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Query Details

Query Subject:   Origin of the name 'Chechnia'
Author:   Maher Bahloul
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Morphology
Subject Language(s):  German

Query:   Query: Re. the distribution of -heit/keit in German, or criteria of
assessing morphological complexity

Some years ago, someone told me that the distribution of the
abstract-noun forming suffix <-heit/keit> (similar to English <-ness>)
in German was determined by whether the stem is morphologically
simplex or complex: if it is simplex, attach <-heit>; otherwise, i.e.,
if it is complex, attach <-keit>. Two examples where this works would
be: 'stupidity' (viz. 'stupid') versus
'taciturnity' (viz. 'to be silent',

(<-heit> attached to a morphologically simplex stem)

(<-keit> attached to a morphologically
complex stem)

Unfortunately, there many cases where this does not work, e.g.

'mendacious', (viz. ver-log-en; 'to
<-en> '(IRREGULAR) PAST PARTICIPLE'; -> ; we expect -keit
according to the complexity rule above!)


(1) unstressed preverbs never 'count' as complexity-adding (if we want
to push the morphological-complexity rule).

(2) Inflectional (bound) morphemes, e.g., <-en> in , do not
'count' either.

Let me also point out that I am not saying here that it actually is
morphological complexity which determines the distribution of
-heit/keit nor do I support the usage of ad-hoc hypotheses (like the
ones in (1) and (2)) in order to immunise other hypotheses, e.g., the
ity-of-the-stem hypothesis, against refutation. I merely wanted to
illustrate where a rule I was told about once works and where it does

So here are my questions

1. I know that there is something about the distribution of
<-heit/keit> in R. Wiese's *The Phonology of German*. Is there any
other literature on this (which may or may not agree with Wiese or the
complexity rule above)?

2. Does anyone have another opinion as to what is going on (and
possibly a reference to a written-up version thereof)?

3. Are there any other non-semantic criteria on the basis of which one
could investigate the distribution of -heit/keit?

4. Are there any semantic ones? (I cannot think of one, but who

5. Are there any other affixes or even free morphemes (in German or
any language) which exibit allomorphy whose distribution looks as if
it was determined by morphological complexity, or about which it has
been claimed that it is determined by morphological complexity but
where you disagree?

6. Do you know about any nice electronic German dictionary? (By 'nice'
I mean that the more convenient electronic searches are and the
cheaper it is the nicer it is. A free electronic dictionary with a
user-friendly search-interface which can list lists in ascending and
descending order would be very 'nice'.)

Of course, I will post a summary.


Stefan Ploch.

- ------------------------------------------------------------------
Dr Stefan Ploch
Senior Lecturer
Linguistics (SLLS)
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Private Bag 3
WITS 2050
South Africa (default/Normalfall), or/oder (checked irregularly/wird unregelm=E4=DFig
LL Issue: 13.601
Date posted: 05-Mar-2002


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