Laws of comfort

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The Behaghel's laws describe the basic principles of the position of words and parts of sentences in sentences. They were formulated by the German linguist Otto Behaghel in the last volume of his four-volume work German Syntax: A History (published 1923–1932). (Previous presentation: Behaghel 1909)

These are the following cross-lingual principles:

  1. Spiritually closely related things are also put together closely. ( First Behaghel's Law )
  2. The less important (already known to the listener) comes before the important. ( Second Behaghel's Law )
  3. The distinguishing part of the sentence precedes the differentiated one.
  4. If possible, the shorter of two clauses precedes the longer. ( Law of Growing Limbs )

Linguistic means are used to ensure that the statements that are important to the speaker are fixed in the listener's memory by being at the end of the sentence.

The later theories on linguistic focus ( topic-rhema structure ; topic vs. comment ) developed from Behaghel's laws . Together with some of his other subjects, they served as inspiration for research in quantitative linguistics .


  • Otto Behaghel: Relationships between the extent and order of clauses. In: Indogermanische Forschungen 25, 1909, pp. 110-142.
  • Robert Plath : Behaghel's law . In: The New Pauly . Encyclopedia of Antiquity, Vol. 2 (1997), Col. 544f.
  • Karl-Heinz Best : Otto Behaghel (1854-1936) . In: Glottometrics 14, 2007, pp. 80–86 (PDF full text ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Behaghel's law  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations