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The term reading is ambiguous and denotes either a variant of the text or a variant of interpretation or meaning .

Reading as a variant of a text

In the historical text sciences, the term reading refers to a version of a text passage that has been handed down or produced through emendation and conjecture . Reading is here roughly synonymous with traditional variant .

In connection with the reconstruction of literary texts , the term “reading” is understood to be a variant of the text in a script that has come down to us in different ways from several old sources. Such variants can occasionally be explained as misunderstandings and misinterpretations by copyists. One then speaks of a corrupt reading . Often, however, the more difficult to understand readings are the original ones.

Reading as a variant of an interpretation or a meaning

Reading in the sense of a variant of interpretation or meaning can be used in different contexts.

Reading as a specific individual meaning of an expression

The term reading denotes a specific meaning or interpretation of a linguistic expression.

  • Example: Several readings are listed for the word "reading" on this Wikipedia page or on the linked Wiktionary page.
  • Example: sharp in different readings as an attribute of knife, sauce, curve, edge, ammunition , etc.
  • Example: "himself" in the reading reflexive (example: he combs his hair ), reciprocal (example: they are talking ) or medially (example: the Soviet Union dissolves ).

Depending on the perspective or theory, reading is more an objective (conventional) meaning or the subjective interpretation of an expression by a recipient.

Several readings should be the individual, not the rule.

When Lesartendisambiguierung it comes to an automated Disambiguierungsverfahren for the unique assignment of meaning to a word.

Reading as a certain interpretation of an ambiguous original (edition system)

In the edition system, reading refers to the publisher's interpretation of an ambiguous symbol contained in the original. The monks in the copying rooms of the Middle Ages often used personal abbreviations, which today's reader cannot easily understand. In such cases, plausible readings of a certain text passage are given in annotated editions .

Reading as a specific interpretation of a literary text (literary studies)

The reading is a central category for the literary school of reception aesthetics . The starting point is the idea that a literary text has no fixed meaning that lies within itself. The text is only given meaning through the reading process. The interpretation of the individual reader is decisive. The literary text is understood as a system of blank spaces that is completed while reading.

One example is the industrial city that is the setting for Christa Wolf's story The Divided Sky . Without explicit designation, one might interpret it as Halle an der Saale (as in the later film adaptation), the other as Leipzig or Potsdam .

Reading as a specific interpretation of official texts

In diplomacy, international treaties often do not regulate the subject matter of the treaty in every detail. The concrete implementation therefore requires interpretation. The term “reading” for a special interpretation suggests that the interest of the interpreter has had an impact.

Similarly, one speaks of an official or official reading.


  • Franz Hundsnurscher: The "reading" as an element of the semantic description. In: Lutzeier, Peter (ed.): Studies on word field theory. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1993 (= linguistic work 288). Pp. 239-249.
  • Michael Dürr, Peter Schlobinski (2006): Descriptive Linguistics: Basics and Methods. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. P. 175ff.
  • Gerd Fritz: Metonymic Patterns and Metaphor Families. (PDF; 1.54 MB) Comments on the structure and history of the uses of sharp . In: The use of language. Festschrift for Franz Hundsnurscher on his 60th birthday. Edited by Götz Hindelang, Eckard Rolf and Werner Zillig. Münster 1995, lit.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Based on luck, Helmut (ed.): Metzler Lexikon Sprach. 4th edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010: reading.
  2. ^ Heusinger, Siegfried: The Lexic of German Contemporary Language. An introduction. W. Fink, Munich 2004 (UTB 2491), p. 22.
  3. Glück, Helmut (ed.): Metzler Lexikon Sprach. 4th edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010: Reading disambiguation.