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Elsen, Hilke (2017): Wortgruppenlexeme zwischen Wortbildung und Phraseologie. In: Yearbook of Phraseology, Vol. 8, No. 1: pp. 145-160 [PDF, 232kB]


This paper presents a group of phraseological units which are similar to compounds in respect to structure, semantics and cognitive aspects. Terms such as Kap der guten Hoffnung (‘Cape of Good Hope’), Dreißigjähriger Krieg (‘Thirty Years’ War’), rechter Winkel (‘right angle’) and erste Hilfe (‘first aid’) are often considered to be problematic. These so-called Wortgruppenlexeme (WGL, multiword lexemes, phrasal lexical units) can be seen as lexemes consisting of two or more orthographically separate words. They form a syntactic and semantic unit, are motivated, and more or less free of connotations. They are relatively fixed, except for inflection. Many of them are phrasal names or clearly defined terms. Like compounds they are bases of shortening. In some variants of German they are extremely frequent and productive. Analyses of data collections show a relatively high percentage of WGL in languages for special purposes. They constitute 20% or even more than a third of the lexicon, considering repertory as well as neologisms. Thus, WGL are a systematic and productive way to coin new words analogously to compounds, but in contrast to all other types of phraseological units. To summarize, there are several reasons to posit WGL next to compounding and to see them as lexemes. Accordingly, they should be considered as analytical word formations. In this article we plead for the treatment of WGL in German word formation.

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