) an adjective, at least admit that whatever it is, it is very different from the true adverb in (2). I guess what I was really trying to do above was to make that claim with respect to
    Spread your wings wide!
    vs. something like
    Spread your wings slowly!
    In the German sentence:

    Meine Seele spannte weit ihre Flügel aus

    ... there are even three possible interpretations. Weit can refer either to the subject or the object of the sentence or it can be interpreted as an adverb.

    1. Meine Seele spannte als weite Seele ihre Flügel aus.
      (adjective referring to the subject)
    2. Meine Seele spannte ihre Flügel als weite Flügel aus.
      (adjective referring to the affected object)
    3. Meine Seele spannte ihre Flügel weit aus.
      (Adverb referring to the degree in which the wings were spread)

    Although weit is clearly referring to a noun phrase in the interpretations #1 and #2, I hesitate to call weit here a predicative adjective, because predicative adjectives usually occur together with special verbs demanding them as complements, like copula verbs (sein, werden, bleiben), or verbs like ansehen, finden, wähnen that attribute some property to the subject or an object of the sentence respectively.

    Wilhelm Busch said:
    Mit dem Löffel, groß und schwer, geht es über Spitzen her.
    http://www.childrensbooksonline.org/max_und_moritz/pages/11_Max_und_Moritz.htm
    Some grammarians call that unflektierte postponierte adjektivische Apposition (uninflected postponed adjectival apposition) as in

    Trost said:
    Dame, gebildet, feinsinnig, belesen sucht Herrn, gebildet, feinsinnig, belesen.
    http://books.google.de/books?id=d4f...v=onepage&q="adjektivische Apposition"&f=true
    So that brings us back to adjectives as attributes.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    A very interesting discussion! As I see it, German does not actually distinguish morphologically between adverbs and predicative adjectives. We touched on this in the recent discussion of voll/voller, where voll, as in “er ist voll Glaubens”, looks like an adverb or even a preposition, but is in fact (at least historically) a predicative adjective.
    Spot on. It is sometimes indeed very difficult to maintain distinction between a predicative adjective and an adjective-derived adverb in a language like German which has no morphological distinctions between the two.

    Still, I think this is an adverb and I would argue that Dan's analogy in English is a misinterpretation what happens there:
    English actually allows both "Marcus is running happy in the garden" and "Marcus is running happily in the garden". The first means essentially that Marcus is running in the garden, and, by the way, is happy (maybe better with commas around "happy"). In the second "happily" describes the manner of running. So, yes, "happy" in the first sentence is "ein Adjektiv, das ... mit einem Beziehungswort übereinstimmt" but you certainly can't say that it "vom Sinn her aber eine adverbiale Bestimmung zum Prädikat darstellt."

    Consider these sentences:
    1. Paint the car red!
    2. Paint the car slowly!

    The sentences look syntactically identical, but in the first case the result is a red (adj) car; in the second the result is not a slow car; "slowly" is an adverb that describes the action of the verb. Corresponding examples can be constructed for German. If you're unwilling to call "red" in (1) an adjective, at least admit that whatever it is, it is very different from the true adverb in (2). I guess what I was really trying to do above was to make that claim with respect to
    Spread your wings wide!
    vs. something like
    Spread your wings slowly!
    I think to spread wide belongs to the same category as to come forward (clearly an adverb) rather than to paint red. The misinterpretation lies in my humble opinion in the idea that every adjective-derived adverb has to end in -ly. This is mostly the case, but as you can see from the adverb mostly (an adverb derived from an adverb) the original function of -ly as a derivational suffix modifying the meaning rather than the syntactic function still peeks through.

    The suffix -ly is derived from OE -lic (adjective) or -lice (adverb) and means "like". I.e. it indicates an extended or figurative use. In the case of wide, I think, the semantic difference between wide (wide was actually the OE adverbial derivation of wid and in Middle English the two forms merged and became also functionally difficult to disentangle, here) and widely ("wide-like") persisted and the -ly form could not take over all of the adverbial uses of wide. Compare the following examples:
    He spread his wings wide - Er spannte seine Flügel weit.
    He used this widely - Er nutzte es weitlich.*
    _______________________________
    * Edit: It seems I was mistaken there.
    Weitlich never existed but occurrences you find in some texts are spelling mistakes for either weidlich or weltlich.
     
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    Dan2

    Senior Member
    US
    English (US)
    Still, I think this is an adverb and I would argue that Dan's analogy in English is a misinterpretation what happens there:
    I think to spread wide belongs to the same category as to come forward (clearly an adverb) rather than to paint red.
    I actually agree that "spread wide" is not as clear a case as "paint red". But I don't think it's in the same category as "come forward". Note that wings that have been spread wide might be referred to as "wide wings" (like the red car), while a person who comes forward cannot be referred to as a "forward person".
    The misinterpretation lies in my humble opinion in the idea that every adjective-derived adverb has to end in -ly.
    I certainly don't believe this. I not only drive "fast" (which everyone accepts, at least grammatically), but also, when conditions demand, drive "slow" (which the purists object to). Going in the other direction, English is well known to have -ly words that aren't adverbs (for ex., "friendly", "daily").

    So, right, the absence of -ly doesn't necessarily indicate that "wide" is an adjective. But the following must be accounted for. (I use "*" to indicate unacceptability.)
    1. The bird spread its wings wide/*widely.
    2a. The revolutionaries spread their message *wide/widely.
    2b. The disease spread *wide/widely.

    The facts in 1 vs 2 would certainly seem to be related to the possibility of talking about "wide wings" vs the impossibility of "wide message" or "wide disease".

    But again, I admit that the ground is shakier here than in the case of "paint red". I'll simply return to the conclusions of my two previous posts, respectively: Alberto should use "wide" in an English translation; and whatever "wide" is in "spread wide", it's a different animal from the canonical adverb "slowly" in "spread slowly".
     

    alberto29

    New Member
    Spanish-Spain
    Hello everyone,
    I've read all the comments you have written in this conversation, and I have to say that my domain of german is still too low to understand all the examples that you have used on your posts, but I'm very grateful that this topic had also be interesting for high-level students/teachers.

    But the true reason because I'm doing a translation of this poem is that I want to put it to music and, apart of having a good translation of the poem for getting the most exact idea of it, I wanted to know if "weit ausspannen" is a unity of meaning in the sense that the possible dependence of "weit" on "spannte" is so big that theses two words should always appear together, almost like a compound verb as in english take a walk. In the case of beeing a regular adverb, I should think that "weit" is just a complement of "spannte" and can be used individually because the verb works as an identity itself, shouldn't I?

    Thank you!
     
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    Gernot Back

    Senior Member
    German - Germany
    I wanted to know if "weit ausspannen" is a unity of meaning in the sense that the possible dependence of "weit" on "spannte" is so big that theses two words should always appear together, almost like a compound verb as in english take a walk.
    No I would not think of *weitausspannen as a particle verb. Ausspannen in itself is already a separable particle verb. To my knowledge, a verb stem can only have one separable particle, with which it forms the sentence bracket in its finite forms. If a German verb apparently has two separable particles they immediately merge into one particle, as in the case of

    her + ab -> herab

    herabfallen: Im Herbst fallen die Blätter von den Bäumen herab.
     
    Hi alberto

    This depends very much on the concrete musical setting...

    Keep in mind that already in the poem there is an enjambement. So it clearly tolerates some (slight) division. Then it's crucial how you lead melody and harmony... What is your style in general...

    Look at Schumann:

    He has a one-bar rest between "spannte" and "weit", being the longest rest in a phrase of the song up to then. Yet the harmony leads further (from double dominant to Zwischendominante and then chromatic). This way he achieves tension preparing the "weit". Although the melody goes down on "spannte", thereby creating the risk for the singer not to hold this tension, which he might even not be perceive – as it is in the piano part. If the melody went up this would be easier for the singer...

    But let aside performers' imperfections, I think, Schumann is a perfect example for treating this place. Keep it somehow floating, hovering in mid-air... :)
     

    alberto29

    New Member
    Spanish-Spain
    Thanks for your quick responses!
    Mravinszky, I have a very precise idea of what I want to write here, but since I'm not a german native speaker I want to assure myself that everything I put on the paper is coherent with german language and with the poem.

    And yes, Schumann's setting is a masterpiece =)
     
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    samloyd

    Member
    German
    To me it is a case of a predicative adjective. It describes the state of the wings after the act of spreading, not at all the way in which spreading takes place. I really do not see an adverb here. (I tried hard, not hardly...)
     

    samloyd

    Member
    German
    But hard in this English sentence is an adverb, even though it is not marked with a "-ly" suffix"
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/flat-adverbs-are-flat-out-useful/
    That is exactly what I wanted to say with my example: You cannot always expect -ly at the end of an adverb (in my example you would even invert the significance with -ly). Sorry if I created confusion with the word "here" which of course did not refer to this example (in brackets) but to part of the foregoing discussion.
     
    I agree (coming back to pure linguistics...), "weit" is a predicative adjective, the tie to the verb not being tenser than to the object. In terms of diction, "(meine Seele) spannte weit ihre Flügel aus" is one phrase which should not lose coherence, no matter where you might place a small pause.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    So, right, the absence of -ly doesn't necessarily indicate that "wide" is an adjective. But the following must be accounted for. (I use "*" to indicate unacceptability.)
    1. The bird spread its wings wide/*widely.
    2a. The revolutionaries spread their message *wide/widely.
    2b. The disease spread *wide/widely.
    Different meanings of the adverbs? Like in "he worked hard" vs. "he worked hardly", to take up the example in #18.

    EDIT: The different meanings would be:
    spread wide = an object is unfolded
    spread widely = objects are scattered
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I agree (coming back to pure linguistics...), "weit" is a predicative adjective, the tie to the verb not being tenser than to the object. In terms of diction, "(meine Seele) spannte weit ihre Flügel aus" is one phrase which should not lose coherence, no matter where you might place a small pause.
    That is not a valid test. The sentence "Er kam nicht vorwärts" is also "one phrase which should not lose coherence", yet "vorwärts" is undoubtedly an adverb.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It describes the state of the wings after the act of spreading
    Not really. Und meine Seele spannte weit ihre Flügel aus describes an action not a state. This is fundamentally different from sentences like Er malte die Tür rot an. Here rot is property of Tür achieved through the action and is not part of the action.

    The state achieved through the action die Flügel weit ausspannen it not *die Flügel sind weit but die Flügel sind weit geöffnet, i.e. weit is not a property of Flügel but of geöffnet, i.e. it is an adverb.

    The distinction between predicative adjectives and adverbs is sometimes difficult in a language with uninflected predicate adjectives and unmarked adjective-derived adverbs like German, to some degree maybe even irrelevant, I am not sure. It might help, if we compare this to a language which does inflect predicative adjectives. In the French translation, the passage reads: Et mon âme ouvrit tout grand ses ailes. If tout grand described a state of âme it would have to be *toute grande; if it described a state of ailes it would have to be *toutes grandes. The form tout grand is the correct one for a modifier of ouvrit.
     
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    That is not a valid test. The sentence "Er kam nicht vorwärts" is also "one phrase which should not lose coherence", yet "vorwärts" is undoubtedly an adverb.
    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I didn't intend a causal nexus between my two sentences. Should have made two paragraphs out of it:

    The first would have been about the grammatical structure.

    The second paragraph, quite another cup of tea, referring to diction, meaning musical phrasing of language, as this was Alberto's main concern.
     

    samloyd

    Member
    German
    The distinction between predicative adjectives and adverbs is sometimes difficult in a language with uninflected predicate adjectives and unmarked adjective-derived adverbs like German, to some degree maybe even irrelevant, I am not sure. It might help, if we compare this to a language which does inflect predicative adjectives. In the French translation, the passage reads: Et mon âme ouvrit tout grand ses ailes. If tout grand described a state of âme it would have to be *toute grande; if it described a state of ailes it would have to be *toutes grandes. The form tout grand is the correct one for a modifier of ouvrit.
    It may even be an advantage that the distinction between predicative adjectives and adverbs is sometimes difficult in our language. In the present case, there seem to be components of both so that a clear attribuition might even destroy some quality here. A translation into another language adds an interesting aspect but cannot be a really convincing argument: Unlike German, French needs a unique formal decision (for grammar reasons) - which, however, does not mean that it gives a correct explanation of the original text. And of course, adding a verb like "geöffnet" changes the text in a way which eliminates the problem.

    We can even consider a plain example from everyday German: "Der Bogen wurde weit gespannt." I see part of your point: "weit" needs some reference to a verb, it can't just refer to "Bogen" which would have to be the case for a "clean" predicative adjective. But still it is not like "Der Bogen wurde schnell gespannt." - "schnell" being clearly an adverb. It is this necessary reference to a noun ("Bogen") which in my opinion prevents a unique and crystal-clear categorization as an adverb. I'd still see it more like a predicative adjective. I'd rather not follow the decision made in some (albeit interesting) translation into a foreign language. I agree, however, that your remarks show a categorization is not as clear as I previously thought.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It may even be an advantage that the distinction between predicative adjectives and adverbs is sometimes difficult in our language. In the present case, there seem to be components of both so that a clear attribuition might even destroy some quality here.
    In general I agree that leaving the categorization open is sometimes the most sensible interpretation. But in this case I think it is unambiguous: If it were a predicative adjective than the corresponding attributive form, weite Flügel, had to be meaningful in the same sense as well and not only weit geöffnete Flügel.
     
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