Linguist List reviews
Simin Karimi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Terry Langendoen (email@example.com)
- -------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 14:04:03 +0900
From: Oebel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: book review completed: "Using German Synonyms"
Here you are!
Review: Durrell, Martin (2000) Using German Synonyms, ISBN
0-521-46552-4, Cambridge University Press, 319pp.
Reviewed by: Guido Oebel, Saga (Japan) National University
The author's present book is one in a series of books published
earlier by different authors dealing with synonyms in French,
Spanish and Italian respectively. As Martin Durrell explains in
his thoroughly written introduction - comprising 16 pages - his
book aims to provide detailed information for more advanced
learners - with English as their 1st language. Unfortunately, I
consider their level of German knowledge necessary for
understanding the German examples given to be almost
near-native at least. Unlike in other dictionaries of German
synonyms like Farrell's (1977) or Beaton's (1996) each entry here
consists of groups of words semantically related to each other in
German rather than consisting primarily of sets of German
translation equivalents for certain English words. Thus he follows
the principle established in this series above-mentioned (Batchelor
and Offord 1993, Batchelor 1994). His intention might have been
a sublime one - by doing so, however, he limits the target group
for his superb work to a few linguistically privileged experts.
Martin Durrell is the first scholar laudably admitting in public by
writing that the term synonym is rather misleading as, in fact,
there are only very few words that can be exchanged for each
other without any distinction in meaning. From his explanation
on semantics the potential user of his dictionary learns that its
entries are almost exclusively near-synonyms or partial synonyms
belonging to the very same semantic field. Furthermore the
author attributes other determining linguistic phenomena such as
antonomy, hyponomy, collocation, and valency to the selection of
words entered and - by knowing that - their somehow logically
structured detection - really valuable operating instructions!
The main part comprises 255 pages giving the German words in
alphabetical order ranging from the head-word 'Abmachung'
(agreement) and to 'zwingen' (to force). The German head-words
are given at the top left of each page with their English equivalent
at the top right. Those German words making up the semantic
field are, for their part, listed in alphabetical order in the left-
hand column below the corresponding head-word, together with
relevant grammatical information and - where necessary - an
indication of whether it is specific to a particular register (R1 =
colloquial, R1* = vulgarism, R2 = neutral, R3 = formal, R3a =
literary, R3b = modern non-literary) or region (N = North of the
river main, NW/NE = splits N along the border of the ex-GDR, S =
South of the river Main, SW/SE = splits S along the western
borders of Bavaria and Austria, CH = germanophone Switzerland,
AU = Austria).
English glosses are given underneath each German word together
with relevant comments on usage, particularly collocation
restrictions where applicable, thus providing the difference in
meaning of other words in the corresponding field mentioned.
Furthermore - sometimes confusion causing - examples are given
opposite the German word, in the right column. Confusing as e.g.
the English translation for the German adjective ernst is -
following the author - serious, solemn or grave respectively. He
then gives ten examples of the German usage, unfortunately,
without commenting on where which of the English synonyms is
the best applicable thus leaving the dictionary's user almost as
doubtful as before consulting the book. In this case less would
have been better!
The main part is followed by two indexes. The German word index
lists all the German words dealt with in the entries. The English
word index contains all the English words used in the definitions
of the German words treated. Both the German and English words
are indexed to the head-words of the entries for the various
semantic fields. Thus the user can access the material starting
from either language. Polysemic words as well as idiomatic
expressions are indexed separately regarding their ambiguity, so
that verkloppen (flogg sth off) can be found both under
verpruegeln (beat sb up) and under verkaufen (to sell).
Martin Durrell tried to adopt for his book the revised German
spelling which was introduced in schools in the German-speaking
countries in 1998 and which - in all probability and despite all
controversy in public - will be the only officially recognized one
from 2005 onward. Although he claims that he spelled all words
used in his dictionary according to the principles laid out in
recognized authoritative books such as the 21st edition of DUDEN,
I detected two misspellings: bi_chen (old) instead of bisschen
(new) - two ss instead the German Eszett - and kennenlernen (old)
instead of kennen lernen (new) - separate writing of two
separately existing verbs. Nevertheless the author has no reason
to feel blamed for this slight negligence as most of my fellow
native speakers - including myself - feel unsure of themselves
while applying the new orthography rules.
Conclusion: As I said in the course of this review I consider Martin
Durell's dictionary an indisputably fine piece of work. The only
weakness is that I still cannot see to what target group - apart
from native or near-native speakers of German and linguistically
oriented scholars - he addresses his book. At any rate it deserves a
wider public than that!
Bio: Guido Oebel (PhD in linguistics) is a native German and currently
employed as an associate professor for German as a
Foreign Language and FLLwith Saga National University on the
Southern island of Kyushu/Japan. His main areas of research are:
comparative language studies (Indo-European - Japanese),
German dialects, sociolinguistics, bilinguism, general adult
> 7ol : email@example.com
> 6f : Oebel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> < : Re: book review
> Mz : 2000N1216z 8:27
> I'll mail it to you in Early January.
> On Fri, 15 Dec 2000, Oebel wrote:
> > I am very much interested in reviewing the following book from your
> > review list:
> > Durrell, Martin "Using German Synonyms", CUP
> > My full name: Dr. (PhD) Guido Oebel
> > highest degree received: associate professor
> > my affiliation: Saga National University (Japan), Faculty of Culture
> > Education
> > My research interests: Germanic Studies, particularly German as a
> > Language (DaF) and as a Second KLanguage (DaZ), dialects, especially in
> > germanophone countries, varieties of German in other countries than
> > with German as native language.
> > My snail mail address: Dr. Guido Oebel, associate professor for German
> > Studies, National University Saga, Faculty of Culture and Education,
> > Honjo-machi, Saga-City 840-8502, Japan.
> > Thanks in advance and best regards!
> > Yours Guido Oebel