Word field

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In linguistics, a word field is generally understood to be a group of meaning-similar or meaning-related words .

Almost synonymous with “word field” are: lexical field, meaning field, concept field, meaning area and semantic field. These terms thus form a word field themselves. In the more recent lexicology , “ Synset ” is also used in this context if it is a matter of meaning-similar words.

Jost Trier established the term “word field” in linguistics in 1931. He used it to describe a group of synonymous words in a language, the meanings of which are mutually limited and which should completely cover a certain conceptual area.

Definitions and reception

Definition by Kühn: "A word field is understood to be a lexical-semantic paradigm that is held together by the appearance of a common semantic feature , and in which the lexemes are in opposition to one another through certain semantic features and thus constitute a network of semantic relationships."

Definition of Wunderlich: “A paradigmatic lexical field is a set of words (expressions) with a similar meaning. The words belong to the same grammatical category and can be used (substituted) for each other in sentences without significantly changing their meaning. The field can often be characterized by a single term from the language concerned. "

It is emphasized as essential: “The field is to be understood less as a two-dimensional structure in the sense of a mosaic, but rather as a 'force field'. Its properties are orderliness, determination of changes (of the individual contents), completeness (there are no empty spaces) and well-being (from other fields). ”However, this should be a more ideal description.

Definition of Auer: “A word field is a set of partially meaning-related words that represent the inventory of terms for a spectrum of meanings in a language. In structural terms, they are in opposition to one another through simple, content-distinguishing features. "

The concept of field is based on Wilhelm von Humboldt's basic idea that the "structure is the most general and deepest feature of all language".

The term word field was introduced in 1924 by Gunther Ipsen and was pioneered in 1931 by Jost Trier in his work (post-doctoral thesis) "The German vocabulary in the sense of understanding". The word field theory was further expanded and systematized by Leo Weisgerber in particular as part of his "content-related linguistics". According to some authors, "(it) can be regarded as a precursor to structural semantics".

The theory of the word field is accused of being "more intuitive and less based on explicit rules" and the "objective determination of the 'field boundary' [...] is a problem". The "field conception" of Trier / Weisgerber was strongly criticized in the wake of the philosophical interpretation of the fields, "which were called the linguistic intermediate world". The interworld theory by Leo Weisgerber is likely to be based on a “neo-humboldtian understanding of language”, which was of fundamental importance for the development of word field theory.

The word field theory was formalized through structuralistic work on semantic component analysis . Word fields serve the analysis of semantic relations between lexemes and serve as “means of describing lexical subsystems”. Studies on the empirical foundation of word fields are presented by Goeke and Kornelius.


An important method for the order and differentiation of word fields is the so-called feature analysis. The term goes back to Bernard Pottier (1963). So z. B. the meaning-unspecific lexeme “to die” specified by the following features. Cited with the representation of a word field following Weisgerber / Baumgärtner die .

to die
Area term
[A] externally caused:
  1. perish
[AI] through illness and injury
  1. in war
  2. through illness and injury
    1. excruciating
  1. fall
  2. succumb
    1. to rustle
[A II] by lack
  1. of food
  2. of liquid
  3. in air
  4. of blood
  1. to starve
  2. to die of thirst
  3. suffocate
  4. bleed to death
[A III] by action:
  1. from cold
  2. of fire
  3. of water
  1. freeze to death
  2. burn
  3. drown
[B] excruciating
  1. perish

This analysis is similar to that of Generative Semantics by Jerry Fodor , George Lakoff , James McCawley, and others. a., which admittedly did not take up the word field theory and Weisgerber's positions.

"Huck and Goldsmith mention two different definitions of 'kill' - McCawley defines it as 'cause to become not alive', Fodor states that 'the meaning of kill is not the same as the meaning of cause to die '."


One can differentiate between closed and open word fields . As examples of closed word fields, days of the week or month names are mentioned, as an example of an open word field that of names for colors.

Syntagmatic lexical fields can be viewed as a special form of word fields . “A syntagmatic lexical field is a pair of words (expressions) that follow one another in a syntactic construction and are always related to one another [...]. The corresponding words in the pairs belong to the same grammatical category and the same paradigmatic field. ”Examples: animal sounds: dog / bark; Lion / roar; Deer / tubes; Frog / croak.

Word field and language comparison

If two languages ​​are compared with each other, it can be seen that the individual word fields are often structured very differently, but also have different densities. At best, only partial equivalents are possible, or no equivalents at all.

See also


  • Ingrid Kühn: Lexicology. An introduction. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1994, ISBN 3-484-25135-2 . (Germanistic workbooks; 35)
  • Dieter Wunderlich: workbook semantics. 2nd Edition. Verlag Anton Hain, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-445-03051-0 .
  • Hermann Stadler (Ed.): German. New edition Fischer-Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-596-15600-9 . (Fischer College Abitur Knowledge; Vol. 5)
  • Gunther Ipsen , Johannes Friedrich , Iorgu Iordan : Status and tasks of linguistics. Festschrift for Wilhelm Streitberg . Winter, Heidelberg 1924.
  • Leo Weisgerber : Basics of content-related grammar. Verlag Schwann, Düsseldorf 1962. (On the forces of the German language; 1)
  • Dietrich Homberger: Subject dictionary on linguistics. Reclam, Ditzingen 2000, ISBN 3-15-010471-8 .
  • Heidrun Pelz: Linguistics. An introduction. Hoffmann & Campe, Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-455-10331-6 .
  • Dieter Gooeke, Joachim Kornelius: Word fields from measured orders. An empirical contribution to word field research. Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Trier 1984, ISBN 3-922031-95-1 .
  • Winfried Ulrich: Basic Linguistic Concepts. 5th edition. Bornträger Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-443-03111-0 .
  • Veronika Haderlein: Semantics when working with central vocabulary. Requirements and possibilities. In: Stefan Langer, Daniel Schnorbusch (Ed.): Semantics in the Lexicon . Narr-Verlag, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-8233-6099-X , pp. 10–32.
  • Horst Geckeler : Structural semantics and word field theory . 3. Edition. Munich 1982.
  • Peter Kühn: Types of lexicographical presentation of results. In: Werner Besch u. a. (Ed.): Dialectology. A manual for German and general dialect research. Vol. 1.1. DeGruyter, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-11-005977-0 , pp. 707-723.
  • Jost Trier : The German vocabulary in the sense of the mind. From the beginning to the beginning of the 13th century . Winter, Heidelberg 1973, ISBN 3-533-00535-6 ( plus habilitation thesis, University of Marburg 1928).
  • Jost Trier (author); Anthony van der Lee (ed.), Oskar Reichmann (ed.): Essays and lectures on word field theory. Paris 1973. (Janua linguarum; 174)
  • Werner Zillig: Words, Fields and Word Fields. An essay on a linguistic metaphor. In the S. (Ed.): Jost Trier. Life, work, effect . Aa-Verlag, Münster 1994, ISBN 3-930472-48-1 , pp. 129-203.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Ingrid Kühn: Lexicology. An introduction. P.56.
  2. a b c Dieter Wunderlich: Workbook Semantics. P. 235.
  3. a b c Hermann Stadler (Ed.): German (Fischer Kolleg Abiturwissen; 5), p. 28.
  4. Peter Auer (Ed.): Linguistics. Grammar interaction cognition. JB Metzler, Stuttgart 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02365-0 , p. 127
  5. ^ Gunther Ipsen: Status and tasks of linguistics. Heidelberg (1924), pp. 224-225
  6. Leo Weisgerber: Fundamentals of content-related grammar. P. 162 ff.
  7. ^ A b Dietrich Homberger: Wortfeld. In: Ders .: Subject dictionary for linguistics .
  8. ^ Heidrun Pelz: Linguistics. P. 195.
  9. ^ Dieter Goeke, Joachim Kornelius: word fields from measured orders. An empirical contribution to word field research
  10. Bernard Pottier: Recherches sur l'analyse sémantique en linguistique et en traduction mécanique. Vol. 2 Publications linguistiques de la Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de Nancy, Université de Nancy, 1963
  11. ^ Daniela Pirazzini: Theories and methods of Romance linguistics. Vol. 59 Romance workbooks, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2013, ISBN 3-11-030989-0 , p. 72
  12. ^ Winfried Ulrich: Wortfeld. In: Ders .: Basic Linguistic Concepts .
  13. Discussion questions and comments. University of South Carolina, Linguistics
  14. Veronika Haderlein: Semantics when working with central vocabulary. In: Stefan Langer, Daniel Schnorbusch: Semantik im Lexikon , p. 22.
  15. Christiane Nord: Learning objective: Professional translation from Spanish to German. An introductory course in 15 lessons. Gottfried Egert, Wiesloch 2001, ISBN 3-926972-87-4 , p. 200 f.