Diminutive: How to create it?

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Tino_no, Oct 24, 2005.

  1. Tino_no Senior Member

    Español mexicano
    How do I create the diminutive form of any noun? I only know that I have to add "chen" to the original noun, but do I always have to change the vowel? Eg,: Haus -> Häuschen.
  2. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    You usually have to if it can be done (obviously, there are no umlauts for "i" and "e"). At the moment I cannot think of an example with "a", "o", "u" (incl. "au") where the vowel does not undergo a change.

  3. Tino_no Senior Member

    Español mexicano
    Thank you very much Jana :) -Tino
  4. Ralf Senior Member

    Hello Tino.

    Diminutives in German are formed either by adding "-chen" or "-lein". When a noun ends with "~sch" or "~ch" we tend to use "-lein", but I'm not sure if this can be generalized. In the other cases it is a matter of feel and sometimes of personal preferences to decide when to use "-chen" or "-lein". Examples:

    Haus - Häuschen, Häuslein ... both are possible
    Hase - Häschen, Häslein ... both are possible
    Bach - Bächlein ... (I would avoid Bächchen, although you may hear it from time to time)

    If a noun ends wit "~e" the "e" will be sometimes omitted:

    Katze - Kätzchen, Kätzlein (both are possible)
    Blume - Blümchen, Blümlein (both are possible) or Blümelein (it also sounds fine with "e")
    Vogel - Vögelchen, Vöglein (both are possible) or Vögelein

    From all these examples you can see that the vowel is replaced by its umlaut - a --> ä, u --> ü, o --> ö. This can be assumed as a general rule ... but there is a variety of exceptions. So it might be different with polysyllabic words or may depend on whether the vowel is pronounced "short" or "long". Example: Kartoffel - Kartoffelchen (not the best example, but the only one that occurred to me right now)

  5. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    I've noticed in southern Germany that people seem to use -lein only.

    In the dialects, it comes out as -li or -le.
  6. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Many thanks for the comment, Brioche! :)
    It has never occurred to me that words like Spätzle are in fact diminutives...

  7. Tino_no Senior Member

    Español mexicano
    Thanks ralf! But I think I heard that in Switzerland, "chen" was replazed by another ending, but I don't remember. Thanks again!. Tino
  8. Ralf Senior Member

    Yes, that's exactly what Brioche was referring to in post #5. In Switzerland you will more frequently find the ending "-li" in the diminutive form of nouns. But this doesn't inevitably mean that any word ending with "-li" is in fact diminutive since endings like "-ler", "-li" or "-i" are added to many nouns in colloquial speech in Switzerland without being meant diminutive.

  9. MrMagoo

    MrMagoo Senior Member

    Westphalia, Germany
    Westphalia, Germany; German
    Hello Brioche,

    you're right: the ending "-lein" is originally taken from High-German dialects, while "-chen" comes from Low-German.
    Both are standard though, but in general you can say, that "-lein" (or -li, -el) is more likely to appear in Southern German.

    Usually, the Umlaut occurs, when you form a diminutive, I can't think of any exceptions at the moment (which doesn't mean there were none).

    The noun "Frau" has two interesting diminutives, none of them means "little woman" though:
    "Fräulein", which - in former times - meant "Miss" or "young lady" and the non-umlauted
    "Frauchen" which - contrary to "Fräulein" - does not mean "Miss" or "young woman", but is a colloquial form for "(female) owner of a dog".

    Every now and then, I can see a non-umlauted form "Fraulein" for Fräulein on the internet. This form is wrong, but as it's been used a lot by American soldiers, based in Germany after WW2, it became popular in the English speaking world.

    Sometimes, you can also see a double diminutive, esp. for words that end in -(s)ch(e), as e.g. "Wöchelchen", "Bächelchen", "Tischelchen".
    Double diminutives also occur for addresses such as "darling":
    "Schätzelchen", "Schatzilein", "Herzilein", etc.
  10. Tino_no Senior Member

    Español mexicano
    Thanks MrMagoo, I'm studying really hard to go to Germany next year to the World Cup :)
  11. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    They might both be possible, but thay don't have the same connotation, in my experience:

    "Häuschen" means "little house", nothing else, whereas "Häuslein" is a children's expressions for "Haus" like "a nice house"

    "Häschen" means "little hare", "young hare" or even "bunny" (also used for gilrs, although we tend to use "Bunny" for girls in German ;)), whereas "Häslein" is again a child word meaning "a little, nice, cute hare/rabbit"

    Same goes for all the other above mentioned words by Ralf, although I really find the diminutive forms of "Frau" (mentioned by Jens) very interesting. How would we say "little woman" in German other than "kleine Frau"? Is that possible at all? :)

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