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The terms bemerklich and bemerkbar are certainly very close in meaning. I could not think of a situation where only one of them, but not the other, would be applicable. Are there any?

It also seems this is a particularity of these two words and does not generalize to many other x-lich / x-bar pairs, or does it?

Edit: Several commenters pointed out that the term bemerklich is unusual. Google finds 260k hits for the term, and ngram shows it as similarly common as bemerkbar until around 1870, then declining. dict.cc also demarks it as veraltet. It seems the term is not in common use anymore; I probably picked it up from old literature and according set expressions. (Ich bin Muttersprachler.)

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    bemerklich is at least obsolescent. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Carsten S May 31 '17 at 6:28
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    I'm quite certain that I've gone through half my lifespan without ever coming across the word bemerklich even once. – Kilian Foth May 31 '17 at 6:37
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    merklich already states the meaning (and is not on the brink of extinction), the prefix be- can easily be disposed. – guidot May 31 '17 at 6:52
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    The Duden doesn't have "bemerklich". The usual word is "merklich", as already noted by guidot. – RHa May 31 '17 at 8:42
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    Where did you hear that? – Carsten S May 31 '17 at 11:26
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First, “bemerken” means “to notice”.

The -bar suffix has the connotations of -ful. E.g. wunderbar (wonderful), dankbar (grateful) that are only positive.

The -lich suffix has more of the connotations of -able. So bemerklich would mean “noticeable”. There is no “danklich” in German, but “wunderlich” loosely translates to “causing wonder," which could be either good or bad, not necessarily “wonderful”.

There is no equivalent English translation of bemerkbar like “noticeful”, so bemerkbar also translates to “noticeable”, but more emphatically and only positively.

“Bemerklich” could have positive or negative connotations.

Seine Krawatte ist krumm; das ist bemerklich (not bemerkbar). His tie is crooked. That is noticeable.

Addition: A commenter noted that the last passage above is correct, but not "standard" German, and was posed as an "example."

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    Totally right but in my eyes people wouldn’t use words like bemerklich. A common paraphrase would be: “Seine Krawatte ist krumm. Das ist ziemlich auffällig” – Devon May 31 '17 at 4:45
  • @Devon: OK, added a line to that effect. Thanks for your help. – Tom Au May 31 '17 at 11:19
  • I find the given connotations somewhat arbitrary. In bemerkbar as well as in machbar the bar translates clearly to the same -able you assigned to the -lich suffix. I also can't confirm the negative connotation for bemerklich after a short glance over the example findings from zeno.org. – guidot May 31 '17 at 14:13
  • @guidot: I was using the analogy between wunderlich and wunderbar. Wunderbar means "wonderful" in a good sense. Wunderlich means inspiring wonder in a good or bad sense. Therefore, I conclude that bemerklich means "attracting" notice" as a "two way" term, and bemerkbar as attracting "favorable" notice. But Devon pointed out that "bemerklich" is only technically correct, and not in general use, which I incorporated into my post. – Tom Au May 31 '17 at 15:18
  • I'd say it's the other way round. -bar typically matches -able and -lich roughly matches -ful. Note that wunderbar is an atypical example. If I remember correctly, it used to mean seltsam, in the sense that it's possible to "sich wundern" (thus placing this in the -able group again). – O. R. Mapper Jun 1 '17 at 7:55

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