. 4
( 12)


subjunctive, and the imperative. The indicative is the unmarked mood; it is
82 German

Table 2.20 In¬‚ection of haben ˜to have™, sein ˜to be™, and
werden ˜to become™

In¬nitive haben sein werden

Present tense ich habe ich bin ich werde
du hast du bist du wirst
er/sie/es hat er/sie/es ist er/sie/es wird
wir haben wir sind wir werden
ihr habt ihr seid ihr werdet
sie haben sie sind sie werden
Past ich hatte ich war ich wurde
du hattest du warst du wurdest
er/sie/es hatte er/sie/es war er/sie/es wurde
wir hatten wir waren wir wurden
ihr hattet ihr wart ihr wurdet
sie hatten sie waren sie wurden
Past Participle gehabt gewesen geworden

used to express statements of fact and questions. The discussion of tense in
the preceding section focused solely on indicative forms. The following sec-
tion deals with the formation of the subjunctive. Section treats the
imperative. The subjunctive Whereas the indicative is used to express
statements of fact, the main role of the subjunctive is to mark a clause as
expressing something other than a statement of what is certain. In German,
there are two sets of subjunctive forms, which we will call Subjunctive I and
Subjunctive II.56 Each set has simple as well as periphrastic forms. The simple
forms bear the tense feature [’past]; the periphrastic forms bear the feature
[+past]. Subjunctive I forms are used primarily for indirect speech, to report
what someone said, asked, or commanded. The sentence in (55a) contains
a direct quote, an example of direct speech. (55b) is an example of indirect
speech, a report of what was said in the direct quote.

(55) a. Er sagte: “Ich lese (present indicative) die Zeitung.”
˜He said, “I™m reading the newspaper.”™
b. Er sagte, dass er die Zeitung lese (Subjunctive I).
˜He said that he was reading the newspaper.™

Subjunctive II forms are used, for example, in conditional sentences that express
unreal conditions, conditions that are contrary to fact.57
Morphology 83

Table 2.21 Present Subjunctive I forms

lieben haben sein k¨ nnen

ich liebe habe sei k¨ nne
du liebest habest sei(e)st k¨ nnest
er/sie/es liebe habe sei k¨ nne
wir lieben haben seien k¨ nnen
ihr liebet habet seiet k¨ nnet
sie lieben haben seien k¨ nnen

(56) Wenn ich genug Geld h¨ tte (Subjunctive II), w¨ re (Subjunctive II)
a a
ich schon l¨ ngst weg.
˜If I had enough money, I would be long gone.™

There are two sets of Subjunctive I forms: present and past. Present Subjunc-
tive I forms are marked [’past]; like their indicative counterparts (present
tense indicative forms), they are used to refer to non-past (present or future)
(57) Sie sagte, dass sie ihn besuche (present Subjunctive I).
˜She said that she {was visiting/would visit} him.™

We refer to these forms as present Subjunctive I forms to highlight this
With the exception of the verb sein ˜to be™, present Subjunctive I forms
are completely regular; they are formed by adding the subjunctive person and
number endings to the stem of the in¬nitive, the ¬rst principal part of the verb
(hence the terminology “Subjunctive I”). Present Subjunctive I forms for the
verb lieben ˜to love™ are presented in Table 2.21. This table also includes the
present Subjunctive I forms for sein, some of which are irregular, as well as
those for haben ˜to have™ (which, like sein, is used as an auxiliary in forming
past Subjunctive I forms) and k¨ nnen ˜to be able to™, a representative modal.
Many present Subjunctive I forms are identical to present indicative forms.
For example, with the exception of sein, the ¬rst and third person plural present
Subjunctive I forms are identical to present indicative forms; both are formed
by adding -en to the stem of the in¬nitive. Only third person singular present
Subjunctive I forms (which have the ending -e) are consistently distinct from
their present tense indicative counterparts (which have the ending -t or, if a
modal, no ending). Because of the overlap between present Subjunctive I and
present indicative forms, present Subjunctive I forms other than those in the
third person singular are typically avoided.58
84 German

The past Subjunctive I is periphrastic. It is constructed using the past
participle of a verb together with the present Subjunctive I of haben or
(58) a. Er erz¨ hlte uns, dass er verschlafen habe.
˜He told us that he had overslept.™
b. Sie antwortete, dass ihr Onkel gestorben sei.
˜She answered that her uncle had died.™

Although the past Subjunctive I is made up of two-word forms, we include it
in the in¬‚ectional paradigm of a verb, since it ¬lls a gap in the paradigm. This
is illustrated in (59) for the third person singular form of the verb lieben ˜to
(59) [indicative] [subjunctive I]
[’past] liebt liebe
[+past] liebte [habe geliebt]

See Haspelmath 2000 for arguments in favor of allowing periphrastic forms as
members of a paradigm in cases such as this.59

There are two Subjunctive II forms: the present and past. Like present Subjunc-
tive I forms, the present Subjunctive II is marked [’past]; it is used to refer to
non-past situations.
(60) Wenn jetzt Bundestagswahl w¨ re, bek¨ me die SPD nur noch 31
a a
Prozent der W¨ hlerstimmen.
˜If there were to be a federal parliamentary election now, the SPD
would get only 31 percent of the vote.™
The present Subjunctive II is based on the stem of the past indicative, the second
principal part of a verb (hence the terminology “Subjunctive II”).60 For weak
verbs, the present Subjunctive II is identical to the past indicative. The present
Subjunctive II of the mixed verbs and modals is formed by taking the past
indicative and umlauting the root vowel.61 The present Subjunctive II of strong
verbs is constructed by using the stem of the past indicative, umlauting the root
vowel if possible, and adding the subjunctive endings (the same endings used
for present Subjunctive I forms). Table 2.22 presents the present Subjunctive
II forms for a representative verb from each of these groups: lieben ˜to love™
(weak); bringen ˜to bring™ (mixed); k¨ nnen ˜to be able to™ (modal); trinken ˜to
drink™ (strong).
Some strong verbs have a special present Subjunctive II vowel, a vowel that
is different from the umlauted vowel of the past indicative. Others have two
Subjunctive II forms: one that is formed “regularly” (by umlauting the vowel
of the past indicative), and another that is formed with a different vowel.62
Morphology 85

Table 2.22 Present Subjunctive II forms

lieben bringen k¨ nnen
o trinken

ich liebte br¨ chte
a k¨ nnte
o tr¨ nke
du liebtest br¨ chtest
a k¨ nntest
o tr¨ nkest
er/sie/es liebte br¨ chte
a k¨ nnte
o tr¨ nke
wir liebten br¨ chten
a k¨ nnten
o tr¨ nken
ihr liebtet br¨ chtet
a k¨ nntet
o tr¨ nket
sie liebten br¨ chten
a k¨ nnten
o tr¨ nken

Table 2.23 Present Subjunctive II forms of
auxiliary verbs

haben sein

ich h¨ tte
a w¨ re
du h¨ ttest
a w¨ rest
er/sie/es h¨ tte
a w¨ re
wir h¨ tten
a w¨ ren
ihr h¨ ttet
a w¨ ret
sie h¨ tten
a w¨ ren

(61) In¬nitive Past indicative Subjunctive II
a. sterben ˜to die™ starb st¨ rbe
b. werfen ˜to throw™ warf w¨ rfe
c. beginnen ˜to begin™ begann beg¨ nne (beg¨ nne)
a o
d. befehlen ˜to order™ befahl bef¨ hle/bef¨ hle
a o
e. stehen ˜to stand™ stand (st¨ nde) st¨ nde
a u

These unexpected Subjunctive II forms re¬‚ect an earlier stage of the language.
The past Subjunctive II forms use the past participle of a verb together with
the present Subjunctive II forms of the auxiliaries haben or sein. (Table 2.23
lists the present Subjunctive II forms of these auxiliary verbs.)
(62) a. Gestern habe ich ein Kleid gesehen, das ich gerne f¨ r die Hochzeit
meines Bruders gekauft h¨ tte.
˜Yesterday I saw a dress that I gladly would have bought for my
brother™s wedding.™
b. Wir glaubten, sie w¨ re gestorben.
˜We thought she had died.™
Because past Subjunctive II forms ¬ll a gap in the verbal paradigm in the same
way as past Subjunctive I forms do, as illustrated for the third person singular
86 German

form of the verb trinken ˜to drink™ in (63), we include them in the in¬‚ectional
paradigm of a verb.
(63) [indicative] [Subjunctive II]
[’past] trinkt tr¨ nke
[+past] trank [h¨ tte getrunken]
There is another periphrastic subjunctive form that we do not include in the
in¬‚ectional paradigm of a verb, the w¨ rde-construction. The w¨ rde-form of a
u u
verb is formed using a present Subjunctive II form of werden together with the
in¬nitive of that verb.
(64) So ein Album wurde ich nie kaufen.
˜I would never buy such an album.™
We do not include the w¨ rde-construction in the in¬‚ectional paradigm of a
verb because it does not ¬ll a gap in a paradigm, like the other periphrastic
subjunctive forms. It is an alternative to the present Subjunctive II. It is often
used instead of the present Subjunctive II of weak verbs (identical to the past
indicative forms of these verbs) in order to avoid ambiguity. For example, if
kaufte were used instead of the w¨ rde-form (w¨ rde kaufen) in (64), the sentence
u u
would be ambiguous (kaufen ˜to buy™ is a weak verb). It could mean ˜I never
bought such an album™ or ˜I would never buy such an album.™63 The imperative The imperative mood is used to express
commands and requests. There is only one form that is distinctly imperative
(different from a present tense indicative form): the second person singular
(65) Anna, hol mir bitte ein Glas!
˜Anna, please get me a glass.™
The second person singular imperative form is simply the stem of the in¬nitive.
(For those strong verbs that change the -e- of the in¬nitive to -ie- or -i- in the
present, the imperative uses the stem of the second person singular form.) Verbs
with stems that end in -ig, -d, -t, or an obstruent followed by a nasal must also
add an -e to the stem. Strong verbs that change the root vowel in the imperative
do not add an -e to the stem. All other verbs may add an -e optionally. The
optional -e is typically dropped in the spoken language, but common in written
German. One exception to these rules is the verb werden ˜to become™. Although
the formation of the present involves a change from -e- to -i- in second and
third person singular forms, the imperative stem retains -e- (and the ending -e is
added because the stem ends in -d). Table 2.24 lists the second person singular
imperative forms for a number of representative verbs.
Morphology 87

Table 2.24 Imperative forms

In¬nitive Imperative In¬nitive Imperative In¬nitive Imperative

fahren fahr(e)! arbeiten arbeite! empfehlen emp¬ehl!
glauben glaub(e)! atmen atme! essen iss!
haben hab(e)! binden binde! lesen lies!
kaufen kauf(e)! erledigen erledige! nehmen nimm!
¨ ¨
laufen lauf(e)! offnen offne! sein sei!
stoßen stoß(e)! werden werde! werben wirb!

The remaining imperative forms, which are identical with present tense
indicative forms, are the following: second person plural, second person polite,
and ¬rst person plural forms.
(66) a. Kinder, putzt euch die Z¨ hne!
˜Kids, brush your teeth!™
b. Kommen Sie bitte in meine Sprechstunde.
˜Please come to my of¬ce hours.™
c. Gehen wir heute Abend ins Kino!
˜Let™s go to the movies tonight.™
Notice that only the polite second person and ¬rst person plural forms are
accompanied by a personal pronoun (Sie; wir).
The in¬nitive is also used with imperative force in of¬cial situations and
(67) a. Bitte einsteigen!
˜All aboard!™
b. Die Torte 20 bis 30 Minuten backen.
˜Bake the cake for 20 to 30 minutes.™ Non-¬nite verb forms The three non-¬nite verb forms are the
in¬nitive, the present participle, and the past participle.
(68) a. in¬nitive
Ich kann das nicht mehr ertragen.
˜I can no longer bear that.™
b. present participle
Vor dem Flughafen auf den Bus wartend, beobachtet sie die
Menschen um sich herum.
˜Waiting for the bus in front of the airport, she observes the people
around her.™
88 German

c. past participle
Ihr Haus wurde zerst¨ rt.
˜Her house was destroyed.™

The in¬nitive is formed with the basic stem and the suf¬x -(e)n. If a verb stem
ends in /™l/ or /™r/, the in¬nitive ending is -n (/n/); otherwise it is -en (/™n/).
(69) a. sammeln ˜to collect™
b. wandern ˜to hike™
c. lieben ˜to love™
One exception is the verb tun ˜to do™, which has the in¬nitive ending -n rather
than the expected -en, which we ¬nd with other verbs whose stems end in a
(70) a. tun /t u¦n/ ˜to do™
b. sehen /ze¦™n/ ˜to see™
c. ¬‚iehen /fli¦™n/ ˜to ¬‚ee™
The present participle is formed using the verbal stem and the suf¬x -(e)nd.
As with the in¬nitive ending, those verb stems that end in /™l/ or /™r/ use the
suf¬x variant without schwa; all others use the variant with schwa.
(71) a. sammelnd ˜collecting™
b. wandernd ˜hiking™
c. liebend ˜loving™
The formation of the past participle is sensitive to the class to which a verb
belongs (weak, strong, etc.). The past participles of weak verbs are formed by
attaching the circum¬x ge . . . t around the base. As the past participles of verbs
like arbeiten ˜to work™ and offnen ˜to open™ show, e-Epenthesis applies in the
formation of past participles of weak verbs.
(72) a. lieben ˜to love™ geliebt ˜loved™
b. arbeiten ˜to work™ gearbeitet ˜worked™
c. offnen ˜to open™ ge¨ ffnet ˜opened™
The past participles of strong verbs are formed by attaching a slightly different
circum¬x around the base, ge . . . en. The formation of the past participle of
many strong verbs also involves a change in the root vowel: singen ˜to sing™,
gesungen ˜sung™; helfen ˜to help™, geholfen ˜helped™. In a number of ablaut
classes, however, there is no vowel change; the root vowel of the past participle
is identical to that of the in¬nitive: lesen ˜to read™, gelesen ˜read™, fahren
˜to drive™, gefahren ˜driven™. Compare the in¬nitives and past participles in
Table 2.17. The past participles of verbs in the mixed class (Table 2.18) and
the class that includes the modals (Table 2.19) are formed by attaching the
weak circum¬x, ge . . . t, around the stem and (with the exception of sollen and
Morphology 89

wollen) changing the root vowel (the vowels of the past participles of these
verbs are identical to the vowels of the past).
If a verb begins with an unstressed syllable, the ge- portion of the circum¬x
is dropped. This holds for verbs in all classes.
(73) a. stu"dieren ˜to study™ stu"diert ˜studied™
b. ver"kaufen ˜to sell™ ver"kauft ˜bought™
c. ver"bringen ˜to spend™ ver"bracht ˜spent™
d. ver"m¨ gen ˜to be able to™
o ver"mocht ˜been able to™
e. zer"reißen ˜to tear up™ zer"rissen ˜torn up™
Although written as single orthographic words, phrasal verbs like ausf¨ hren
˜to carry out™ and wegfahren ˜to drive away™, which are made up of an adverb
plus a verb, behave syntactically like the phrasal verbs Rad fahren ˜to ride a
bike™ and Schlittschuh laufen ˜to ice-skate™, which are made up of a noun plus
a verb. For example, as the sentences in (74) show, the non-verbal elements
of phrasal verbs (whether adverbs, nouns, or members of another category)
appear at the end of a main clause, separated from the ¬nite forms of the verbal
elements, which occur in the second position of the clause.
(74) a. Sie f¨ hrt den Plan aus.
˜She™s carrying out the plan.™
b. Das Kind f¨ hrt schnell Rad.
˜The kid pedals quickly.™
The past participles of phrasal verbs like ausf¨ hren and wegfahren behave no
differently from the past participles of other phrasal verbs (e.g., Rad fahren and
Schlittschuh laufen). In all types of phrasal verbs, the ge- portion of the past
participle circum¬x is attached to a verbal element of the phrase.
(75) a. ausf¨ hren ˜to carry out™
u ausgef¨ hrt ˜carried out™
b. wegfahren ˜to drive away™ weggefahren ˜driven away™
(76) a. Rad fahren ˜to pedal™ Rad gefahren ˜pedaled™
b. Schlittschuh laufen ˜to ice-skate™ Schlittschuh gelaufen ˜ice-skated™

2.3 Derivation
Derivation is a word-formation process that creates a new lexeme, typically by
adding an af¬x to a base. This process may or may not change the class to which
a word belongs. For example, the verb beschreiben ˜to describe™ is derived by
attaching the pre¬x be- to the verbal base schreib- ˜write™. Although beschreiben
and schreiben are two different lexemes with two different meanings, both
belong to the same word class (verb). Thus the derivational process that creates
beschreiben does not change the word class. The suf¬x -ung, on the other hand,
90 German

does change the class to which a word belongs. This suf¬x typically changes
verbs into nouns: binden ˜to tie, bind™ > Bindung ˜tie, bond™.64
The status of be- and -ung as derivational af¬xes is not at all controver-
sial. However, it is not always easy to determine whether a particular af¬x is
in¬‚ectional or derivational. For example, do we want to treat the -end suf¬x
on present participles (schreibend ˜writing™) as in¬‚ectional (as is done here;
see, or should it be considered derivational? Donalies (2002:132), for
example, analyses all forms like schreibend as adjectives derived from the ver-
bal stem with the derivational suf¬x -end.65 For further discussion of some of
the dif¬culties in distinguishing in¬‚ection from derivation, see, for example,
Bauer 2003:91“107.
The following sections discuss four productive derivational processes in
German: pre¬xation, suf¬xation, circum¬xation, and conversion. The process
of implicit derivation, which is no longer productive in German, is also brie¬‚y

2.3.1 Pre¬xation
Derivational pre¬xation is the process of attaching pre¬xes to a base to create
a new lexeme. While pre¬xation plays a role in the derivation of German
nouns and adjectives, it is particularly important in the formation of verbs.
Section discusses nominal and adjectival pre¬xation; section
treats verbal pre¬xation. Nominal and adjectival pre¬xation The number of native
nominal and adjectival pre¬xes is relatively small; those that are productive are
erz-, Ge-, miss-, un-, and ur-. With the exception of Ge-, these pre¬xes do not
change the class to which a word belongs.
(77) a. der Feind ˜enemy™ > der Erzfeind ˜archenemy™
konservativ ˜conservative™ > erzkonservativ ˜ultraconservative™
b. der Busch ˜bush™ > das Geb¨ sch ˜bushes™
bellen ˜to bark™ > das Gebell ˜barking™
c. der Griff ˜grip, grasp™ > der Missgriff ˜mistake™
verst¨ ndlich ˜understandable™ > missverst¨ ndlich ˜unclear™
a a
d. der Dank ˜thanks™ > der Undank ˜ingratitude™
frei ˜free™ > unfrei ˜not free™
e. der Text ˜text™ > Urtext ˜original text™
alt ˜old™ > uralt ˜ancient™
These pre¬xes clearly change the meaning of the bases to which they are
attached. Several distinct meanings can often be assigned to each pre¬x. The
pre¬x un-, for example, can mean something like ˜not™: die Lust ˜desire™ >
Morphology 91

die Unlust ˜reluctance (lack of desire)™; die Logik ˜logic™ > die Unlogik ˜illog-
icality™. This pre¬x can also be used as an intensi¬er meaning ˜very large™:
die Menge ˜amount™ > die Unmenge ˜vast amount™; die Zahl ˜number™ > die
Unzahl ˜vast number™.
The pre¬x Ge- is particularly interesting because it has suf¬x-like char-
acteristics. Like nominal suf¬xes (and unlike other nominal pre¬xes), it can
bring about a change in word class; compare das Gebell (< bellen) with die
Wohnung ˜dwelling™ (< wohnen ˜to live™). It can also bring about a change in
gender; compare das Geb¨ sch (< der Busch) with die Arbeiterschaft ˜work-
force™ (< der Arbeiter ˜worker™). Notice that pre¬xation with Ge- can also
involve umlauting the vowel of the base (die Mauer ˜wall™ > das Gem¨ uer a
A number of nominal and adjectival pre¬xes of foreign origin are productive
in German, for example, anti-, ex-, hyper-, inter-, neo-, non-, post-, pr¨ -, super-,
trans-, and ultra-. Like native nominal and adjectival pre¬xes, many of these
¬t into the meaning categories ˜opposite™ (˜negation™) and ˜graduation™ (Fleis-
cher and Barz 1995:204; Klosa 1996; Kinne 2000; Eisenberg 1998:240): der
Antiheld ˜antihero™, der Nonkonformist ˜non-conformist™; hyperkorrekt ˜hyper-
correct™, superklug ˜super smart™, ultrasch¨ n ˜ultra-beautiful™.
o Verbal pre¬xation New verbs in German are derived primar-
ily through pre¬xation (Fleischer and Barz 1995:316). The traditional approach
(e.g., Fleischer and Barz 1995) to verbal pre¬xation recognizes three types of
pre¬xes: inseparable (pre¬xes like be- in beschreiben ˜to describe™), separa-
ble (forms like aus- in ausgehen ˜to go out™), and variable (forms like uber-
in uber"setzen ˜to translate™ and "¨ bersetzen ˜to take across™). Only those forms
that are never stressed or separated from the verbal base are recognized here as
pre¬xes. These include be-, ent-, er-, miss-, ver-, and zer- (traditionally known
as inseparable pre¬xes) and unstressed durch-, uber-, um-, unter-, and wider-
(the unstressed occurrences of the “variable pre¬xes”). Because the so-called
separable pre¬xes and stressed variable pre¬xes can be separated from their
verbal bases, they are treated here not as pre¬xes, but as elements of phrasal
verbs, like Rad ˜bike, wheel™ in Rad fahren ˜to pedal™ and Schlittschuh ˜ice
skate™ in Schlittschuh laufen ˜to ice-skate™.67

(78) a. Ich laufe gern Schlittschuh.
˜I like to ice-skate.™
b. Wir gehen heute Abend aus.
˜We™re going out this evening.™
c. Der F¨ hrmann setzte ihn uber.
˜The ferryman took him across.™
92 German

Pre¬xed verbs can be denominal, that is, formed by attaching a pre¬x to a noun:
Fleck ˜stain™ > be¬‚ecken ˜to stain™. They can also be deadjectival: frei ˜free™ >
befreien ˜to free™. The majority of pre¬xed verbs, however, are deverbal: l¨ gen
˜to lie™ > bel¨ gen ˜to lie to™. Pre¬xation of a verbal base not only changes the
meaning of the base, it can also change its valency, the number and type of
arguments that occur with it. For example, the verb l¨ gen is intransitive. It only
requires a subject noun phrase (NP). The verb bel¨ gen, on the other hand, is
transitive; it requires an object NP as well as a subject.

(79) a. Mein Freund l¨ gt.
˜My friend lies.™
b. Mein Freund bel¨ gt mich.
˜My friend lies to me.™

The verb lachen ˜to laugh™ can have a prepositional object: uber jemanden/etwas
lachen ˜to laugh at someone/something™. The verb belachen expresses the
prepositional object of lachen as a direct (accusative) object: jemanden/etwas
belachen ˜to laugh at someone/something™.
Verbs derived through be- pre¬xation are essentially all transitive; they have a
direct object in the accusative case. Pre¬xation with be- can take an intransitive
verb and make it transitive, as is the case with bel¨ gen and belachen. It can
also “shift” an object. For example, the verb liefern has a dative object (person)
and an accusative object (thing): jemandem (dative) etwas (accusative) liefern
˜to supply something to someone™. The verb beliefern has an accusative object
(person) and a prepositional object (thing): jemanden (accusative) mit etwas
beliefern ˜to supply someone with something™. The dative person of liefern is
shifted to the accusative person of beliefern; the accusative thing of liefern is
shifted to the prepositional thing of beliefern. Pre¬xation with be- can simply
have a semantic effect, intensifying the action of the unpre¬xed verb. Compare
f¨ hlen ˜to feel™ and bef¨ hlen ˜to run one™s hands over™; fragen ˜to ask™ and
u u
befragen ˜to question, examine™.
The pre¬x be- is used here to exemplify some of the general characteris-
tics of verbal pre¬xation in German. This pre¬x can be characterized as the
most productive among the pre¬xes be-, ent-, er-, ver-, and zer- (Eisenberg
1998:250).68 All of these pre¬xes developed historically from prepositions or
adverbs, although they no longer have prepositional or adverbial counterparts.
They are an older set of pre¬xes in comparison to the group that includes durch
and uber, for example, which do have prepositional counterparts.

(80) a. verbal pre¬x
Ich ubersetze einen Roman.
˜I™m translating a novel.™
Morphology 93

b. preposition
Er h¨ ngt das Bild uber das Sofa.
˜He is hanging the picture above the sofa.™

The prepositional counterparts of these pre¬xes all occur as elements of phrasal
verbs; see, for example, (78c). For further information on be- and the other
verbal pre¬xes in German, see, for example, Fleischer and Barz 1995, Eisenberg
1998, Durrell 2002, and Donalies 2002.

2.3.2 Suf¬xation
Whereas pre¬xation plays a particularly important role in verbal derivation in
comparison to nominal and adjectival derivation, suf¬xation plays a major role
in nominal and adjectival derivation and only a limited role in the formation
of verbs. Nominal and adjectival suf¬xation Derivational suf¬xes are
especially important in the formation of nouns because of the grammatical effect
they have on their output. In the vast majority of cases, each suf¬x assigns a
speci¬c gender to the noun it is used to create, and each suf¬x is associated with
a speci¬c plural ending. The suf¬x -er, for example, which is highly productive,
is used to derive masculine nouns, primarily from verbs: fahren ˜to drive™ >
der Fahrer ˜driver™; rauchen ˜to smoke™ > der Raucher ˜smoker™; entsaften
˜to juice™ > der Entsafter ˜juicer™. These nouns typically designate the entity
(person or instrument) that carries out the activity characterized by the verb.
The suf¬x -ung, next to -er the most productive suf¬x in German (Fleischer and
Barz 1995:172), is used to derive feminine nouns, primarily from verbs: spalten
˜to split™ > die Spaltung ˜splitting™; landen ˜to land™ > die Landung ˜landing™.
Nouns derived from verbs using the -ung suf¬x refer to the action of the verb.
Because there is such a close relationship between the meaning of a verb and
the meaning of its -ung derivative, suf¬xation with -ung can be viewed as a
means for making verbs useful syntactically as nouns (Donalies 2002:107).
Suf¬xes can be used to derive nouns from words other than verbs. The
suf¬x -ling, for example, can be used to derive nouns from verbs, nouns, and
adjectives: pr¨ fen ˜to examine™ > der Pr¨ ¬‚ing ˜examinee™; die Lust ˜desire™
u u
> der L¨ stling ˜lecher™; frech ˜impudent™ > der Frechling ˜impudent person™.
Derived as well as simple words can be used as a base for suf¬xation. For
example, the verb verkaufen ˜to sell™, which is derived from the verb kaufen ˜to
buy™, can serve as a base for the -er noun der Verk¨ ufer ˜seller™. Phrasal verbs
can also serve as a base for suf¬xation: angeben ˜to show off™ > der Angeber
94 German

Some common, productive native suf¬xes in addition to -er, -ling, and -ung
that are used to derive nouns are the following:
(81) a. -chen die Idee ˜idea™ > das Ideechen ˜little idea™
b. -heit blind ˜blind™ > die Blindheit ˜blindness™
c. -in der Jogger ˜jogger™ > die Joggerin ˜female jogger™
d. -nis bitter ˜bitter™ > die Bitternis ˜bitterness™
e. -schaft der Leser ˜reader™ > die Leserschaft ˜readership™
There are many words of foreign origin in German that have identi¬-
able suf¬xes. For example, words like der Dirigent ˜director™, der Konkur-
rent ˜competitor™, and der Student ˜student™ all end in -ent, which is used
primarily to form nouns from verbs that end in -ieren (dirigieren ˜to
direct™; konkurrieren ˜to compete™; studieren ˜to study™). Because suf¬xes
of foreign origin rarely take native words as their base, the productivity
of suf¬xation with foreign suf¬xes is very restricted (Fleischer and Barz
1995:185). Some common foreign suf¬xes that are found in nouns are the

(82) a. -age die Spionage ˜espionage™
b. -enz die Konferenz ˜conference™
c. -erie die Drogerie ˜drugstore™
d. -ik die Dramatik ˜drama™
e. -¨ r
a der Million¨ r ˜millionaire™
f. -eur der Friseur ˜barber™
g. -ismus der Kapitalismus ˜capitalism™

There are a number of native suf¬xes that are used in the derivation of
adjectives. Like suf¬xes that are used to derive nouns, adjectival suf¬xes can
be attached to bases from a variety of word classes. Common native German
suf¬xes include the following:
(83) a. -bar lesen ˜to read™ > lesbar ˜legible; readable™
b. -haft der Held ˜hero™ > heldenhaft ˜heroic™
c. -ig die Frucht ˜fruit™ > fruchtig ˜fruity™
d. -isch das Kind ˜child™ > kindisch ˜childish™
e. -lich klein ˜little™ > kleinlich ˜petty™
f. -los der Bart ˜beard™ > bartlos ˜beardless™
g. -sam biegen ˜to bend™ > biegsam ˜¬‚exible™
There are also several common adjectival suf¬xes of foreign origin.
(84) a. -abel akzeptabel ˜acceptable™
b. -esk kafkaesk ˜Kafkaesque™
c. -¨ s
o nerv¨ s ˜nervous™
Morphology 95 Verbal suf¬xation Verbal suf¬xation is much more limited
than nominal suf¬xation. The most common suf¬x, -ieren (and its variants
-isieren and -i¬zieren), is attached primarily to words (bases) of foreign origin.

(85) a. aktivieren ˜to activate™, ¬nanzieren ˜to ¬nance™
b. characterisieren ˜to characterize™, pulverisieren ˜to pulverize™
c. falsi¬zieren ˜to falsify™, identi¬zieren ˜to identify™

There are a few examples, though, where -ieren is attached to a native base:
buchstabieren ˜to spell™ (< Buchstabe ˜letter™); hausieren ˜to hawk, peddle™
(< Haus ˜house™).
The number of verbs derived with the suf¬x -el is relatively small, although
the suf¬x is productive (Durrell 2002:519).
(86) a. St¨ ck ˜piece™ > st¨ ckeln ˜to patch™
u u
b. streichen ˜to stroke™ > streicheln ˜to caress™
c. alt ˜old™ > alteln ˜to begin to get old™
As the examples above illustrate, nouns, verbs, and adjectives can serve as the
base for -el suf¬xation.

2.3.3 Circum¬xation
A minor type of af¬xation in German is circum¬xation. The only circum¬x
used to derive nouns is Ge . . . e, which is attached to a verbal base to form a
noun that expresses the repeated activity of the verb, often with a pejorative
connotation (incessant, annoying, etc.).
(87) a. klopfen ˜to knock™ > das Geklopfe ˜knocking™
b. pfeifen ˜to whistle™ > das Gepfeife ˜whistling™
c. anbr¨ llen ˜to bellow™ > das Angebr¨ lle ˜bellowing™
u u
Notice that the circum¬x is attached around the verbal base with phrasal verbs
(anbr¨ llen) as well as with simple verbs (klopfen, pfeifen). Verbs with pre¬xes
and those derived with the suf¬x -ieren do not allow circum¬xation with Ge . . . e
(an asterisk before a word indicates that the form is unacceptable).69
(88) a. besuchen ˜to visit™ > das — Gebesuche ˜visiting™
b. telefonieren ˜to telephone™ > das — Getelefoniere ˜telephoning™
Recall that there is a simple pre¬x Ge- that can be used to derive nouns.
Because verbs can be used as the basis for pre¬xation with Ge-, there is the
potential for doublets.
(89) a. bellen ˜to bark™ > das Gebell/Gebelle ˜barking™
b. schreien ˜to shout™ > das Geschrei/Geschreie ˜shouting™
96 German

The difference between the two forms is the pejorative connotation that is
associated with the circum¬x Ge . . . e (Fleischer and Barz 1995:208).
The single adjectival circum¬x is ge . . . ig, which is not productive and can be
found in only a handful of adjectives: gef¨ gig ˜submissive™, geh¨ ssig ˜spiteful™,
u a
gel¨ u¬g ˜common™, gelehrig ˜quick to learn™ (Donalies 2002:116).
The main verbal circum¬x is be . . . ig, which is used to form verbs from
noun and adjective bases.
(90) a. die Erde ˜earth™ > beerdigen ˜to bury™
b. sanft ˜gentle™ > bes¨ nftigen ˜to soothe™
Some verbs occur only with the suf¬x -ig, yet have the same semantic effect as
circum¬xation with be . . . ig.
(91) a. die Angst ˜fear™ > angstigen ˜to frighten™
b. die Pein ˜agony™ > peinigen ˜to torture™
Compare steinigen ˜to stone™ (< der Stein ˜stone™) with belobigen ˜to praise™
(< der Lob ˜praise™).

2.3.4 Conversion
Conversion, also known as zero-derivation, is the creation of a new lexeme by
changing the word class of an existing lexeme without the use of af¬xation.
For example, the creation of the noun der Kauf ˜sale™ from the verb kauf- ˜to
sell™ is an example of conversion. The creation of ¬schen ˜to ¬sh™ from der
Fisch ˜¬sh™ is also an example of conversion (the -en suf¬x in ¬schen is an
in¬‚ectional suf¬x, not a derivational suf¬x).
Nominal conversion in German is productive. Most word classes can be
converted into nouns, although deverbal conversion is probably the most
(92) a. lauf- ˜(to) run™ > der Lauf ˜run™
b. laufen ˜to run™ > das Laufen ˜running™
c. biss ˜bit™ (past of beißen ˜to bite™) > der Biss ˜bite™
d. ernst ˜serious™ > der Ernst ˜seriousness™
e. ich ˜I™ > das Ich ˜self™
Even phrases can be converted into nouns (Donalies 2002:130).
(93) a. die kleine Todeskapsel des Fur-alle-F¨ lle
the small death-capsule of just-in-case
b. ein rotes Bisschen Vergissmichschnell
a red bit of forget-me-quickly
Conversion is less common in the derivation of adjectives than in the deriva-
tion of nouns. There are some examples of denominal adjectives: die Angst
Morphology 97

˜fear™ > angst ˜afraid™; die Schuld ˜guilt, blame™ > schuld ˜at fault™. These
adjectives are limited syntactically, however; they can only be used predica-
tively: Ihr wurde angst ˜She became worried™. Most common is the conversion
of participles to adjectives.
(94) a. schreiend (present participle) ˜shouting, screaming, screeching™ >
schreiend (adjective): die schreienden Kinder ˜the screaming kids™
b. verloren (past participle) ˜lost™ > verloren (adjective): die
verlorene Ehre ˜the lost honor™
These deverbal adjectives often acquire ¬gurative or special meanings. The
present participle gl¨ nzend ˜shining, gleaming™, for example, can have the
¬gurative meaning ˜brilliant™ when used as an adjective: eine gl¨ nzende Idee
˜a brilliant idea™.
Conversion can be used to change both nouns and adjectives into verbs. As
Donalies (2002:133) points out, just about any noun can be converted into a
(95) a. animal names: der Tiger ˜tiger™ > tigern ˜to mooch™
b. proper names: W. C. R¨ ntgen (physicist) > r¨ ntgen ˜to X-ray™
o o
c. musical instruments: die Geige ˜violin™ > geigen ˜play the violin™
d. substances: das Salz ˜salt™ > salzen ˜to salt™
e. professions: der G¨ rtner ˜gardener™ > g¨ rtnern ˜to garden™
a a
Although there are many verbs that have been derived from adjectives by
conversion, it is debatable whether this process is productive (Donalies 2002:
(96) a. faul ˜rotten™ > faulen ˜to rot™
b. gr¨ n ˜green™ > gr¨ nen ˜to turn green™
u u
c. s¨ ß ˜sweet™ > s¨ ßen ˜to sweeten™
u u
Complex adjectives are only rarely converted into verbs: kr¨ ftig ˜strong™ >
kr¨ ftigen ˜to build up (somebody™s) strength™; compare niedlich ˜cute and small™
> — niedlichen, verniedlichen ˜to trivialize™ (Fleischer and Barz 1995:314;
Donalies 2002:135). This is not the case with verbs converted from nouns
(Donalies 2002:135): brutp¬‚egen ˜to care for the brood™ (< die Brutp¬‚ege
˜care of the brood™), lang¬ngern ˜to pickpocket™ (< der Lang¬nger ˜pick-
pocket™), schriftstellern ˜to try one™s hand as an author™ (< der Schriftsteller

2.3.5 Implicit derivation
Implicit derivation makes use of ablaut to create new lexemes.71 This (now
unproductive) process forms causatives, verbs that mean ˜to cause some-
one/something to do something™.
98 German

(97) a. fallen ˜to fall™ > f¨ llen ˜to fell (cause to fall)™
b. sinken ˜to sink™ > senken ˜to sink (someone/something)™
c. trinken ˜to drink™ > tr¨ nken ˜to water™

Following Donalies (2002), words like der Schritt ˜step™ are not considered here
to be the product of implicit derivation (from the verb schreiten ˜to stride™).72
Instead, they are derived through conversion from the past stem schritt

2.4 Compounding
Compounding is the creation of a new word (lexeme) by adjoining two or more
words. For example, the words Haus ˜house™ and T¨ r ˜door™ can be joined
to form the compound Haust¨ r ˜front door™. Two types of compounds are
recognized here, subordinate compounds and copulative compounds. Haust¨ r u
is an example of a subordinate compound. The ¬rst element in this com-
pound modi¬es the second element. A Haust¨ r is a kind of T¨ r; the element
u u
Haus tells what kind of a T¨ r it is. In copulative compounds, on the other
hand, each member of the compound is equal. One member does not modify
another. The compound adjective schwarzweiß ˜black and white™, for example,
is a copulative compound. If something is schwarzweiß, it is both black and
All subordinate compounds in German are binary in structure, even if they
are made up of more than two elements. The compound die Nudelsauce ˜noodle
sauce™, which is made up of two words, Nudel and Sauce, is formed by joining
these two words together. The compound Nudelsaucenrezept ˜noodle sauce
recipe™, which is made up of a total of three words, is also formed by joining
two words together, Nudelsauce (itself a compound) and Rezept. Similarly,
Nudelsaucenrezeptsammler ˜noodle sauce recipe collector™ is made up of a
total of four words, but is formed by adjoining two, Nudelsaucenrezept (a
compound) and Sammler.73
There are sometimes “extra” segments between the members of a compound:

(98) a. der Frau-en-sport ˜women™s sport™, der Kind-er-wagen ˜baby
carriage™, der Schwein-e-braten ˜roast pork™
b. die Tag-es-temperatur ˜daytime temperature™
c. der Wohnung-s-markt ˜housing market™

Sometimes these segments are identical to the plural ending of the ¬rst element
in the compound, as in (98a), where the -en- in Frauensport, for example,
Morphology 99

is the plural ending of Frau ˜woman™. In other compounds, these segments
are identical to the genitive ending of the ¬rst member; in (98b), -es- is the
genitive singular ending of Tag ˜day™. In some compounds, however, these extra
segments have no connection at all to the ¬rst member of the compound. The
-s- in Wohnungsmarkt, for example, is not an in¬‚ectional ending of Wohnung.
The word is feminine and thus has no genitive singular ending; its plural form
is Wohnungen.
Those extra elements that are identical to plural endings are treated here
as in¬‚ectional af¬xes (e.g., -e, -en, -er). Note that it is necessary to acknowl-
edge the presence of in¬‚ected words in compounds, given compounds like
M¨ tterberatungsstelle ˜advisory center for (pregnant and nursing) mothers™,
where M¨ tter is the plural form of Mutter ˜mother™. The -(e)s- that occurs
in compounds is not treated as an in¬‚ectional af¬x, however, but simply as a
“linking element,”74 even if it could be considered a genitive ending in some
compounds (e.g., in Tagestemperatur).75
Compounding is particularly important in modern German. It is a highly
productive source of new words, and the extensive use of compounds is a typi-
cal feature of the language. For example, the ¬rst two sentences in a randomly
chosen newspaper article yield the following compounds: Bundeskabinett ˜fed-
eral cabinet™, Gesundheitsreform ˜health reform™, Wechselfrist ˜usance™, and
Krankenversicherung ˜health insurance™. German is also notorious for the
potential length of its compounds. In an essay on “The Awful German Lan-
guage,” Mark Twain remarked that “some German words are so long that they
have a perspective,” and listed compounds like Waffenstillstandsunterhand-
lungen ˜cease-¬re negotiations™ and Wiederherstellungsbestrebungen ˜restora-
tion attempts™ as examples (Twain 1996:611“612). Although the length and
complexity of the following (attested) compound is not characteristic of a typ-
ical compound, it does demonstrate the potential of compounding in German
(Donalies 2002:62):

(99) Australienlangstreckendirekt¬‚ugstopoverspezialisten

It is not always easy to distinguish between the processes of compounding
and derivation, both of which create new lexemes. For example, are Astwerk
˜branches™, Buschwerk ˜bushes™, and Laubwerk ˜foliage™ compounds formed
with the noun Werk ˜work™, or are they nouns derived using the suf¬x -werk?
Historically, af¬xes can develop from lexemes. The af¬x -schaft in Freundshaft
˜friendship™, for example, developed from the Old High German word scaf
˜nature™, which no longer exists as a lexeme.76 Some linguists use the term
“af¬xoid” to identify af¬x-like morphemes like -werk that differ somewhat in
meaning from their corresponding lexemes (Werk ˜work™). Others argue against
100 German

recognizing an additional type of morphological unit (Schmidt 1987, Fleischer
and Barz 1995:27“28; Eisenberg 1998:210).

2.4.1 Nominal compounds
The majority of nominal compounds are subordinate compounds. Although
nominal copulative compounds exist, they are not common. Many compounds
that have been identi¬ed as copulative compounds in the literature can also be
analyzed as subordinate compounds:

(100) a. Hosenrock ˜pant skirt™
b. Radiowecker ˜radio alarm clock™
c. Kinocaf´ ˜cinema caf´ ™
e e
d. Dichterkomponist ˜author composer™

For example, a Kinocaf´ can be interpreted as a cinema and caf´ (copu-
e e
lative compound) or as a type of caf´ that shows ¬lms (subordinate com-
pound). One example of a compound that is unambiguously a copulative com-
pound is Schleswig-Holstein ˜Schleswig-Holstein™, one of the current German
states made up of Schleswig and Holstein. As all these compounds demon-
strate, the individual members of copulative compounds are (necessarily)
Although the ¬nal element of a nominal subordinate compound will always
be a noun, a variety of elements can serve as the ¬rst element.77
(101) a. noun: die B¨ hnenmusik ˜incidental (stage) music™
b. adjective: die Blindlandung ˜blind landing™
die Stehkneipe ˜stand-up bar™78
c. verb:
d. adverb: die Jetztzeit ˜present (now time)™
e. preposition: der Mitstudent ˜fellow (with) student™
f. pronoun: der Ich-Roman ˜¬rst person novel™
g. phrase: die Ohne-mich-Haltung ˜without-me attitude™
h. sentence: der Ich-mach-aus-dir-Hack¬‚eisch-Blick

The most common (two-member) nominal compounds are those with nouns,
adjectives, or verbs as ¬rst members. Although other word types are possible
as ¬rst members, they are less common.

2.4.2 Adjectival compounds
Adjectival copulative compounds are the most common type of copulative
compound. Although adjectival subordinate compounds are more numerous
Morphology 101

than their copulative counterparts, adjectival copulative compounds are not
uncommon (Donalies 2002:87).79
(102) a. deutsch-armenische Beziehungen ˜German“Armenian relations™
b. eine krummgelbe Banane ˜a bent-yellow banana™
c. Armeniens rot-blau-aprikosenfarbene Flagge ˜Armenia™s red-blue-
apricot ¬‚ag™
Adjectival compounds are typically made up of just two elements, although
more complex compounds are possible, as the following subordinate
compound demonstrates: stachelbeerstrauchbraun ˜gooseberry bush brown™
(Donalies 2002:78).
Two-member adjectival subordinate compounds can have a variety of
elements as their ¬rst member.
(103) a. noun: farbenblind ˜color-blind™
b. adjective: altklug ˜precocious (old-clever)™
c. verb: fahrt¨ chtig ˜roadworthy™
d. preposition: mitschuldig ˜complicit™
e. phrase: zweibibeldick ˜two-bible thick™
The most common adjectival subordinate compounds are those with nouns as
their ¬rst element.

2.4.3 Other compounds
Compounding is a very minor process in the formation of verbs in German.
Only those verbs whose ¬rst elements are words that are never separated from
the rest of the verb are considered compounds. Verbal compounds with verbs
as their ¬rst element are typically found in technical language and sometimes
in ¬ctional works.
(104) a. presspolieren ˜to press-polish™, schleifpolieren ˜to sand-polish™
b. grinskeuchen ˜to grin-pant™, knirschkauen ˜to grind-chew™
Compound verbs with nouns and adjectives as their ¬rst element are probably
less common than those with verbs as ¬rst elements.80
(105) a. nachtwandeln ˜to sleepwalk™, lobpreisen ˜to praise™
b. lieb¨ ugeln ˜to ogle™, frohlocken ˜to rejoice™, vollenden ˜to ¬nish™
The use of nouns and adjectives to form verbal compounds is not a productive
process in German; the examples above are well-established verbal compounds.
Adverbial compounds, on the other hand, are not uncommon, and relatively
new compounds attest to the productive nature of this method of deriving
adverbs (Donalies 2002:87).
102 German

(106) a. tags¨ ber ˜during the day™: jahrs¨ ber ˜during the year™
u u
b. bergauf ˜uphill™: strumpfauf ˜up-stocking™, wandauf ˜up-wall™

Nominal compounds, however, are by far the most productive and numerous
type of compound in German.

2.5 Reductions
Reductions (Kurzw¨ rter) are nouns that are simply shortened versions of com-
plex nouns (or phrases) that already exist in the language. For example, die
Demo ˜demonstration™ is a reduction of die Demonstration. Both the original
long form and the reduction co-exist. There is typically no difference in mean-
ing between the long form and its reduced counterpart, although there may
be stylistic differences. The reduction die Demo, for example, is more casual
than die Demonstration. The reduced form may or may not be in¬‚ected like
its long counterpart. The plural forms of both Ober ˜waiter™ and Oberkellner
˜head waiter™ are identical to their singular forms. However, the plural end-
ing of Demo is -s, whereas the plural ending of its long form is -en: Demos;
Demonstrationen. The s-plural is in fact a typical plural ending for reductions.
Reductions typically have the same gender as their full forms: der Bus, der
Autobus ˜bus™; die Kripo, die Kriminalpolizei ˜criminal investigation depart-
ment™; das Abi, das Abitur (school-leaving exam). Exceptions are rare: das
Foto, die Fotogra¬e ˜photograph™; das Litho, die Lithographie ˜lithograph™
(Dudenredaktion 2005:745).
Acronyms (AOK, Lkw, TUV) are included in the class of reductions, but not
abbreviations (ca., dgl., km). Acronyms are pronounced according to how they
are written. Either the individual letters are named (AOK, Lkw) or they are
pronounced using the sounds that their individual letters would signify (TUV
[t f]). Abbreviations, on the other hand, are pronounced exactly like their
unabbreviated forms: ca. and circa ˜circa™ are both pronounced [ts©ɐ8k a].
The formation of reductions in German is quite productive. The creation
of acronyms, in particular, is a popular process. The names of new organi-
zations, companies, publications, etc. are in fact often created with the goal
of producing a particular acronym. Many such names have acronyms that are
identical to words or names that are already established (Donalies 2002:150):
Junge Liberale ˜Young Liberals™ > JULI (Juli ˜July™); Osnabr¨ cker Beitr¨ ge
u a
zur Sprachtheorie ˜Osnabr¨ ck Contributions to Language Theory™ > OBST
(Obst ˜fruit™).
Not until recently have reductions been given more than a marginal place
in the discussion of word-formation processes in German “ derivation and
Morphology 103

compounding (concatenative processes) being viewed as the central means of
deriving new lexical items (Wiese 2001). In the past twenty years, reductions
have begun to capture the attention of linguists, as evidenced by an increase in
descriptive studies (e.g., Greule 1983, 1996; Kobler-Trill 1994) and theoreti-
cally oriented studies (e.g., Neef 1996; F´ ry 1997; Itˆ and Mester 1997; Wiese
e o
2001; Gr¨ ter 2003).

2.5.1 A typology of reduction types
Three basic types of reductions can be identi¬ed: clippings, multi-segmental
reductions, and partial reductions. Clippings and multi-segmental reductions
can be divided into further subtypes.
A clipping is created by “clipping” off part of an existing word. Most clip-
pings are created by deleting the last part of a word. The portion that is deleted
can be anything from a syllable to a word (in a compound word):
(107) a. das Abitur (school-leaving exam) > das Abi
b. die Demonstration ˜demonstration™ > die Demo
c. der Oberkellner ˜head waiter™ > der Ober
Much less common are clippings that are created by deleting the ¬rst portion
of a word.
(108) a. das Violoncello ˜violoncello™ > das Cello
b. der Omnibus ˜omnibus™ > der Bus
According to Kobler-Trill (1994:66), Cello and Bus are the only examples of
such clippings.81 Clippings that delete the ¬rst and last portions of a word are
extremely rare, and appear to be possible only with proper names.
(109) a. Elizabeth > Liza
b. Sebastian > Basti
c. Theresia > Resi
A multi-segmental reduction is a pronounceable word that is formed from the
initial letters and/or syllables of the words in a compound or phrase. There are
three basic types of multi-segmental reductions: acronyms, syllable reductions,
and mixed reductions. Acronyms are formed by taking the initial letters of a
compound or phrase and pronouncing them as a word.
(110) a. der Lastkraftwagen ˜truck™ > der Lkw
b. Institut f¨ r Deutsche Sprache > IDS
Syllable reductions are formed by taking the initial syllables (or parts of sylla-
bles) of a compound or phrase and pronouncing them as a word.
104 German

(111) a. die Schutzpolizei ˜police force™ > die Schupo
b. Junge Liberale ˜young liberals™ > JULI (Donalies 2002:150)

Mixed reductions are created by using both initial letters and syllables
(parts of syllables) of a compound or phrase to create a pronounceable
(112) a. Auszubildender ˜trainee™ > Azubi
b. Bundesausbildungsf¨ rderungsgesetz (law regarding grants for
higher education) > BAF¨ G
c. Arbeitspapiere und Materialien zur deutschen Sprache ˜working
papers and materials on the German language™ > amades
(Donalies 2002:148)
Partial reductions are created by reducing part of an established compound
or phrase.
(113) a. Schokoladenbonbon ˜chocolate candy™ > Schokobonbon
b. Orangensaft ˜orange juice™ > O-Saft
c. Vorne-kurz-hinten-lang-Frisur ˜short-in-front-long-in-back-haircut
(mullet)™ > Vokuhila-Frisur (Donalies 2002:147)
d. haltbare Milch ˜long-life milk™ > H-Milch
Although the portion of the compound or phrase that is reduced typically
ends up as a single letter or an acronym (O-Saft, H-Milch, UV-Strahlen ˜UV
rays™), the reduced portion can also be a clipping (Schoko < Schokolade
in Schokoladenbonbon) or a syllable reduction (Schuko < Schutzkontakt in
Schukostecker ˜safety plug™).

2.5.2 Reductions in word formation
Several suf¬xes in German are used together with reductions to create new
lexical items: -ler, -i, and -o. The suf¬x -ler is typically added to acronyms to
create nouns that designate people.

(114) a. CDUler ˜CDU member™
b. FKKler ˜nudist™
c. IBMler ˜IBMers™
The suf¬xes -i and -o are added to clippings.
(115) a. Pulli ˜pullover™ (< Pullover)
b. Anarcho ˜anarchist™ (< Anarchist)
Morphology 105

Suf¬xation and clipping can be viewed as happening simultaneously (the forms

Pull and — Anarch do not exist independently). Words derived by suf¬xing
-i and -o to clippings typically designate people, but they can also designate
objects: der Trabbi (name of East German car) < Trabant.
The i-suf¬x is particularly productive and often adds a special nuance to the
meaning of the derived word. It can add a hypocoristic sense.
(116) a. Omi < Oma ˜grandma™
b. Riki < Ulrike
c. Susi < Susanne

It can also add a slightly pejorative sense.
(117) a. der Alki < der Alkoholiker ˜alcoholic™
b. der Drogi ˜druggie™ < der Drogens¨ chtige ˜drug addict™
c. der Ami < der Amerikaner ˜American™

Not all reductions that end in an -i are products of reduction and suf¬xation.
The following words are simply clippings that happen to end in an -i:
(118) a. die Uni ˜university™ < die Universit¨ t
b. der Krimi ˜crime novel™ < der Kriminalroman
c. der Chauvi ˜chauvinist™ < der Chauvinist

Reductions play a particularly active role in the creation of compounds. They
typically occur as the ¬rst member of a compound.
(119) a. CIA-Agent ˜CIA agent™
b. VW-Fahrer ˜VW driver™
c. Zivi-Stelle ˜position for a person doing alternative service™

Though less common, they can also appear in other positions in a compound.
(120) a. Reality-TV
b. Fußball-WM ˜soccer world championship™

Reductions can also be used together to form a compound.
(121) a. CD-ROM
b. BASF-Azubi ˜BASF trainee™

Some compounds formed with reductions are in fact redundant (but generally
not perceived as such), which suggests that the reductions are on their way
to becoming lexical items independent of their long forms (Dudenredaktion
106 German

(122) a. die PIN-Nummer ˜PIN number™ < die pers¨ nliche

Identi¬kationsnummer-Nummer ˜personal identi¬cation number
b. die ABM-Maßnahme < die

Arbeitsbeschaffungsmaßnahme-Maßnahme ˜job creation
measure measure™

2.5.3 Other reduction types and related word-formation processes
Two less common word-formation processes in German that are similar to
the process of reduction are blending and reduplication. Blends are new
lexical items that are created by reducing and then fusing together two

(123) a. Ameropa (name of a travel agency) < Amerika and Europa
b. jein ˜yes and no™ < ja and nein

The two words used to form a blend may have one or more segments in
common; the common segments occur only once in the blend.

(124) a. Jobst (name of a company) < Joghurt ˜yogurt™ and Obst ˜fruit™
b. Kurlaub ˜spa vacation™ < Kur ˜health cure™ and Urlaub ˜vacation™

Blends are similar to reductions in that both involve the deletion of portions
of words. They differ from reductions, however, in that they do not have
corresponding long forms. Blending creates a new lexical item; the process of
reduction creates an alternative (shortened) form of a lexical item that already
exists in the lexicon.
Reduplication is a process of af¬xation that makes use of an af¬x created by
repeating part (or all) of the base to which it is attached.

(125) a. die Pinkepinke ˜dough™ < Pinke ˜money™
b. der/die Schickimicki ˜member of the in-crowd™ < schick ˜chic™

Reduplication is a limited means of creating new lexical items in modern
German. According to the Duden grammar, there are only approximately one
hundred reduplicated forms in German (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and
interjections); many of these belong to non-standard varieties of German or are
common in child language.
Many reduplicated forms in German involve more than just simple repetition
of segments.
Morphology 107

(126) a. simple repetition: das Blabla ˜empty talk™
b. rhyming repetition: der Heckmeck ˜nonsense™ (< meckern ˜to
grump, gripe™)
c. ablauting repetition: das Tingeltangel ˜second-rate night-club™
(< tingeln ˜to appear in small night-clubs™)
As forms like Schickimicki and those below demonstrate, reduplicated
forms in German often contain the segment -i, a feature they have in
common with reductions (clippings) that happen to end in -i (Krimi ˜crime
novel™) as well as those that involve reduction and i-suf¬xation (Drogi
(127) a. das Larifari ˜nonsense™
b. das Wischiwaschi ˜drivel™
c. das Remmidemmi ˜rumpus™
Wiese 2001 in fact provides arguments (from phonology, morphology, seman-
tics, and usage) that reduction and reduplication are two variants of the same
phenomenon. He argues that reductions are basically reduplicative construc-
tions in which prosodic wellformedness conditions prevent the double realiza-
tion of the material.

1. Write rules like those in (8) and (9), for example, to account for the
(a) the plural in¬‚ection of nouns ending in -lein (das B¨ chlein ˜little book™,
das W¨ rtlein ˜little word™), a subclass of class 1 nouns
(b) the plural in¬‚ection of class 2 nouns (those that end in a schwa syllable
have the suf¬x -n; those that do not have the suf¬x -en)
(c) the plural in¬‚ection of the class 2 words der Konsul ˜counsel™ and der
Ungar ˜Hungarian™, which do not end in a schwa syllable but neverthe-
less have the plural suf¬x -n (they end in an unstressed vowel followed
by a liquid, /l/ or /r/).
2. Identify the pre¬xes, suf¬xes, circum¬xes, roots, and stems in the fol-
lowing word forms: (a) Lesern ˜readers™ (b) fragliche ˜questionable™
(c) Schuldigkeit ˜duty™ (d) zertreten ˜to crush™ (e) gekauft ˜bought™
(f) partnerschaftliches ˜based on partnership™ (g) ultramoderne ˜ultra mod-
ern™ (h) ungl¨ cklich ˜unhappy™ (i) Gequatsche ˜gabbing™ (j) mutterlose
3. Identify the suf¬xes in the following words and determine whether they are
in¬‚ectional or derivational.
108 German

(a) Krankheiten ˜diseases™ (b) sch¨ nerer ˜more beautiful™ (c) Studentinnen
˜students™ (d) studieren ˜to study™ (e) Br¨ derchen ˜little brother™ (f) Schrei-
berlingen ˜pen-pushers™ (g) Verh¨ ltnisse ˜relationships™ (h) Arbeiterschaft
˜work force™ (i) zauberhafte ˜enchanting™ (j) Humoristen ˜humorists™
4. Identify the word-formation process(es) used in the formation of the follow-
ing words (af¬xation, conversion, compounding, reduction). Note that some
words are the result of more than one process.
(a) Freundin ˜female friend™ (b) salzen ˜to salt™ (Salz ˜salt™) (c) Info ˜handout™
(Informationsblatt ˜handout™) (d) Fundi ˜fundamentalist™ (Fundamentalist
˜fundamentalist™) (e) hypermodern ˜ultra modern™ (f) Teekanne ˜tea pot™
(g) Kita ˜(children™s) day-care center™ (Kindertagesst¨ tte ˜day-care center™)
(h) s¨ ßlich ˜sweetish™ (i) S¨ ßwein ˜dessert wine™ (j) s¨ ßen ˜to sweeten™
u u u
5. Identify the following as subordinate or copulative compounds: (a) schwarz-
rot-gold ˜black-red-and-gold™ (b) Butterfett ˜butterfat™ (c) Sojabohne
˜soybean™ (d) Schreibtisch ˜desk™ (e) Kneesch¨ tzer ˜knee pad™ (f) Hotelka-
sino ˜hotel casino™ (g) Fr¨ hlingsfest ˜spring festival™ (h) alkoholarm ˜low in
alcohol™ (i) s¨ ßsauer ˜sweet and sour™ (j) hellblau ˜light blue™
6. Identify the following reductions as clippings, multi-segmental reductions,
or partial reductions.
(a) Dia ˜slide™ (Diapositiv) (b) A-Saft ˜apple juice™ (Apfelsaft) (c) CDU
˜Christian Democratic Union™ (Christlich-Demokratische Union) (d) Schiri
˜ref™ (Schiedsrichter ˜referee™) (e) Spezi ˜pal™ (spezieller Freund ˜spe-
cial friend™) (f) SB-Laden ˜self-service store™ (Selbstbedienungsladen)
(g) VW ˜VW™ (Volkswagen) (h) Frust ˜frustration™ (Frustration) (i) Kadewe
(Kaufhaus des Westens [name of a department store in Berlin]) (j) D-Zug
˜fast train™ (Durchgangszug) (k) Sani ˜medical orderly™ (Sanit¨ ter) a

1 See section for a discussion of the other plural allomorphs in German.
2 Morphs will be cited from now on using conventional orthography rather
than phonemic representations unless such representations are necessary for the
3 In¬‚ectional af¬xes are used to create the different word forms of a lexeme. These
contrast with derivational af¬xes, which are used to create new lexemes. See sections
2.2 and 2.3 for further discussion of the properties of in¬‚ectional and derivational
4 The participle gekauft could be viewed as containing the pre¬x ge- and the suf¬x
-t rather than the circum¬x ge . . . t. However, gekauft never occurs without the ge-
or the -t; there is no — gekauf or — kauft meaning ˜bought™. (See Bauer 2003:28 and
Donalies 2002:33 for arguments to this effect.)
Morphology 109

5 See Bauer 2003 for further discussion of the characteristics of in¬‚ection and prop-
erties of in¬‚ectional af¬xes.
6 Strong verbs are one of the in¬‚ectional classes of verbs in German. See section 2.2.4
for further discussion.
7 See sections and for further discussion of umlaut and ablaut.
8 See Bauer 2003:236 and Booij 2005:117“118 for a discussion of some of the
9 See Bauer 2003:210 for a discussion of additional features that can be accounted
for in a straightforward way under the WP model.
10 See Corbett 1991 for a survey of the role of gender in language in general as well as
information on gender in German. Durrell 2002 presents common generalizations
about gender assignment in German. See also K¨ pcke 1982, K¨ pcke and Zubin
o o
1984, and Steinmetz 1986.
11 See, for example, Bech 1963, Carstairs 1986, and Wurzel 1994. More recent studies
have investigated German noun plurals in the context of developing models of the
mental representation of grammar (e.g., Clahsen et al. 1992, Marcus et al. 1995,
Bartke 1998).
12 The ¬rst four classes are based on Bech™s (1963) four plural classes (Bech does
not treat the s-plural). There are also words of foreign origin that have unusual
plural forms: das Museum ˜museum™, die Museen; der Organismus ˜organism™,
die Organismen; die Skala ˜scale™, die Skalen. These plurals are not treated
here. See Durrell 2002:21“22 for further examples and discussion of these plural
13 The formalization in this presentation of plural in¬‚ection is based on the formal-
ization used by Bauer in his treatment of the in¬‚ection of neuter nouns in German
(2003:200“209). This presentation differs from Bauer™s approach in the number of
noun classes recognized and the number and content of the rules used to account for
plural in¬‚ection.
14 An additional rule that is similar to the rule in (8) is also needed to account for
nouns that end in the diminutive suf¬x -lein, since these do not add an af¬x in the
formation of the plural: B¨ chlein ˜little book™, B¨ chlein ˜little books™. This rule is
u u
addressed in the exercises to this chapter.
15 There are a few exceptions to this generalization. The words der Konsul ˜coun-
sel™ and der Ungar ˜Hungarian™, for example, do not end in a schwa syllable,
but they do not take the variant with schwa to form their plurals: Konsuln ˜coun-
sels™, Ungarn ˜Hungarians™. These exceptions are addressed in the exercises to this
16 The doubling of the s before the plural ending in nouns with the suf¬x -nis is simply
a spelling convention; the doubled consonant indicates that the preceding vowel, i,
is short.
17 This is the view of the s-plural that we present here. See Bauer 2003:208 for a
WP formulation of the s-plural rule that views -s as the default plural af¬x in
18 Although Pinker (1999:222) argues that the s-plural is “regular” and serves as the
“default,” he characterizes this as “acting whenever memory retrieval comes up
empty-handed.” This view appears not to contradict Durrell™s position. Pinker also
notes van Dam™s (1940) characterization of the s-plural as the Notpluralending
110 German

˜emergency plural ending™, “which nicely captures the key trait of regularity in the
psychological sense.”
19 We can provide a formal WP account of the in¬‚ection of nouns for case by positing
rules like those formulated to account for the in¬‚ection of nouns for number. We
leave it to the reader to work out the details of such an account.
20 The full form, -es, is used if a noun ends in /s/, /z/, /ts/, /ʃ/, or /st /: des Flusses ˜river™,
des Glases ˜glass™, des Sitzes ˜seat™, des Busches ˜bush™, des Zwistes ˜discord™. The
shorter form is used, for example, if a word ends in an unstressed syllable: des
Wagens ˜car™, des K¨ nigs ˜king™. See Dudenredaktion 2001:358“360 for further
details regarding the distribution of -es and -s.
21 These nouns are a subset of those masculine nouns that form their plural with the
suf¬x -(e)n (class 2).
22 If a weak masculine noun ends in a schwa syllable (-e or -er) in the nominative
singular, the ending is -n for all other cases in the singular; if it does not end in a
schwa syllable, the ending is -en. A very small set of masculine nouns, which end in
-e and do not denote animate beings, are in¬‚ected like the weak masculine nouns,
with the one difference that they have the genitive singular ending -ens rather than
-en: der Buchstabe ˜letter of the alphabet™, des Buchstabens; der Name ˜name™, des
23 Recall that syncretism is the realization of two (or more) grammatical words by
homonymous word forms.
24 There are a number of additional determiners in German that are in¬‚ected like dieser.
Some of the common ones are aller ˜all (the)™, jeder ˜each™, mancher ˜some, many
a™, and welcher ˜which™.
25 The determiner irgendein ˜some (or other)™ is another determiner that is in¬‚ected
like ein.
26 While the nominative, accusative, and dative forms of the personal pronouns are
common in all stylistic levels of the language, the genitive forms occur only in
formal situations.
27 Table 2.6 is a modi¬ed version of Durrell™s personal pronoun table (2002:49).
28 See chapter 7 (7.3) for a brief history and analysis of the German address system.
29 There are no nominative re¬‚exive forms.
30 The form selbst belongs more to the standard language, whereas selber belongs
more to everyday speech (Dudenredaktion 2001:767).
31 In formal written German, the relative pronoun welcher is also used. See Durrell
2002:98“99 for details on the forms and use of welcher. German also makes use
of unin¬‚ected relative pronouns like was ˜what™ and wo ˜where™ (Durrell 2002:99“


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