Peter Eisenberg (Linguist)

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Peter Eisenberg (2019)

Peter Eisenberg (born May 18, 1940 in Strausberg ) is a German linguist . Until 2005 he was Professor of Contemporary German Language at the University of Potsdam . His specialty is German grammar .


As the son of a judge and nephew of several Protestant pastors, Peter Eisenberg studied music at the State University of Music in West Berlin after graduating from the Kassel Friedrichsgymnasium in 1963 , where he graduated as a sound engineer in 1968 . At the same time he was studying communications engineering at the Technical University of Berlin and graduated in 1969 with a degree in communications engineering and computer science. He worked for the Hessischer Rundfunk and for one season as a sound engineer for the Free Volksbühne in Berlin's Schaperstraße. Financed by a scholarship from the Evangelisches Studienwerk in Villigst (Schwerte), he began studying linguistics and German at the Free University of Berlin at the age of 30 , also because he had great expectations of American psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics and the theoretical linguistics established there by Noam Chomsky were, in contrast to the ethnically compromised (abolition of foreign words) linguistics in Germany. Eisenberg spent the summer of 1968 on an internship in Paris . 1970/71 he spent at the behest of his teacher Helmut Fast two semesters as a " visiting scholar " at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , where Eisenberg Noam Chomsky met. The mentor at MIT was Joseph Weizenbaum as a representative of artificial intelligence .

1975 doctorate Eisenberg with a thesis on surface structure and logical structure . He then worked as an academic advisor at the University of Hanover , habilitated there in 1977 and in 1980 accepted a professorship for German philology at the Free University of Berlin, which was followed by a professorship at the University of Hanover in 1992/93. Since 1993, Eisenberg has been Professor of Contemporary German at the University of Potsdam .

Eisenberg was chairman of the German Society for Linguistics (DGfS) from 1990 to 1992 . In 1998, Eisenberg was elected as a member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry .

Eisenberg was visiting professor in Beijing (1988/89, 2000), Cairo (1995), Tiflis (1997), Paris (1998), Tehran (2000), Tambov (2004) and after his retirement in 2005 also in Bangkok ( 2006), Shanghai (2006), Zurich (2007), Szeged (2008) and Bandung (2010).

He is married to a German scholar and has two daughters.


As a linguist, Eisenberg initially worked on computational linguistics , artificial intelligence and grammar theory, but then focused more on the grammar of the German language with a focus on syntax and semantics .

Eisenberg's Grundriß der Deutschen Grammar published in 1986 quickly developed into a standard university work. The 6th edition of the Duden Grammar , which he created in 1998, achieved an even wider impact . In 1995 he had already worked on the 5th edition, which was still published by Günther Drosdowski (1926–2000).

Between 1984 and 1999, Eisenberg was a member of the “Written Language Study Group” of the Werner Reimers Foundation in Bad Homburg vor der Höhe , which was critical of the 1996 spelling reform ; At the hearing of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) on the spelling reform on May 4, 1993 in Bonn, he represented the "German Society for Linguistics". Among other things, he accused the reformers of not having created a sufficiently large dictionary. In March 1995 he again criticized the spelling reform, in particular the SS regulation, as the "worst conceivable solution" . For this criticism of the reform proposal, Eisenberg was awarded the German Language Prize in 1996 by the Henning Kaufmann Foundation for the Care of the Purity of the German Language .

In the spring of 1997, Eisenberg was elected to the Intergovernmental Commission for German Spelling , which dealt with the implementation of the spelling reform , but resigned in protest on March 19, 1998 when the Ministers of Education rejected the Commission's proposed changes. Eisenberg was also one of the 600 signatories of the "Joint Declaration of Linguists and Literary Scholars on the Spelling Reform" of May 9, 1998, who protested against the spelling reform.

In 2003, Eisenberg was the editor of a compromise proposal and a dictionary of the German Academy for Language and Poetry “On the Reform of German Spelling” . As a representative of the academy, Eisenberg was a member of the Council for German Spelling from 2005 to 2013 . With his resignation there after a scandal, the third renowned professional left the council.

On May 2, 2007, the University of Bamberg awarded him an honorary doctorate for his scientific work and his services to the German language. In 2008 he received the Konrad Duden Prize for his services to German grammar . On September 18, 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Roskilde (Denmark). In 2015, Peter Eisenberg received the Sigmund Freud Prize for scientific prose from the German Academy for Language and Poetry for his ability to “confidently combine the requirements of scientific accuracy with general comprehensibility” .

In 2019, Eisenberg was awarded the Jacob Grimm Prize for German Language for his “outstanding achievements in researching German grammar” .

Publications (selection)

  • with Hartmut Haberland: The current interest in linguistics. In: Das Argument 72: 1972, pp. 326-349.
  • Surface structure and logical structure. Investigations into the syntax and semantics of the German predicate adjective . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1976. ISBN 3-484-10251-9 (dissertation).
  • (Ed.) Machine language analysis . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1976, ISBN 3-11-005722-0 .
  • (Ed.) Semantics and Artificial Intelligence . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1977, ISBN 3-11-005721-2 .
  • Outline of the German grammar . Metzler, Stuttgart 1986 (3rd revised edition 1994), ISBN 3-476-00582-8 . New edition in two volumes 1998/1999 (4th updated and revised edition 2013), ISBN 978-3-476-02425-1 and ISBN 978-3-476-02424-4 .
  • (Ed. With Hartmut Günther) Writing system and orthography . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1989, ISBN 3-484-31097-9 .
  • (Ed.) Syllable phonology of German . Narr, Tübingen 1992, ISBN 3-8233-4743-8 .
  • The Duden. Volume 4: Grammar of contemporary German . 6th edition (revision). Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 1998, ISBN 3-411-04046-7 . In the completely new 7th edition, ibid. 2006, he takes over the chapter Phoneme and Grapheme SS. 1–94.
  • (Ed.) Nobody has the last word. Language, writing, orthography. Wallstein, Göttingen 2006, 121 pages, ISBN 978-3-8353-0059-0 (Valerio, booklet series of the German Academy for Language and Poetry , Volume 3, 2006).
  • (Participation) Der Duden. Volume 9: Correct and good German. Dictionary of linguistic cases of doubt. 6th edition (revision). Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-411-04096-4 * Co-editor of the 7th edition (revision). Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Leipzig / Vienna / Zurich 2011.
  • True: Basic rules of German spelling. The German orthography at a glance. Wissen-Media-Verlag, Gütersloh / Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-577-07568-8 . Second edition under the title True: Spelling at a Glance. Basic rules of German orthography. ibid. 2013 (attempt to provide the official rules with plausible reasons).
  • The foreign word in German. de Gruyter, Berlin 2011, 3rd edition 2018. ISBN 978-3-11-023564-7 ; E-book, ISBN 978-3-11-023565-4 .
  • German orthography. Rules and comments. Written on behalf of the German Academy for Language and Poetry. de Gruyter Berlin 2017. ISBN 978-3-11-052285-3

Co-editor of the magazines:

  • German Linguistics (Hildesheim) and
  • Practice German (Velber)

Co-editor of the book series:

  • Studies in German grammar (Tübingen)
  • Concepts in Linguistics and Literature Studies (Tübingen)
  • Monographs German Linguistics (Hildesheim)


  • Honorary doctorate from the University of Bamberg for Prof. Dr. Peter Eisenberg [with curriculum vitae]. Press release of the University of Potsdam, No. 079/07 from April 27, 2007 - online

Web links


  1. a b c d e Interview by Joachim Scholl with Peter Eisenberg in Deutschlandfunk : Music and questions about the person. The linguist Peter Eisenberg ( audio file ( Memento from March 27, 2016 in the Internet Archive ))
  2. a b Bamberg honorary doctorate for Peter Eisenberg. Great services to the German language. Press release of the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg from April 27, 2007
  3. Music and questions about the person, Peter Eisenberg in conversation with Joachim Scholl, Deutschlandfunk, intermediate tones, March 27, 2016
  4. ^ Peter Eisenberg: "The German language and the reform of its orthography". In: Praxis Deutsch , issue 130, March 1995, pp. 3–6
  5. Joint declaration by around 600 language professors on the spelling reform, May 1998 ( Memento from May 29, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 171 kB)
  6. Prof. Dr. Peter Eisenberg German Academy for Language and Poetry, member of the Council for German Spelling
  7. Die Welt, November 13, 2013
  8. Announcement on the homepage of the German Academy for Language and Poetry