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Re: Strong/weak verbs, expanded infinitives and applicatives

From:Julia "Schnecki" Simon <helicula@...>
Date:Monday, August 29, 2005, 6:40

Here's a late reply... but before I start with the linguistics: happy
(belated) birthday, Carsten! :-)

On 8/7/05, Carsten Becker <naranoieati@...> wrote:
> Hey, > > First off, I never understood what exactly "strong" and > "weak" means regarding nouns and verbs. It looks like all > strong verbs were irregular, but a former German teacher of > mine said this was not the case. So I just wanted to ask.
Henrik has already written a pretty detailed explanation of the difference between strong, weak, and irregular verbs. I'd just like to add that the verbs that he calls "irregular by definition" IIRC (those with both ablaut and weak inflection suffixes) make up a separate class ("mixed inflection") according to some grammars. (My high school German teacher called these verbs "reduplizierende Verben" for some reason. I've never seen or heard that term used in this sense anywhere else, and I try not to use it either, because "reduplication" usually means something entirely different.) And don't even get me started about "present perfect verbs" or whatever _können_, _wissen_ and their ilk are called in English. ;-) As for strong and weak nouns: that distinction has something to do with case and plural suffixes. Basically, "weak singular inflection" means that all singular forms except the nominative (and for neuter nouns also the accusative) have the suffix _-(e)n_, and "weak plural inflection" means that all plural forms have this suffix. "Strong inflection" means that other suffixes (or even no suffixes at all) are used. A noun is said to belong to the weak type if it shows weak inflection in both singular and plural. Likewise, a noun belongs to the strong type if it shows strong inflection in both singular and plural. Some nouns belong to a mixed type with strong inflection in the singular forms and weak inflection in the plural forms (e.g. _See_: _des Sees_ [strong], _die Seen_ [weak]). However, feminine nouns with no case suffixes in the singular and _-(e)n_ in the plural are called "weak" instead of "mixed" for some reason. (No jokes about "the weaker sex", please. There *are* feminine nouns with strong inflection. ;-) I've tried to find a connection between strong/weak verb inflection and strong/weak noun inflection. The terminology seems to be somewhat arbitrary, though; the only connection I could find isn't exactly what one would call obvious... no idea whether the person who gave the inflection types their names actually had this in mind. In any case, if the stem vowel changes in any way, it seems to be safe to assume that the inflection type is the one called "strong". :-) (Strong verbs have umlaut in the 2sg and 3sg present tense forms and ablaut in the past tense and past participle; weak verbs have no such umlaut or ablaut. Likewise, umlauted plural forms only occur with strong nouns as far as I can tell, but never with weak or mixed nouns. No ablaut in noun inflection, though.) [snip snip]
> I know we had that in German lessons, but it's > 7 years or so and then I wasn't interested in grammar at > all.
You're a native speaker, aren't you? In that case, be glad that your German lessons contained that much grammar teaching at all. ;-) Once you've mastered the basics of spelling, L1 instruction tends to be about literature rather than grammar or other important (let alone interesting) stuff... at least that's what *my* German lessons were like. (I have some vague recollections of "erweiterter Infinitiv", "Kausalsatz" etc., but almost nothing that was useful for anything except deciding where to put one's commas, and which words to capitalize. The first person to tell us about ablaut was our 9th grade English teacher, for crying out loud! -- Oh, and then there were the few months in grade 12 when we did some light-weight theoretical linguistics in German class. Guess who was the one person in the class whose grade -- and fun level -- went up instead of down during that time. But the "good stuff" didn't come until I started doing some serious linguisting on my own.) (Gripe, gripe, grumble, grumble.) Regards, Julia -- Julia Simon (Schnecki) -- Sprachen-Freak vom Dienst _@" schnecki AT iki DOT fi / helicula AT gmail DOT com "@_ si hortum in bybliotheca habes, deerit nihil (M. Tullius Cicero)