Contamination (linguistics)

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A box word , also called port [e] manteau word or suitcase word , is an artificial word that has arisen from at least two morphologically overlapping words that have been merged into a new term in terms of content. The underlying word formation process is called amalgamation, contamination , word crossing, word mixing, [word] amalgamation or word entanglement. Known examples are brunch (from br eakfast and l unch ) or Denglisch (from De lish and E nglish ).


In Lewis Carroll's story Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (. 1871, dt Alice Through the Looking Glass ) explains Humpty Dumpty the heroine of the strange words from the poem Jabberwocky : You are like suitcases: two meanings packed into one word. Carroll then used the term portmanteau , a contemporary word for “handbag”, which was also used in the first German translation of the story from 1923 and is derived from the French porte-manteau “clothing sack”, a combination of porter “to wear ", And manteau " coat ". (Today the French portemanteau means “coat hanger, clothes rack”.) In the preface to The Hunting of the Snark (1876) Carroll gives a kind of introduction to his word formation method, but without addressing the formal conditions directly. As a result, portmanteau words have been used in another context since 1877 . In the meantime, the English term portmanteau is also used in French and has also developed into an umbrella term for conscious neologisms in English and German .

  • In French, the English term was first used in 1947 as mot-valise (pl .: mots-valise or mots-valises ), which literally means “suitcase word”.
  • In Germany, the translation Schachtelwort appeared in the 1920s, which remained the word of choice in the major translation dictionaries at least until the 1980s.
  • The term suitcase word was first mentioned in 1935 as a translation from English. In 1959, conversely, the English word stands next to the German as an explanation. Since then, the name has gradually spread.

In 1880, Hermann Paul coined the word contamination (from the Latin contaminare "to bring into contact"). He understood it to be "the process in which two synonymous or somehow related forms of expression force each other into consciousness, so that neither of the two comes into its own, but a new form arises in which elements of one mix with elements of the other". Paul defined contamination as accidental, individual and momentary education, which however can become common through repetition and groups of people. By relationship he meant both a relationship of meaning and etymological origin, so that his word contamination could also be understood as a generic term for unconscious word formations. According to Garland Cannon (2000), contamination is the term commonly used in German today, which has prevailed over terms such as mixed form and mixing .

The naming in German - as well as in English, French or Spanish - remains very inconsistent, which is often complained about. Harold Wentworth was the first to point this out in 1933. When it comes to terms, a distinction is often made between the process and the product. In German there are the following terms, which are not always used clearly, and which some authors reserve for special cases: "(word) contamination", "port (e) manteau word" or "portmanteau education", "amalgam" or "amalgamation" (sform) "," crossword "or" crossword "," word fusion "," fusion word "," contraction "," (haplological) word contraction "," haplological composition "," contraction "," word mixture "," word mixture "," Mixed word "," Combined word "," Word entanglement "," Klappwort "," Capsule word "," Suitcase word "," Coupling word "," Telescope word "," Tandem word "," Word structure "," Contaminate "and" Blending "resp. "Blend" (English "mixture").


Well-known examples of suitcase words are:

About 70 years after Lewis Carroll, James Joyce created thousands of suitcase words in his late work Finnegans Wake . The experimental language work Fa: m 'Ahniesgwow by the German author Hans G Helms also uses the suitcase word technique almost entirely. In the title of his novel Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch Michael exaggerated a humorous word in the case at the end of 1989.

Schneifel ”, on the other hand, is not a suitcase word from “snow” and “Eifel”, but the original name from “Schneise”.

Differentiation from other types of word formation

The suitcase word can be seen as a form of abbreviation or shorthand ; These types of word formation represent short forms of both long forms and syntagms . The suitcase word differs from other forms of short word formation in that it combines the meaning of the underlying words into a new unit of meaning.

Suitcase words are similar to compound words . In contrast to the compound word, in which the two connected words are retained in their entirety, in the case of the suitcase word the two terms merge into a new one.

The word formation article provides an overview of this topic .


Morphological types

In the linguistic literature, there is agreement on the following morphological types, which, however, are named and explained differently and are summarized or described here:

Sound compromise

Usually only one vowel is changed as in: Dorf + Derp → Derf. The reason for this is often geographic formation. They form a linguistic balance between two equal terms ( synonyms ) in a dialectic transition area.

Haplological shortening

A common sequence of sounds becomes a common or connecting element, as in: Hotelführer + Verführer → Hotelverführer. See: haplology

Word overlap

Suitcase words that result from a word overlap do not have a common sequence of sounds, such as Mammut + Elefant →  Mammufant . Usually word segments are then omitted from one or more components.


Here the assonance by no means fulfills the otherwise usual rhetorical function, but merely represents a common homophonic or homograph segment that connects the initial lexemes.

Semantic types

Hans Ulrich Schmid describes ten other semantic types in an article from 2003:

  • The iconic type has a symmetrical relationship between the background lexemes and is usually a short-syllable formation without a common segment such as: Democracy + dictatorship → democrature.
  • In the characterizing type , a background lexem refers to certain peculiarities of the other, for example: drag + laptop → drag top.
  • In the relationship type , a background complex tells in which relationship the other is valid, for example: chess + expertise → chess understanding.
  • In the causal , final or consecutive type , one background lexem semantically triggers the other, for example: slim + gymnastics → slimnastics - here gymnastics triggers slimness.
  • In the pleonastic type , the background lexemes are synonymous, for example: cop + police officer → bullizist.
  • In the antonymic type , the background extremes are opposite, for example: sweat + ice saints → sweat saints.
  • In the adversarial type , a background lexem names a fact incorrectly (on purpose?), For example: expensive + euro → expensive euro.
  • In the metaphorical type , the word structure creates a metaphor with reality, for example: lust + air balloon → lust balloon as the name for the condom.
  • In the case of the segment reinterpreting type , the second is already completely contained in the first background lexeme . The resulting word structure then only consists of a segment of the two background lexemes, for example: Porno + no → PorNO.
  • The free association type is a language-game having no logical or material connection between the Hintergrundlexemen, for example: Haarlem when referring to a hair salon.

Usage environment

Brand names are sometimes constructed as a suitcase word, for example Osram ( Os mium and Wolf ram ) or Nescafé ( Nes tlé Café ).

Suitcase words also result from the combination of two words with identical ending and beginning words. Examples are "Goethe busters" ( Erich Kästner ) or "roof trusses ".

In addition to the above-mentioned authors James Joyce and Michael Ende, postmodern writers like Elfriede Jelinek and Walter Moers like to work with this technique.

These formations are not to be confused with the even more common artificial words from the beginnings of words . Word creations like Haribo (from Ha ns Ri egel Bo nn), Milka (from Mil ch and Ka kao), Lego (from “ le g go dt”, Danish for “play well”), Adidas (from Adi Das sler) or Persil (from Per borate and Sil ikat ) and BuMiKa (from Bu tter Mi l Ka rneval) no suitcases words.

Educational motivation

Suitcase words can be formed for a variety of reasons. These are for example:

  • Slip of the tongue
  • nominative need
  • sound compromise
  • Pun
  • Opportunity education

See also


  • Friedrich Maurer : vernacular. Treatises on dialects and folklore. At the same time an introduction to the newer research methods , Palm & Enke (Franconian Research 1), Erlangen 1933.
  • Walter Henzen : Deutsche Wortbildung , Niemeyer (= collection of short grammars of Germanic dialects . B. Supplementary series No. 5), Halle an der Saale 1947, pp. 249-256.
  • Irmhild Barz: The word formation . In: Duden , Volume 4: The Grammar , 7th, completely revised and expanded edition. Published by the Duden editorial team. Mannheim 2005, pp. 641-772. ISBN 978-3-411-04047-6 .
  • Hannelore Poethe: Word (educational) games. In: Irmhild Barz u. a .: The word in text and dictionary , Hirzel, Stuttgart 2001, pp. 23–40, ISBN 978-3-7776-1154-9 .
  • Hans Ulrich Schmid: Celibacy's pleasure balloon. Word mergers in contemporary German. In: Mutterssprache 3 (2003), pp. 265–278.
  • Hartmut Günther: Contamination. In: Helmut Glück (Ed.), With the collaboration of Friederike Schmöe : Metzler-Lexikon Sprache. 3rd, revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-476-02056-8 .
  • Hans Altmann, Silke Kemmerling: Word formation for the exam . Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 2005, pp. 42-44, ISBN 978-3-525-26501-7 .
  • Elke Donalies: Basic knowledge of German word formation . UTB, Franke, Tübingen / Basel 2011, ISBN 978-3-8252-3597-0 .
  • Cornelia Friedrich: Contamination - On the form and function of a word formation type in German , dissertation at the Philosophical Faculty of the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, 2008 DNB 994246358 .
  • Elke Donalies: Afterword formation - linguistic about stimulus words . In: Ulrich Namislow: Stimulus dictionary for vocabulary seekers . 2nd Edition. Logo, Obernburg 2009, pp. 83-99, ISBN 978-3-939462-07-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Contamination  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary:  Word fusion - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: box  word - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Contamination  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: word crossing  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Hans-Georg Müller : eagle eye and lynx ear. German twin formulas and their usage . Peter Lang, 2009, p.24
  2. Harald Fricke , Rüdiger Zymner : Practice in literary studies: Parodying is about studying . UTB, 2007, ISBN 9783838516165 , page 31. Restricted preview in Google Book Search.
  3. contamination. In: Retrieved September 26, 2019 .
  4. Anja Steinhauer: Language economy through short words: education and use in specialist communication . Forum for Technical Language Research , Volume 56. Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen, 2000, S.7
  5. German by Helene Scheu-Riesz , Sesam-Verlag, Vienna / Leipzig / New York,
  7. a b c d Cornelia Friedrich: Contamination - On the form and function of a word formation type in German , dissertation at the Philosophical Faculty of the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, 2008
  8. René Arcos, Paul Colin, Léon Bazalgette, Jean Guéhenno, Dominique Braga, Jean Cassou (eds.): Europe: revue littéraire mensuelle , editions 19-20, Les Éditions Denoël, 1947, p. 86
  9. Les mots-valises. In: Cahiers du Sud , issues 287–292, 1948, p. 31
  10. ^ Karl Strecker: Friedrich Hebbel: his will, way and work , Alster-Verlag Hamburg, 1925 [unpaginated]
  11. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Eitzen: The Maze of Languages , Ferd. Dümmler, 1929, pp. 72-88 ("with the expression 'box word', which is still unknown in Germany" ", with reference to Carroll)
  12. Cassel: 1936, 1962, 1978; Brockhaus: 1953, 1965, 1976; Langenscheidt: 1964, 1972, 1977, 1983, 1988; Velcro: 1978; Cross-check with suitcase word: No hits.
  13. ^ Adolf Josef Storfer : Words and their fates , Atlantis-Verlag, Zurich, 1935, p. 46
  14. Mother tongue , vol. 69, Society for German Language, 1959, p. 73
  15. Der Sprachdienst , Vol. 7, Society for German Language, 1963, p. 104
    Heinz Ischreyt: Studies on the relationship between language and technology , Vol. 4 of Language and Community: Studies , Schwann, 1965, p. 202
    Lutz Mackensen (Ed .): Good German in writing and speech , Rowohlt, 1968, p. 75
  16. Garland Cannon: Blending , In: Armin Burkhardt (Ed.): Morphologie / Morphology. An international handbook on inflection and word formation. Handbuch zur Sprach- und Kommunikationwissenschaft , Vol. 17.1, Berlin / New York 2000, pp. 952–956
  17. Harold Wentworth: Twenty-Nine Synonyms for 'Portmanteau Word'. In: American Speech 8, 1933, 78 f.
  18. Motel