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JACOB GRIMM'S INCLUSION OF LOANWORDS AND COMPOUNDS IN THEDEUTSCHES WÖRTERBUCH* Chauncey J.Mellor Jacob Grimm designed his epoch-making historical dictionary of German, the Deutsches Wörterbuch (DWB), to accommodate the needs of two clearly distinct, if not opposing audiences, scholars in Germâmes and the German populace at large. As such, it was a comprehensive patriotic work which when finished would strengthen German linguistic, and political, unity. For the already aged Grimm, both speed and comprehensiveness were essential to his ends. Like all lexicographers, Grimm sought reasonable ways to limit his task, but often accommodations to the needs of one intended audience, scholarly or popular, forced him to accept compromises in the dictionary's purpose and method. His choices reveal much about the relationships of his linguistic theory and practice of lexicography. As worthwhile dictionaries do, the DWB also elicited heated criticism on numerous points of form and substance, from critics representing each audience. The two contested areas I wish to discuss here are loanwords and compounds. Both force hard decisions on the German lexicographer because both represent infinitely extensible tasks. Also, in the minds of many, including Grimm, compounds and loans were two manifestations of the same need for expansion of existing vocabulary. He could accept neither too little nor too much. Grimm attempted to solve his dilemma by omitting many loans and admitting, but slighting the treatment of many compounds. Curiously he rejected loans as undue foreign influence, while he slighted compounds on the grounds that the English preference for Simplexes should provide German with the proper behavioral model. Grimm's reasoning is interesting. The well-known ability of German to form compounds raises two problems . First, the linguistic issue consists of establishing a boundary between compounds formed more or less spontaneously, as it were by syntactic processes, and those already possessing more of an identity as a lexical unit. In his Deutsche Grammatik, Grimm had thoroughly investigated these questions and brought to his work on the DWB a distinct theoretical linguistic bias. Compounds with a connective resembling case inflection were not truly words, but phrases. On the other hand, very many such compounds in German arise in semi-technical usages, where they rapidly achieve a measure of distinct semantic identity. Thus, compounds may be of little linguistic, but substantial general interest; their inclusion amounts to expanded coverage of special vocabularies. Needless to say, this clash *An earlier version of this paper was distributed to prospective participants in the MLA Special Session on Lexicography in December 1977. 69 70JACOB GRIMM between encyclopedic and linguistic criteria for listing an entry became all the more acute in a "comprehensive" DWB. The matter of loanwords has a heated and checkered history in German closely related to that of compounds. Germans have alternated between periods of profligate borrowing and staunch purism. Grimm lived in an era of growing purism, especially in scholarly circles, and he found himself in essential agreement with the purists' ends, while rejecting most of their methods. Moreover, the citation file for the DWB was built on works from a period when loanwords were much more freely used. As in English, they constituted a large part of the learned vocabulary. The potential for conflict is obvious when a puristically inclined scholar writes a "comprehensive, historical" dictionary so that a general audience may have access to this cultural heritage of previous centuries. Connecting the issues of loanwords and compounds, Grimm's purist colleagues had been attempting for two centuries to "Germanize" loans by systematically coining new replacement compounds, a procedure he abhorred. A third, independent and very complex issue was the conflict between prescription and description in the DWB. Two fundamental themes in Grimm's theory of language profoundly affected his attitudes on this question: 1) the language community and the nation are synonymous; 2) language may only be understood inductively through the use of Sprachgefühl. When Grimm defined a nation (volk) as the embodiment of people who speak the same language, he conferred primacy on language in deciding matters of ethnic or political identity.1 While these two ideas interacted, language was basic, nation derivative. By his own extension, an influence on the German language...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 69-86
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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