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Clitic , also clitic or clitic (plural: clitica; abstracted from ancient Greek ἐγκλιτικόν enklitikón , leaning [word] '), is a term from linguistics and describes an unstressed or weakly emphasized morpheme that is less independent than a word, since it is has to lean on a neighboring stressed word. Examples from German are:

  • "Have e se see?"
  • "Before m house"

The word on which a clitic is based is usually called base, otherwise also supporting word or host (in English host , literally "host"). Together with the clitic, it forms a prosodic unit , mostly a phonological word . In this sense, clitics are not free, independent words and occupy a special position between free words and affixes . A number of criteria have been proposed by which clitics can be distinguished from affixes. Affigating, for example, can trigger irregularities in the formation of forms, while the base generally does not change when clitics are added.

A distinction is made between proclitics, which are based on the following word, and enclitics, which are based on the preceding word. Klitika can also appear in the middle of a verb , e.g. E.g. in Lithuanian between prefix and root : si sakyti ('order', reflexive).

Clitics are further distinguished according to the type of base: It can either be syntactically determined or restricted to a morphological category. Klitika, which are subject to Wackernagel's law , must be in the second position in the sentence, their position and basis are therefore syntactically determined. Pronominal clitics in Romance languages, on the other hand, must always be placed next to the verb, their position and base are therefore morphologically determined.


  • Klitika are unstressed and need an already existing, complete word as a basis. They can neither be modified nor connected by conjunctions .
  • Affixes, on the other hand, combine with word roots or word stems ; this results in complete (new) words or inflections,
  • Klitika are therefore not affixes, but occupy a special position between these and free words.

Klitika in different languages ​​/ dialects


In Bavarian , many pronouns have an unstressed counterpart that usually follows verbs or conjunctions. There can also be two unstressed shapes next to each other. The following examples relate to South Bavarian:

  • i give it (i give it to him; the dative is before the accusative, possibly also i give eam’s )
  • hiatzan hauma'n down (now we knock him down)
  • wånn imi look around (when I look around)
  • i såg da’s (i tell you (e) s)
  • "There" instead of "there"
  • "There is" instead of "there is"

Some pronominal forms have been grammaticalized and are understood as endings in certain contexts, in the following sentence, for example, the pronoun appears to me (we) three times (two unstressed):

  • "... because me ka house håm " (because we don't have a house)

Romance languages

In the Romance languages , there are two rows of pronouns : the emphatic pronouns and klitischen pronouns. The usage is grammaticalized . For example, it is necessary to clitically mark a previously mentioned bargain when it is resumed. If there were a stressed pronoun instead, the sentence would not be grammatical. Simultaneous occurrence of argument noun phrase and clitic is subject to strict restrictions. The position of the clitic is morphologically determined: They stand behind infinite verb forms and imperatives , to which they are directly connected in the spelling, but before finite verb forms, from which they are separated in the spelling.

enclitic with the infinitive :
"Arriveder ci ." 'Goodbye.' (Literally: goodbye to us )
enclitically with the imperative:
"Leggi lo ." 'Read it!'
Proclitical with finite verbs (here 3rd person singular ):
" Ci dà questo libro." 'He / she gives us this book.'

When more than one argument is expressed by a clitic, the clitics form a sequence that cannot be separated. This sequence changes position - depending on the grammatical category of the verb - just like a single clitic.

enclitic with the infinitive:
Vuole dar glielo . 'She wants to give it to him.'
Proclitical with finite verbs (here 3rd person singular):
" Glielo dà." 'She gives it to him.'

The rules for the syntax of the clitics in Old Romance are regulated by the so-called Tobler-Mussafia law , after the clitics followed the verb at the beginning of the sentence in all Romance languages ​​of the Middle Ages, regardless of whether this was finite or infinite: altital. fecelo but neuital. lo fece (he did it), old Spanish. recibiólo but newspan. lo recibió (he received it / him). While most Romance languages ​​today have predominantly grammaticalized the Proklise in definite verb forms, European Portuguese is the most ancient language in this respect because it has remained at the medieval level: old and new port. chamo-me (I call myself). Brazilian Portuguese is more innovative in this regard, because here, as in all other Romance languages, proclise prevails before conjugated verb forms. French has developed furthest away from the medieval state of speech, which apart from the imperative only tolerates proclise (also with infinitive and gerund!). Similar conditions prevail in Sardinian.


  • General German vernacular: Have e se seen?
  • Middle Bavarian : “Glång ma’s bread, please.” (Hand me the bread…), “G'heat ’s hiatz mia?” (Is that mine now?), “ D ' Wirtin z' Oftering” ( The landlady from / from Often)
  • Moselle Franconian : "gäff miat / -mat " (give it to me ) - doubly clitical. "GI mia / gi ma " (go we )
  • Rhenish Franconian : "Hasch esem saat?" (Did you tell him ? - triple clichéd!)
  • Düsseldorfer Platt : "Jonn e m'r!" (Let's go!)
  • Kölsch : "Ham mer et jëz?" (Do we have it now?)
  • Swiss German : "gö mer " (go we ), "huh mer " (have we ), "si mer " (are we )
  • Plautdietsch : "Waut well a bloos von mie?" (What does he want from me?)
  • English : "I ' m here." (= "I am here", dt. I am here.), Possibly also "my friend 's car" (from "my friend his car", the "His genitive")
  • Romanian : " M -ai văzut." (" ai văzut.", Eng . You saw me )
  • Czech : "Kdy ses ho na to ptal?" (When did you ask him about it?)
  • Lower Sorbian : "Ga sy se jogo za to pšašał?" (When did you ask him about it?)
  • (Old) Lithuanian : "Pa mi duok." (Give me. )
  • Polish : "Có żeś zrobił?" (What did you do?)
  • Modern Greek : "αυτά είναι τα πράγματά μου. "(These are my things; the word" πράγματα "gets an additional accent on the last syllable)
  • Ancient Greek : "οὗτος ἄνθρωπός ἐστιν. "(This is a human being; " ἐστίν "gives its accent to the previous word)
  • Hebrew : "אהבתי ך " (ahavti ch ): I loved you (fem.).


  • Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler Lexicon Language. 4th edition; Verlag JB Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, ISBN 3-476-02335-4 .
  • Birgit Gerlach & Janet Grijzenhout (Eds.): Clitics in Phonology, Morphology and Syntax. John Benjamin, Amsterdam / Philadelphia 2000, ISBN 90-272-2757-8 .
  • Damaris Nübling: Klitika in German. Written language, colloquial language, Alemannic dialects. (= ScriptOralia 42) Gunter Narr, Tübingen 1992, ISBN 3-8233-4257-6 .
  • Jakob Wackernagel : About a law of the Indo-European word order. Indo-European Research 1, (1892), 333-436. Reprint, Kleine Schriften Vol. I, 1–103. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1955
  • Arnold M. Zwicky : Clitics and particles. Language 61, 1985, pp. 283-305.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Uta Wallraff: Selected phonetic analyzes of the colloquial language of the city of Halle an der Saale. Dissertation, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, 2007, p. 65 f
  2. ^ Arnold M. Zwicky and Geoffrey K. Pullum: Clitizization vs. Inflection: English n't . In: Language . tape 59 , 1983, pp. 502-513 .
  3. ^ Elisabeth Hamel: The Raetians and the Bavarians. Traces of Latin in Bavarian. In: Bernhard Schäfer (Ed.): Land around the Ebersberger Forest. Contributions to history and culture. 6 (2003), Historical Association for the District of Ebersberg eV ( Memento from November 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Land around the Ebersberger Forest - Contributions to History and Culture ( Memento from November 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), ISBN 3-926163 -33-X , pp. 8-14.
  4. Christoph Gabriel; Natascha Müller: On the Romance pronominal clitics: Categorical status and syntactic derivation. In G. Kaiser (Ed.): German Romance Studies - generative. Narr, Tübingen 2005, pp. 161-180.