LINGUIST List 24.4755

Tue Nov 26 2013

Review: Morphology; Semantics; Syntax: Fleischer et al. (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 13-Sep-2013
From: Karen Chung <>
Subject: Wortbildung der deutschen Gegenwartssprache
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AUTHOR: Wolfgang FleischerAUTHOR: Irmhild BarzTITLE: Wortbildung der deutschen Gegenwartssprache [Word Formation in Contemporary German]SERIES TITLE: De Gruyter StudiumPUBLISHER: De Gruyter MoutonYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Karen Steffen Chung, National Taiwan University

SUMMARY“Wortbildung” is a tightly organized catalogue, with plentiful examples, ofthe ways words are put together in German. It takes as its base WolfgangFleischer’s original 1969 work, which he later revised together with IrmhildBarz and Marianne Schröder in 1990 and 1992. It was then reworked by just Barzand Schröder in 2007 and again in 2012, the current edition (pp. v-vii). It ismore or less a German equivalent of English works like Marchand's “Thecategories and types of present-day English word formation” (1969), Adams' “AnIntroduction to English Word-Formation” (1973), and Bauer's “EnglishWord-Formation” (1983), but is considerably thicker and denser than the lattertwo. It focuses mainly on the written language, but includes colloquialisms aswell. The authors state at the outset that they have consciously chosen not topropose any formalistic models of word formation (p. v).

The book is organized into five chapters, starting with an overview of thesubject, ('Basic principles and concepts'), followed by one chapter each onnouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs, plus forewords to the fourth and firsteditions, a bibliography, word form and subject indexes, and a list of formscovered in each chapter. Readers interested in the very detailed table ofcontents can view it here:

The first chapter, a quarter of the volume, offers an extremely thorough anddetailed treatment of the book’s goals, structure and main topics, includingsynchrony and diachrony, different types of word formation, how to draw theline between morphology and syntax, phonological and orthographic issues, wordcreation, borrowing, lexicalization, affixation, combining forms (‘Konfixe’),blends (‘Kontamination’), productivity, linking elements, compounding andderivation.

Chapter 2, on nouns, is the most substantial of the chapters on individualparts of speech, not surprising considering that nouns account for about50-60% of the German vocabulary, and play an especially important role in wordformation. Compounds formed from two nouns enjoy almost ''unlimitedproductivity'' in German, with adjectives and verbs appearing as the firstmember of a compound noun much less frequently. Prefixation of nouns mayexpress negation (‘Un-’: 'not, un-'), appraisal (‘Fehl-’: 'mis-', ‘Haupt-’:'main', ‘Ur-’: 'original'), or augmentation (‘Un-’: 'un-' [as in English‘ungodly’], ‘Erz-’: 'arch-'). Suffixation is used most often to markdiminutives (‘-chen’, ‘-lein’, ‘-le’, ‘-el’); doer, instrument, gender (‘-er’,‘-erich’, ‘-ling’, ‘-in’); or a collective notion (‘-schaft’, ‘-heit/keit’,‘-erei’, ‘-nis’; the prefix ‘Ge-’ is also used for this function pp. 120-126).Some interesting asymmetries are pointed out: although ‘Anfang’ and ‘Beginn’('start, beginning') are synonyms, and both may appear as the second elementin compound nouns (‘Arbeitsbeginn’, ‘Arbeitsanfang’ 'beginning of work'), only‘Anfang’ appears as a first element (‘Anfangsbuchstabe’ 'first letter of thealphabet'; p. 135). A coupling of two diminutives is not allowed in nouncompounds, e.g. *’Häuschentürchen’ ('little door of a little house') is not anacceptable form (p. 136). The infamous penchant of German for very longcompounds is said to belong mainly to written and technical language, thoughthey may appear in everyday usage as well, for example‘Sonnabendnachmittagsbehaglichkeit’ 'Saturday afternoon comfort' (p. 139).Some tongue-in-cheek names for certain types of people are listed in thesection on metaphors, e.g. ‘Pechvogel’ (bad-luck + bird) 'schlemazel, unluckyperson', ‘Schmutzfink’ (dirt + finch) 'slob', and ‘Ulknudel’ (humor +noodle/dumpling) 'joker' (p. 143). There is an interesting class of doubletswhich combine a foreign, usually English, loan with a native German synonym,e.g. ‘Anwendungsapplikation’ (application + ‘application’) 'app' (p. 146).Acronyms, initialisms, and clipping are examined in considerable detail, andsuggest interesting comparisons with English and other languages.

Adjectives, treated in chapter 3, comprise only about 15% of the Germanvocabulary, and there may in fact be only a ''few hundred'' simplex forms;polymorphic adjectives are mostly ad hoc coinages (pp. 297-8). Neitherblending nor reduplication is common in German adjectives. Some commonadjectival word-final elements are in other contexts free morphemes, e.g.‘-reich’ ('-rich'), ‘-arm’ ('low-[e.g. fat]'), and ‘-fähig’ ('-capable'),often making it difficult to draw a clear line between derivation andcompounding. ‘-arm’ is interesting in that it can be either negative orpositive semantically, depending on what it is attached to and the context: in‘geräuscharme Maschinen’ ('low-noise machines'), it is certainly somethingdesirable; in ‘ideenarme Diskussion’ ('idea-impoverished discussion') it isnot (p. 305). Metaphorical nouns often function as intensifiers in colorfuladjectival formations. ‘stock-’ 'stick, cane' is used in ‘stocksteif’'stick-stiff'; its meaning is further extended as a more abstract intensifierin words such as ‘stockbesoffen’('''stick drunk'', smashed') and ‘stockheiser’('''stick hoarse'', hoarse as a crow'); further examples include ‘pudelnass’('wet as a poodle'), the alliterative ‘nagelneu’ ('new as a nail'), and‘kerngesund’ ('healthy as a kernel'). Vulgar, taboo, and other words withstrong meanings may also be used as intensifiers, e. g. ‘tod-’ ('dead') isused in ‘todschick’ ('super chic, ''dead chic'''; pp. 310-1).

Also mentioned are contrasting examples of compounds as opposed to phrases, inwhich the only difference is an orthographic separation into two words for thephrase, and in the spoken language, use of compound as opposed to phrasalstress: ‘FRÜHreif’ 'early bloomer' (as adj.) vs. ‘FRÜH REIF’ 'matured early',and ‘SCHWERkrank’ 'invalid' (as adj.) vs. ‘SCHWER KRANK’ 'critically ill'(translations are only approximate and meant to point up the differences inGerman; p. 325). There is an interesting contrast between words with the samestem and largely synonymous prefixes: ‘selbstständig’ (self + standing ='independent' vs. ‘eigenständig’ (self + standing = 'alone, without outsidehelp'; p. 328). Conversion is found with certain nouns, often foreign loans,which are not declined when used adjectivally, e.g. ‘klasse’ 'super' and colornames such as ‘indigo’ and ‘orange’ (p. 358).

Chapter 4 is the shortest -- a mere 12 pages -- treating adverbs, which are inGerman and many other languages among the least inflected parts of speech.Nevertheless, there are numerous patterns of adverb formation worth noting,including compound adverbs, formed with an adverb plus a preposition(‘daneben’ 'next to it' and ‘darauf’ 'on it, thereon', the so-called''prepositional adverbs''), two prepositions (‘inzwischen’ 'meanwhile'), anadjective plus preposition (‘querdurch’ 'straight through') or a noun pluspreposition (‘tagsüber’ 'during the day'); also many derivations formed withsuffixes like ‘-dings’ (adverb marker suggesting 'thoroughness', e.g.‘allerdings’ 'admittedly, certainly') and ‘-wärts’ ('in the direction of,-wards'), e.g. ‘hinterwärts’ 'backwards').

Chapter 5 is again more substantial, as one would expect from a chapter onGerman verbs, yet it is considerably shorter than the chapter on nouns. Thereare not many verbal suffixes in German; however, few verbs can escapeoccurring without either an inseparable prefix (a morphological formation), ora separable particle (a syntactic formation), though seldom do both occur inthe same verb at the same time (p. 380). This book shines particularly inmaking abstract or difficult-to-explain issues clear and explicit, forexample, the semantics of the prefix ‘be-’ (cognate with the English ‘be-’ asin ‘belabor’, ‘bemoan’; p. 384). Especially enlightening is the section on‘ver-’, an extremely common verbal prefix which exhibits seeminglycontradictory meanings. The authors impressively succeed in reconciling allthe diverging semantics of ‘ver-’ in the core meaning of 'the completion of anevent' (p. 389). Foreign-originating verbal prefixes such as‘de-’, ‘dis-’, ‘kon-’, ‘re-’ are seldom used on a native German stem, whilethe pattern of indigenous prefixes attached to ''exogenous'' stems is commonand even productive, e.g. ‘überreagieren’ 'to overreact', ‘umrangieren’ 'toreroute, remodel' (p. 395, 116). And it is common for a number of differentforeign prefixes to be affixed to the same foreign stem, e.g. ‘de-’, ‘dis-’,‘pro-’, ‘reponieren’ ('to deposit, dispose of, propose, set a bone'; p. 396).There is a class of inseparable verb compounds which can be viewed as either''copulative'', or ''determinative'', i.e. with a subordinative modifier +main action structure, e.g. ‘grinskeuchen’ (grin + gasp) 'to grin and gasp, togasp while grinning' (p. 374). There are a number of causatives formed throughinternal modification, e.g. ‘sinken’ ('to sink' [intransitive]) vs. ‘senken’('to sink [transitive], cause to sink'), ‘trinken’ 'to drink' vs. ‘tränken’'to water (animals), to immerse', but the pattern is no longer productive (p.375). Some verbs, often ones ending in ‘-ieren’, have an abbreviated form,e.g. ‘funktionieren’ ('to function, work') -> ‘funzen’, ‘registrieren’ ('toregister') -> ‘reggen’ (p. 375).

The book ends a bit abruptly here, with no concluding chapter; but that isperhaps not necessary in a descriptive work like this one -- it's very much inkeeping with the no-nonsense, always-keeping-to-the-point nature of the wholebook.

EVALUATIONThis is the fourth, ''fully reworked'' edition, and it shows in the great careexercised in the topics addressed, tight organization, broad assortment ofillustrative examples, and in the clear, crisp style, which manages tomaintain a scholarly tone while avoiding pedantry. I spotted a singlemisplaced word (p. 385); otherwise the book is virtually typo-free -- alaudable feat, even taking into account that this is a fourth edition. It hasan attractive cover design featuring Lego pieces of various sizes snappedtogether in different ways, an apt analogy for typical German word structure.

This book does an exquisite job of presenting, analyzing and exemplifying themany things that make German morphology so satisfying -- its chunkiness, itsplayfulness, its tendency to maintain the integrity of many of the elementsthat go into the composition of its words, and its resulting transparency. Theauthors are highly sensitive to the issue of defining what qualifies as acompound, a collocation, and a syntactic phrase, and they explicitly point outgrey areas in between. The straightforward treatment of combining forms(‘Konfixe’) is particularly refreshing; in English, combining forms are oftenfelt to be an awkward category, neither flesh nor fowl, not quite fitting inas either affixes, word roots or free morphemes. In this work they are tidilyplaced where they belong on the continuum of morpheme types. Not only is thiscontinuum approach an excellent model for other languages, but the high degreeof rigor employed in arriving at classifications is something we can all learnfrom, and try to apply in our own work, and our evaluation of the work ofothers.

This volume may at first glance seem like a run-of-the-mill reference work tobe dug out now and then to read up on specific word types, but I personallyfound it to be an outright inspiration, worth reading from cover to cover.With its thorough coverage for German, it can serve as a solid basis and modelfor similar analyses of other languages, even as unlikely a one as Chinese.This book gets a full five stars.

REFERENCESAdams, Valerie. “An Introduction to English Word-Formation”. London & NewYork: Longman, 1973.

Bauer, Laurie. “English Word-Formation”. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1983.

Marchand, Hans. “The categories and types of present-day English wordformation”. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1969.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERKaren Steffen Chung is an associate professor of English and linguistics inthe foreign language department of National Taiwan University in Taipei, andalso teaches English over the radio and Internet. Her German learning began athome with her father, a second-generation German, and was further refinedduring a year of study at a Gymnasium in Hamburg. Her areas of specializationinclude phonetics, teaching of pronunciation, and Chinese morphology. She isthe author of Mandarin Compound Verbs (Crane’s, 2006), which received an NTUaward for excellent research in 2007, and she is currently working on a bookon Taiwan English. Publications:

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