Hapax legomenon

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As Hapax legomenon , Hapaxlegomenon, (plural: Hapax legomena; '(only) said once'; from Greek  ἅπαξ hápax 'once'; λεγόμενον legómenon , what is said '), Hapax or single document is a linguistic expression , which is only documented in a single place in a given text or corpus . If a word , a word form or a phrase appears twice in a text, one speaks of a dis legomenon, in three occurrences of tris legomenon .

Hapax legomena in quantitative linguistics

Hapax legomena play a special role in the field of quantitative linguistics . Their share in the respective text or text corpus is repeatedly seen as an important structural feature of the vocabulary concerned. The index of diversity is widely known and can be defined in two different ways: 1. as the ratio between Hapax legomena and all the words that occur with different frequencies, or 2. as the ratio between Hapax legomena and the total number of words in a text or text corpus. For Muller they are a stylistic feature: “The total amount of vocabulary with the frequency (or subfrequency) 1, which ... appears as a constant number alongside the other classes, is consequently to be treated as a stylistic element and to be related to the wealth of the situation lexicons. "

Those Hapax legomena that have turned out to be such in a large corpus can be understood as comparatively rare words. They then stand in a network of relationships that exist between the frequency of the words and a number of other properties such as their length or the number of their meanings (Köhler's control cycle: linguistic synergetics ) and are understood to be lawful .

Hapax legomena in ancient texts

When researching older texts, Hapax legomena can pose a particular problem. Since they occur only once and are therefore only documented in a single context , it can be difficult to determine the exact meaning of the word in question unless other resources are available.

Some more aspects of the importance of Hapax legomena

In the biblical interpretation according to the historical-critical method , a Hapax legomenon is seen as a possible sign that the author has incorporated foreign text material into his text or that the text has been changed by a later editor. However, a biblical Hapax legomenon can also be traced back to the limited text or word stock of the biblical books or to (partly context-related) neologisms from the hand of the respective author.

Some writers were famous for their Hapax legomena, e.g. B. Apuleius von Madauros , Jean Paul , Leopold Schefer , Kurt Hiller or Kurt Schwitters shone with it .

Well-known examples of Hapax legomenona are Boys' Morning Blossom Dreams from Goethe's hymn Prometheus and Honorificabilitudinitatibus from Shakespeare's comedy Lost Love Labor .

The word Lessus in the text of de legibus , 2.59, in Cicero is regarded as Hapax legomenon, although it is said to have also occurred in other places, such as the Twelve Tables , the Laws of Solon and the conversations in Tusculum . However, there are no original documents for this, the documents used in the literature can be traced back to the position at Cicero. The fact that the word should actually have appeared there is also questioned, with reference to Cicero's opportunistic motives, which led to the text of de legibus, 2.59.


Individual evidence

  1. Duden spelling (accessed June 15, 2015).
  2. ^ Juhan Tuldava: Stylistics, author identification. In: Reinhard Köhler, Gabriel Altmann, Gabriel, Rajmund G. Piotrowski (eds.): Quantitative Linguistics - Quantitative Linguistics. An international manual . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015578-8 , pp. 368-387; especially 375.
  3. ^ Charles Muller: Introduction to Language Statistics . Hueber, Munich 1972, p. 228.
  4. ^ Marie Theres Fögen : The song of the law (extended version of a lecture on March 14, 2006). Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation, Munich 2007 ( TOPICS - Publications of the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation, Volume 87). ISBN 978-3-938593-07-5 , corrected ISBN 978-3-938593-07-3 , pp. 62-66.
  5. Fögen: Law, pp. 65–68.

Web links

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