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Review of  Deutsche Wortbildung in Grundzügen

Reviewer: Guido Josef Oebel
Book Title: Deutsche Wortbildung in Grundzügen
Book Author: Wolfgang Motsch
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): German
Book Announcement: 16.3040

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Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 12:38:10 +0900
From: Guido Oebel <>
Subject: Deutsche Wortbildung in Grundzügen

AUTHOR: Motsch, Wolfgang
TITLE: Deutsche Wortbildung in Grundzügen
SUBTITLE: 2. überarbeitete Auflage
SERIES: Schriften des Instituts für deutsche Sprache 8
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2004

Guido Oebel, Saga (Faculty of Culture & Education) and Kurume University
(Institute of Foreign Language Education) Western Japan

The publisher's announcement of this book states that it "describes the
most important patterns for the analysis and creation of German
derivations and compounds. Word formation patterns are viewed as rules
belonging to the lexicon of a language that include all the systematic
syntactic, semantic morphological and phonological information necessary
for using complex words. The focus is on semantic patterns, which describe
the possibilities of the semantic change of primary words from derivations
and compounds."


Motsch's second revised version of his book first published in 1999 still
differs essentially from other treatments of word formation through its
strictly lexical approach and emphasis on the semantic bases of
regularities. The author stresses particularly the considerably restricted
possibility of formulating strict rules and reliable predictions on
possible word formations. As Motsch himself considers this fact as
manifesting inherent word characteristics rather than the weakness of
linguistic analysis, he claims that his analysis has been carried out as
precisely as possible.

Motsch acknowledges that the description in this book borrows from other
significant works dealing with German word formation, such as The German
Word Formation of the Innsbruck Research Centre affiliated with the
Institute for the German Language (Institut für Deutsche Sprache) and from
Fleischer and Barz (1992). Motsch deliberately refrains from discussing
different approaches of description in order to keep his main goal, the
description of patterns in word formation, from being unnecessarily
overloaded. However, at the end of each chapter, he provides references to
related works dealing with word formation. The four descriptive chapters
are followed by a bibliography, an index, and a list of the most essential
elementary predicates.

Chapter 1 constitutes a synopsis of the theoretical outlines, while the
following three main chapters deal with the formation of verbs, adjectives
and nouns. Despite their parallel organisation, the part-of-speech
specifications are clearly distinguished. First each part-of-speech is
characterized both semantically and grammatically, corresponding to those
features of importance for morphology, e.g., the semantic categorisation
of nouns, the syntax of adjectives, and the separability or inseparability
of complex verbs. After that comes a detailed description of patterns with
illustrating examples and a synopsis of the respective word formation
patterns, along with, as mentioned above, a brief selection of related

Patterns are formulated on two different levels: first Motsch establishes
semantic patterns of e.g., the adjective, applying:
- transformations ('Umkategorisierungen': from noun to adjective, 177-183;
from verb to adjective, 183-190; from adverb to adjective, 190-192; from
adjective to phrasal adjective, 193-195),
- relations to objects, so-called denominal adjectives ('Relationen zu
Gegenständen', 'denominale Adjektive', 195-200),
- modification of deadjectival adjectives and adjectival compounds
('Modifikation deadjektivischer Adjektive und Adjektivkomposita', 269-287),
- word negation (287-295), and relations to events, so-called deverbal
adjectives ('Relationen zu Geschehen', 'deverbale Adjektive', 295-307)
(cf. Barz 2001: 55).

These semantic patterns are described as predicate-argument-structures of
which their structural-morphological specificity as derivates, e.g. 'bar'-
adjectives such as 'ess-bar' (ed-ible) and 'wasch-bar' (wash-able) or
compounds, e.g. 'fähig'-adjectives such as 'regierung-s-fähig' (able to
govern) and 'arbeitsfähig' (able/fit to work), is part of the
morphological analysis of the respective pattern. Motsch completes the
patterns under review by giving further details regarding the semantics of
the basic adjectives analysed, the gradability and syntactic usage of word
formation products (whereas words other than adjectives are dealt with
corresponding to their specific grammar), syntactic alternative
expressions as paraphrases, and the patterns' level of activity (inactive,
weakly active, strongly active). Particularly worth mentioning is Motsch's
analysis of so-called elatives such as 'stinkreich' (stinking rich)
and 'funkelnagelneu' (brand-new) (pp. 279-285) which too often have not or
only peripherally been considered in other books on German morphology (cf.
Pittner 2000: 166).


The most obvious strong point of Motsch's book is that the author not only
succeeds in a theoretically profound description of the morphological
patterns of contemporary German but also adheres to a solid empirical
foundation. Motsch's pattern description is mainly founded on analysing
scientifically sanctioned text corpora. All in all, the author's attempt
to describe German morphological patterns has been well accomplished. The
target readership may be found among those interested in the interface
between syntax and semantics or in what role word formation patterns play
within the comprehensive grammar system. It is greatly to Motsch's credit
that he explicitly refers to a reviewer's criticism (p. 165) of his
earlier categorical rejection of noun-verb-compounds ('N+V-Komposita')
resulting in the interim admission that his rigorous point of view might
at least be open to question (52). Owing to their stringent explanation of
fundamental concepts, the single chapters seem to be perfectly suitable
for use in linguistic seminars on morphology; however, due to its
relatively high price the book will probably be mainly bought as a
reference work by university libraries (Pittner 2000: 166).


Reviews of Wolfgang Motsch's (1999) Deutsche Wortbildung in Grundzügen by:
Barz, Irmhild (2001) Deutsch als Fremdsprache 38, 54-55.
Demske, Ulrike (2001) Zeitschrift für Germanistische Linguistik 29:1, 75-
Pittner, Karin (2000) Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 19:2, 165-66.

Fleischer, Wolfgang & Irmhild Barz (1992) Wortbildung der deutschen
Gegenwartssprache. Tübingen: Niemeyer.


Guido Oebel (PhD in linguistics) is a native German currently teaching
German as a Foreign Language (DaF) and FLL at Saga and Kurume University
in Western Japan. His main areas of research are: DaF, DaZ (German as a
Second Language), FLL with German as L3, sociolinguistics, adult education
and especially autonomous learning and approaches, particularly 'Learning
by Teaching' (LdL). In 2001, he established the first and so far sole
officially certified TestDaF-Centre nationwide. In 2004, he succeeded in
persuading Prof. Viereck to give a lecture on the Atlas Linguarum Europae
(ALE) at Kyushu University. At present, Guido Oebel is engaged in editing
for publication a Festschrift in honour of Prof. Viereck on the occasion
of his retirement from his chair at Bamberg University.

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