Tag Archives: morphology

Hear je, Hear je!

On my run this morning I had another moment of seeing how the parts can indicate something about the meaning of the whole word. The word was jemand and it means “someone, somebody. anyone, or anybody,” which fits with its parts:

je – “each”
je – “ever”
je – “per, as in for each or for every”

man – “one” or “you” or “we” or “people” or “they”

The man inside jemand is a signal that this indefinite pronoun can only replace a person. There is another family of je words – jederjedenjedemjedes, and jede – that can be used to replace either an object or a person. These latter je-words can also be used as adjectives as in this example from PONS:

Ich liebe jede Art von Schokolade – I love any form of chocolate

Thank goodness for this blog allowing me to tell someone, anyone, and/or everyone about this discovery!

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All present and accounted for?

Lernkrimis (special mystery stories for German language learners aimed at particular levels in the European Standard Framework for Languages) continue to be a good source of new vocabulary. I already knew the words das Wesen (the “being” or “creature”) from the Nelly Rapp Monsteragentin series by Martin Widmark and die Anwesenheit (“presence” or “attendance”) and anwesend (“present”) from Dialog in Deutsch, however the story »Hits, Hits, Hits« in Tatort St Pauli introduced me to die Abwesenheit (absence).

This triggered two things for me. The first had to do with German. In this post on going up and down stairs, I wrote about the prefix ab- and how it often signals movement away from something. In the case of die Abwesenheit, someone or something has moved so far away as to no longer be “present.” Thanks, Tatort St Paul, for providing further support for this meaning of the prefix.

The second thought was about the words “being,” “present,” “absent,” “presence,” and “absence” in English. The relationship between “being” and the remaining words isn’t obvious and yet we can talk about “sensing a presence” and mean that we are aware of another “being.” In addition, to be “present,” one must orient her/his “being” to the events currently taking place (in the “present” or “here and now” – die Gegenwart) and the other “beings” who are also “present.”

Noticing the Wesen within Abwesenheit also led me to reflect on how we might conceive of our “being” as something that has been “sent” into the world with a particular purpose to fulfill, if only we could be “present” to that purpose. Perhaps we can only become “a presence to be reckoned with” when we tap into this aspect of our “being” and are “present” and “attending to” our true selves?

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Strange attractors

Today I saw a program being advertised by indicating that it was unterhaltsam – “entertaining,” “enjoyable,” “amusing” or “diverting,” according to dict.cc online. It wasn’t this new word that struck me, however, but rather the thought that seltsam – “strange” – and selten – “rare(ly)” or “seldom” (notice the spelling similarity selt/d-m) – must be related. Naturally, something that rarely happens is very likely to seem strange. And luckily for me, this sort of something is also likely to seem entertaining, enjoyable, amusing and diverting, once noticed.

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