Attribute (grammar)

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Attribute , also in German as an addition or part of a sentence , is a grammar term and describes expressions that are added within a part of a sentence .

The term attribute or attributive construction , however, often has an even narrower meaning and then describes a syntactic combination of an expression with a noun . In this sense, the adjective fast in fast car is called an attributive adjective , in contrast to the predicative use in the sentence Das Auto ist Schnell .

In a broader sense, however, attributes are not only used in connection with nouns, but also with other types of reference words, i.e. for constructions with a pronoun , adjective , adverb or participle . Only expressions that depend on a verb are never called attributes, because these are the very elements that are called parts of a sentence.

Some grammars use the term (sentence) part as equivalent to attribute. Since others prefer a more restricted concept of attribute (i.e. only parts of substantive clauses), this equation does not apply uniformly; for example the Duden grammar explicitly avoids them. In any case, it should be noted that although all attributes are parts of clauses, not every part of a clauses is an attribute.

The traditional category of attribute runs across some of the fundamental distinctions that are otherwise made in linguistics : some attributes are governed and, from a semantic point of view, are arguments of a noun, others are free additions and serve as modifiers ; Status that is similar to that of parentheses (especially appositions , which are not always counted among the attributes).

Attributes in the noun


Attributes, in the narrower sense, are expressions that depend on a noun. As a rule, they are additions to the noun that are either required (as a grammatical supplement ) or are descriptive additions. (The restriction to descriptive additions is consistent with the word origin from the philosophical term attribute ).

Functional words are usually not an attribute, in particular the article is not one. However, the classification of focus particles is not even seen as uniform, but they too are not considered to be attributes.

  • Example:
The sentence Even the newer parts of the village on the hill were hit by the flood contains as a part of a sentence (as its subject) an expression with the noun parts as the core. This part of the sentence contains the following attributes and other components:
(Particle) (Items) Attribute: adjective (Core) Attribute: Genitive complement Attribute: location
Even the newer Parts from the place on the hill

An adjective attribute can in turn be compound, for example: unexpectedly violent tide . Here a closer definition of the adjective violent is unexpectedly , it is not itself an attribute of the noun flood ; only the entire expression unexpectedly violent is here an attribute to the noun (namely an adjective phrase ).

Types and position of attributes

Attributes can be differentiated according to their position in a preceding left attribute and a following right attribute . The position depends mainly on the part of speech of the attribute. The following examples illustrate the possible constructions (the attributes are marked in italics, the reference words in bold):

  • Adjective attributes:
The small child is writing a class test. (Adjective, link attribute)
A sleeping dog lies in the meadow. (Participle, left attribute)
I poor maiden tender , ah, had I taken King Thrushbeard! (Adjective as a legal attribute, ancient)
The child , small and scared , is writing a class test. (Adjective group as apposition, legal attribute)
  • Noun attributes:
Peter's bike is in the workshop. (Noun as genitive attribute, left attribute)
The bark of the dog woke me up. (Noun group as genitive attribute, legal attribute)
Mr. Gehrig , our teacher , often admonishes us. ( Apposition , legal attribute)
  • Adverbs as attributes:
The house there is being sold. (Adverb, legal attribute)
The house back there is being sold. (Adverb group, legal attribute)
See also: Adverb # Non-adverbial uses of adverbs
See also the term adverbial attribute under: Adverbial determination # adverbial and attribute .
  • Prepositional attributes:
The clock on the tower struck ten. ( Prepositional group , legal attribute)
  • Attribute sets
The woman , who I see there , wearing a red hat. ( Relative clause , legal attribute)
The assertion , that the earth is a disc ... ( content set , right attribute)
The risk of being exposed was too great. ( Infinitive group , legal attribute)

Changeover sample

Attributes are groups of words that usually do not change their position in relation to a noun during the adjustment test, but are only adjusted together with the entire sentence component in the sentence. For example, the whole group of words “A red cloth” can be put in front of the sentence and thus it can be identified as a part of the sentence; However, the adjective cannot be extracted from the clause as an attribute and preceded by itself:

Sarah trägt ein rotes Tuch. ↔ Ein rotes Tuch trägt Sarah.
*nicht: Rotes trägt Sarah ein Tuch.

In some cases, however, an adjective attribute can be left behind if a noun is placed in front, at least with indefinite expressions in the plural (so-called "split topicalization "):

Tücher trägt Sarah nur rote.

These cases pose a problem for the traditional clause definition.

Also, relative clauses, infinitive groups, and sometimes prepositional groups in the sentence can be separated from the noun they are referring to by appearing after the field :

Das Risiko ist groß, entdeckt zu werden.
Ich habe eine Frau gesehen, die ein rotes Tuch trug.
Relativsätze können von dem Substantiv getrennt werden, auf das sie sich beziehen.

Attributes in the adjective

Traditionally, companions of the adjective can also be referred to as attributes to the adjective. Most often, however, the use of an adjective that modifies another adjective is referred to as an adverbial use, so the term “attributive adjective” usually means an adjective that accompanies a noun.

Web links

Wiktionary: Attribute  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Attachment  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See e.g. B. Peter Eisenberg : Outline of the German grammar. Volume 2, Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2006, p. 235: Attributes primarily specified the noun ; thus the primary task of the attributes is to determine more precisely what is denoted by a noun.
  2. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2009, p. 773
  3. See the overview of the attributes in the Dudengrammatik 2009, pp. 800ff.
  4. Dudengrammatik 2009, p. 804.
  5. See Karin Pittner & Judith Berman: Deutsche Syntax. A work book. 4th edition. Narr, Tübingen 2010, pp. 40–41.
  6. Christa Dürscheid: Syntax: Basics and Theories. 4th edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2007, p. 43, refers to the Duden grammar 1998 for an example of such a way of speaking, in contrast to later editions of the Duden grammar.
  7. Duden: The grammar. 8th edition. 2009, p. 355.