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An abstraction (pl. Abstraction ; Latin nomen abstractum , from abstractus “withdrawn, generalized”) is a noun ( noun ) in linguistics that denotes something non-objective. Examples of typical abstractions are faith , happiness and the welfare state . In the systematic description of language, the grammar , the concrete is the opposite term because it describes something thing or factual that can be sensually experienced with hands, eyes, nose, tongue and ears.

At the beginning there is a thought process that summarizes certain properties of non-thing and thing units for the formation of concepts in linguistic descriptions. This process is called abstraction in a very general way - also outside of grammar - as transferring to something more general or simpler.


The abstraction is a noun that denotes non-material or sensually imperceptible phenomena. These include properties, relationships, mental concepts and feelings, dimensions, etc. Examples are:

Calm, love, age, distance, difference, music, geography, mind.

Abstracts as stylistic devices

Abstracts can be found in Roman poetry. Well known is the historian and politician Sallust , who preferred abstractions over Concrete in his texts, e.g. B. in De coniuratione Catilinae . The practical reason for this was that he could address people indirectly without it being possible to prove anything disadvantageous or criminal. Because he did not use specific names, he was able to circumvent the censorship and protect his own life.

The abstraction as an abstraction

The abstraction and language can also be viewed as abstractions. The uncertainty in dealing with non-objective terms and designations permeates the history of philosophy. In 1906 Fritz Mauthner characterized the abstraction as unreal and incomprehensible, because it is recursively linked to itself.

“What is the essence of language? How is 'language' related to languages? The simplest answer would be: 'Language' does not exist; the word is so pale an abstraction that hardly anything real corresponds to it. And if human language as a 'tool' of knowledge, especially if my mother tongue as a tool, were also reliable, then I would have to give up attempting this criticism from the start, because then the subject of the investigation is an abstract, an unreal and incomprehensible concept.
That leaves me with the first distressing dilemma. Only if human language, and especially my mother tongue, is not reliable and not logical, only then will I still discover something real behind the extreme abstraction "language"; but then, because of the unreliability of the tool, I will not be able to carry out the investigation as thoroughly as I would like. But since I do not actually write these opening sentences at the beginning of my observations, but after years of effort, I already know that this sad dilemma will haunt me from step to step. "

- Fritz Mauthner , Essence of Language, Contributions to a Critique of Language, Volume One, 1906.

Web links

Wiktionary: Abstract  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

supporting documents

  1. ^ Bußmann: Lexicon of Linguistics. 3. Edition. (2002) / Konkretum;
    Homberger: Subject dictionary for linguistics (2000) / Konkretum;
    Ulrich: Basic linguistic terms. 5th edition. (2002) / Konkretum;
    Luck: Concrete. In: Metzler-Lexikon language. 3. Edition. (2005).
  2. C. Sallustius Crispus: The Conspiracy of Catiline . Latin-German. Edited, translated and commented by Josef Lindauer . 3. Edition. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-05-005751-4 .
  3. ^ Fritz Mauthner : Essence of Language, Contributions to a Critique of Language, Volume 1, 1906.