Gemination (language)

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Gemination ( Latin geminare ' to double' ) describes in linguistics the duplication of sounds or words as well as the associated linguistic phenomena, such as B. a longer pronunciation.

Letters and phonemes

Gemination here denotes the longer pronunciation of consonants ; such a long consonant is called a geminata . Geminates occur, for example, in the Italian , Polish , Finnish , Arabic , Turkish and Japanese languages , as well as in numerous West-Central German dialects . In the Latin script, geminates are usually denoted by doubling the consonant letters. However, not every such double consonant denotes a geminata; it can also be the designation of the abbreviation of the preceding vowel without changing the pronunciation of the consonant, as in German. In the Arabic and Hebrew script, the gemination can be indicated by a diacritical mark (Arabic Schadda , Hebrew Dagesch ), but not by doubling the consonant.

Example (Finnish):

  • kuka "who"
  • kukka "flower"

Geminates in Urgermanic and in Old High German

While the Indo-European original language did not yet know a difference between long and short consonants, in the original Germanic - u. a. through assimilation - real Geminates. With the second sound shift , i.e. at the transition to Old High German , some of them became affricates (pp → pf, tt → ts, only in Upper German: kk → kx). The otherwise still existing opposition in Old High German Simplex vs. Geminate was finally lost in Middle High German .

Situation in modern Germanic languages

It is typical of many modern Germanic languages ​​that the originally existing, meaning-relevant, phonological difference between short and long consonants no longer exists, so that the double spelling of a consonant is no longer needed to represent this difference. And that there is also the difference between short or monophthongic and long or diphthongic vowels, which in these languages ​​can often only be partially or not reproduced using the vowel letters.

So it came about that consonants represented twice in German , Dutch , Danish , Norwegian , Swedish and English could take over the function of marking the vowel differences mentioned. In all of these languages, the double consonant letters indicate the abbreviation of the immediately preceding vowel (partly corresponding to its open pronunciation), so they serve as " abbreviations ". However, in none of these languages ​​is every short vowel marked in this way. Depending on the language, consonants are written twice depending on the syllable or morpheme structure of a word. Common to these languages ​​is the basic rule that a single consonant between two vowels (the first of which is short) is represented twice. The use at the end of a word and before other consonants, on the other hand, is regulated differently (cf. German swim - she swims with English swimming - she swims ), e.g. Sometimes with special rules within a language: cf. German before the reform of the German spelling of 1996 regularly Ritte - Ritt , but due to a special rule cracks - crack (since the reform also according to the basic rule crack ); Swedish regularly hotellet - hotell , but due to a special rule blommor - blom .

The double spelling of the consonant (or the shortening of the pronunciation of the preceding vowel) thus has a meaning-differentiating function in these languages. Example for German: guess - rat . In rate it is a long, in rat it is short; however, the t is pronounced the same way.

This is also accompanied by the function of marking the syllable boundary . According to a widespread view in phonology , the syllable boundary lies in front of the consonant in Rate , while it lies on the consonant in Rat (the [t] is here syllable joint and therefore belongs to both syllables). This explains the basic rule mentioned above.

Since in German writing a double consonant letter does not denote a longer consonant, but on the contrary the shortening of the preceding vowel, the Geminates are z. B. Italian is very often mispronounced by speakers with a German mother tongue. In German, audibly lengthened consonants can only sometimes be found as the result of a word composition, if this results in two identical consonants following one another; for example in the words “launch”, “oxygen bottle” or “bed sheet”.

In contrast, audibly elongated consonants occur in some German-speaking regions in the dialects or the regional language , for example from Luxembourg via the Eifel to north of Cologne, regardless of the spelling, predominantly after short vowels, but by no means exclusively.

In certain German dialects, however, the doubling of the letters definitely symbolizes a gemination of the consonant and is not related to the length of the preceding vowel. For example, in many Swiss-German dialects, [ ˈhasə ] rabbits and [ ˈhasːə ] hate face each other. The extended pronunciation of double consonant letters is also common in Swiss standard German . Conversely, the unconscious omission of this elongation by Germans who speak Swiss dialect is an equally typical feature. For example, the frequently quoted Swiss German word Chuchichäschtli (nhd. Small kitchen cabinet ) reveals speakers from Germany, because they use the correctly pronounced ch , namely [ ˈχu χː iˌχæʃtli ], either not at all ([ ˈχu χ iˌχæʃtli ]) or two- or three times to express long ([ χː u χː i χː æʃtli ]).

Digraphs (e.g. ch ) and trigraphs (e.g. sch ) can not be doubled in German - because according to the rules in German only individual consonant letters can be geminated - although a gemination to symbolize the vowel length is actually just as useful would. For example, one could distinguish Lache , whether it means the word with a long or a short A. In Arabic, the gemination of a consonant can be identified by the special character Tashdid ; in Hebrew by Dagesch .

Gemination in word formation

In the theory of word formation , the term gemination is also used for the doubling of words or syllables with partial nuances of meaning.

Example list:

  • gidres-gödrös - Hungarian - bumpy
  • Zigzag - German - back and forth
  • Ratz-fatz - German colloquial language - very quickly
  • wikiwiki - Hawaiian - quick, hurry
  • In Indonesian and Malay , doubling is used to form the plural - orang (human), orang-orang (human)
  • In South African English , the doubling of adjectives is used colloquially for comparison . - bigbig for very big
  • Kyrgyz language : кап-кара (kap-kara) = very black. Is also partially translated into Russian by native Kyrgyz speakers : чёп-чёрный (tschjop-tschornyj) = very black
  • Turkish language : Geminations are used in Turkish as a kind of colloquial superlative. However, the application is relatively irregular and sometimes native speakers themselves do not agree on how to form the doublings for various words.
Examples: bembeyaz = snow white (from beyaz); simsiyah = pitch black (from siyah); kapkara = extremely dark (from kara); mosmor = extremely purple (also as a description for a bruise: "Mosmor olmuşsun!" = "You have turned green and blue!")
  • In Chinese , doubling has different functions depending on the part of speech:
The doubling of nouns leads to a generalization: 天 tiān = day / sky, 天天 tiāntiān = every day. The same can also be achieved with the word 每 měi = any.
The doubling of adjectives leads to an increase: 藍 lán = blue, 藍藍 lánlán = very blue. The same can also be achieved with the words 很 hěn = very, or 好 hǎo = good.
The doubling of verbs stands for the repetition, brevity or weakness of an action: 你 過來 看看 nǐ guòlái kànkan = come here and have a look.
If the brevity is to be expressed, 一 yī can also be inserted between the doubling: 你 過來 看一看 nǐ guòlái kànyīkàn. Or you add 一下 yīxià = briefly and don't double up.
The doubling of counting words has the same function as that of nouns, and is mainly used when the noun is left out: 他 有 五個 弟弟 , 個個 都 怕 哥哥 tā yǒu wǔ ge dìdi, gègè dōu pà gēge = he has five smaller brothers, each of them scared of their big brother.


In rhetoric , gemination or geminatio is a stylistic device and describes the immediate duplication of a word or a group of words.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hermann Paul: Middle High German Grammar . 25th edition. De Gruyter / Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-484-64034-4 , p. 126 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search)
  2. ^ Renata Szczepaniak: The phonological-typological change of German from a syllable to a word language . De Gruyter, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019274-2 , pp. 198 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search); Franz Simmler : On the conversion of the consonantic phoneme systems in Middle High German. In: EWB Hess-Lüttich, HW Schmitz (Hrsg.): Understanding messages. Communication theory and drawing practice . Festschrift for Helmut Richter, Bern a. a. 2000, pp. 229-260.
  3. ^ Hans Moser (ed.), Hans Wellmann and Norbert Richard Wolf: History of the German language. Volume 1: Old High German - Middle High German UTB for Science 1981, ISBN 3-494-02133-3 . Pp. 30-37.