- Grammatik der deutschen Sprache By Gisela Zifonun, Ludger Hoffmann, and Bruno Strecker, with Joachim Ballweg, Ursula BrauBe, Eva Breindl, Ulrich Engel, Helmut Frosch, Ursula Hoberg, and Klaus Vorderwülbecke (review)
- Linguistic Society of America
- Volume 75, Number 1, March 1999
- pp. 218-219
- View Citation
- Additional Information
218 LANGUAGE, VOLUME 75, NUMBER 1 (1999) A practical dictionary of German usage. By K. B. Beaton. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Pp. xvii, 921. It has been some years since a dictionary of comparable scope and design has appeared to address the needs of English-speaking scholars of the German language. The compendia of Farrell (1953) and Eggeling (1961), while still useful, have enjoyed their proper period of prominence, and the time has come to make room on the bookshelf for a work such as Beaton's. One has to admire the author's basic principle of attempting 'to make the various meanings of the English words clear before the German equivalents are discussed' (xv). Indeed, I invariably found it worthwhile to consult the 'Index of English terms' before approaching the individual articles on usage. A glance at the index shows that a noun such as power can refer to concepts of ability, authority, capacity, control, and electricity, each with reference to an appropriate explanation. Separate entries appear for healing power, power of attorney, power struggle, purchasing power, and other specific usages. To cite another example, the verb take can indicate the act of accepting, assuming, catching, interpreting, putting up with, selecting, and stealing. The reader finds references to expressions such as it takes an engineer to ... , take advantage of, take by surprise, takefor granted, take to heart, take precedence, and take to the water. It may prove to be a good enough strategy to begin with the usage articles themselves if one wishes to differentiate between possible known translations, such as those of the verb think as glauben, meinen, and denken, or to check on the various renderings of the noun way (covering ten pages). One must turn to the index, however, in order to learn where the noun reason or the verb speak is treated or to confirm the surprising fact that the verb write is barely treated at all. While I respect the late author's desire to keep this work from becoming a conventional lexicon, I do wish on the behalf of student readers that more cross-references appeared in the main text, especially where high-frequency vocabulary does not appear as the title of a main article. For those with reasonable fluency in the language, the 'Index ofGerman terms' canbe useful in pointing to entries that will help the reader probe the semantic possibilities of halten, survey idiomatic uses of ja, or untangle the sometimes near-antonymic meanings of verfolgen. It may be best, however, to use this index with a good German dictionary; since it is not always clear when, for example, the special usage of a German verb with a prepositional complement, or when the meaning of a verb in its reflexive form, will be considered a matter ofusage (rather than purely of grammar or syntax), and as such be accorded treatment in the main text. The author displays an overall evenhandedness in considering the needs of speakers ofboth British and American English. If a form more common in one variety orthe other is used, adequate contextual clarification appears (e.g. for principally British hoarding 'billboard'). Only rarely do minor technical errors appear. Despite any limitations, this work will be greeted with deserved enthusiasm by individuals wishing to master the finer points of German usage. [Philip E. Webber, Central College.] Grammatik der deutschen Sprache. By Gisela Zifonun, Ludger Hoffmann, and Bruno Strecker, with Joachim Ballweg, Ursula BrauBe, Eva Breindl, Ulrich Engel, Helmut Frosch, Ursula Hoberg, and Klaus Vorderwülbecke. 3 vols. (Schriften des Instituts für deutsche Sprache 7.1-7.3) Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1997. Vol. 1 pp. 952, Vol. 2 pp, 731, Vol. 3 pp. 763. For over three decades, the Institut für deutsche Sprache has pursued the goal of presenting a grammar of the contemporary German language. Steps along the way have been taken via the publication of monographs on specialized grammatical topics (the so-called Grundstrukturen). In three substantial volumes, we now have the long-awaited final product : a broad spectrum of descriptive information on present-day German that attempts to avoid reflecting the particular biases or approaches of any certain school of thought. Obviously, a...