GERMAN SCIENTIFIC COMPOUND NOUNS
TECHNO-LINGUAL ANALYSIS & STRUCTURAL DECIPHERMENT
by Vincent F. Perna, Science & Language, LLC
Each of the increasingly longer lines down this page constitutes one whole word.
When non-native speakers of German first see Compound Nouns such as ….
—the startled responses of those readers can include:
Why do they use such long words !?
How do they make such Nouns !?
—and what do they mean ??
Grammarians and ordinary native-speakers of German say that there are no rules
for making Compound Nouns.
— How then can adult Ausländer (Outsiders to the culture and language of the German-
speaking peoples) learn how to properly translate Compound Nouns into English ?
— How can Ausländer learn to express themselves well in business and
conversational situations that would require the use of Compound Nouns ?
These questions led this author into extensive techno-lingual analysis that later
became his journal of research. In the process, he found that before readers
tackle the problem of How do native-speakers of German deal with Compound
Nouns, it is needful to consider a more basic issue:
WHY LONG NOUNS ?
One native-speaker’s assessment of Compound Nouns is that they are of major
importance since they provide the means by which to create vivid word-pictures
— colorful, powerful, mental images — in one single Noun.
Yet, Ausländer, when encountering modern scientific texts which contain
long, intimidating Compound Nouns plus some innocent-looking short words,
tend to become fixated on those that are awesome in length and to assume that
the short words pose no problem.
However, short words that have been in street-use for a long time may
have acquired connotations that they did not have at the genesis of the word.
One deficiency of short words is that they may not be long enough to carry within
themselves a sufficient quantity of defining elements to clearly outline and fix
the limits of their coverage.
Their scope of application is commonly defined in separate documentation:
Dictionaries. However, word-books have space-constraints and tend to carry
selected aspects of the full range of that to which people are applying a term.
By contrast, a linguistic beauty of the behemoth-size words of German is:
their potential for tightly constraining their own scope of application
because of the multiple defining segments within them.
Therefore any object (or process or phenomenon) considered as described by that
long word must exactly fulfill all of the criteria of the internal defining segments
simultaneously in order to be accepted as validly applied, —thereby limiting
misapplication of a term.
Also, because of their generally recent creation, mammoth technical words are
not likely to have fallen into popular use by non-scientists and become over-
stretched in their application. This author has also observed that mammoth
technical words can be a struggle even for native-speakers who are not
technologists to pronounce and are more likely to be avoided by them.
Thus, long single-word technical and legal terms have a better prospect of
maintaining over time precise application and clarity of meaning.
Consequently, overseas technologists and teachers of German should not recoil
in dismay at first sight of Mammutbildungen (mammoth word-constructions).
Instead, since long words have necessary uses and benefits, —their study,
dissection, and application should be encouraged.
As an aid to all those who would like to engage in that study, extensive analyses
are provided by a multilingual physicist, researcher, and author of over 19
published works on science & engineering including the 250 page work, The RF
Capacitor Handbook. The author, Vincent F. Perna, presents his research and
conclusions in his two additional books, German Scientific Compound Nouns,
and, German Beyond the Noun Declension. These provide information on key
subjects such as Understanding Long Nouns, Using Connection Agents, and
Diagramming & Translating Compound Nouns.
The books also address some hindrances to teaching about Compound Nouns.
Foremost among them is the radical difference in Grammars between that of
the Noun Declension and that of Compound Nouns; …. that of the Declension
has long been published; that of long nouns has reportedly never been published.
Moreover, to an Ausländer who is experienced only in the Noun Declension
with its structurally relatively simple short nouns, an encounter with word-
form sequences in lengthy Nouns which clearly depart in organization from
those of the Declension can be an unsettling experience.
For example, under the Noun Declension, the Noun, the Adjective, & the Article
(Definite or Indefinite), when mutually associated in the same phrase, must all
have concordant classification and sequencing of factors, such as case, number
However, although the activity of the symbol “s” in the Noun Declension is
grammatically associated there with Masculine or Neuter genders in word-forms
and is there situated at the end of appropriate elements, —in Compound Nouns,
by radical contrast, the Outsider now can find it sandwiched between Nouns
which are Feminine, e.g.:
Indeed, with long linked nouns, the Ausländer can even find “s” (or some of nine
other Connection Agents) involved with Masculine, and Feminine, and Neuter
Nouns simultaneously in the same Compound.
To clarify these (and numerous other) peculiarities and to simplify the use of
Compound Nouns among Outsiders:
Ausländer need to have available to them an orderly, formal procedure
for the translation and construction of long-Nouns with the same level of
specificity and detail as was provided for the Noun Declension.
Not finding such information, the author, in order to help himself, examined
much technical literature, gathered a database of many hundreds of Compound
Nouns and applied his scientific and multilingual capabilities to the study of
those words. This process included arranging Compounds in lists according to
word-length, usually with the shortest first (e.g., Notfall, Anodengas, and Opernarie).
Reading down the lists called attention to the influence that spelling differ-
ences have at the interfaces where a leading-noun and a follower-noun face
each other across a Fugenelement (a Connection Agent) that links them. Vocal
transitions that are not smooth there can greatly hinder the ability to get a
Compound out of the mouth. Such awkwardness may occur when someone
seeks to pronounce a Compound Noun that had been created only on paper.
“Convenience for the Mouth” is a dominating factor, and word-forms that
become wearisome to pronounce will ultimately be discarded in favor of
expressions that are more mellifluous.
Reading further down each list led to Compounds of greater and greater length,
which typically meant that the quantity of subsections within a new Compound
would be larger and new types of linking symbols might be encountered.
To understand the nuances of interaction within each new Compound required
analyzing the functional relationships among increasing quantities of linking
elements and nouns. In dealing with such links, he observed multiple collo-
quial irregularities such as semantisch falsche Plurale (semantically false plurals)
and by this work was becoming able to describe and clarify them for other
non-native speakers of German.
Ultimately, this analysis enabled the author to formulate systematic, easy to grasp
classifications of structures and devise methods by which Ausländer could
translate (and construct) long Compounds.
The results of the author’s research & analysis are described in detail in the
following two books.
● GERMAN SCIENTIFIC COMPOUND NOUNS
Proposed methods of translation & construction
for non-native speakers of German
—Focused on technology, but applicable also to daily speech —
This book by V.F. Perna contains:
—the journal of his research (an analytical compendium, 1074 pages, in 3-Volumes),
encompassing a Tutorial, extensive Appendices, a Self-Test section, a bilingual Glossary having
~200 pages of terms used in publications on Fuel Cells and related topics, & an extensive Index
which he progressively added to as his research and analysis advanced.
The author needed to translate with exactness German Fuel-Cell terms. Such
accuracy required finding formally published rules of grammar that were
certified for Ausländer. He searched through many books and asked native-
speakers how to obtain rules governing Compound Nouns. However, their
responses were consistent (and independently supported in print by Ausländer
who are professors of German and by other grammarians): No rules exist.
From that negative finding, the author saw few options left open other than to
find answers to the questions: How then are millions of people daily linking
multiple single nouns into individual German Compound-Noun structures and
successfully using them to communicate? What is the something that is
communally shared and used? If a “something” is operating subliminally and has
flexible guidelines, IN WHAT FORM is it to be found? Could it be converted into
print? Clearly, the method could not be burdensomely complex, or else youths
could not create Augenblicksbildungen, long nouns made in the blink of an eye.
From his training in Latin, French, German, & Japanese, he was motivated to
look for repeated occurrences of structures & patterns of use.
The author’s extensive analysis of many hundreds of Compounds led him to
develop specific, orderly procedures that show Ausländer how to dis-assemble,
translate, or construct German nouns of any length. This analysis applies to
concepts that are technological and to those that are not. Furthermore, the guide-
lines & procedures that he developed can now be used by others, whether in a
classroom or for self-study. The concepts are easy to grasp and systematic in
Included in the three-volume set noted above are precise expositions on the
functioning of structural elements within Compounds, including Fugenelemente.
Also, there are examples of Diagramming of grammatical interrelationships and
of their classifications according to the function of each segment within a Com-
pound Noun. Illustrations of Irregularities from colloquial deviations and from
Convenience-for-the-mouth are also provided.
Grammarians who are native-speakers of German acknowledge the presence of
semantically false plurals in ordinary texts. Indeed, these irregularities are seen
in bilingual dictionaries and thus can cause significant confusion for learners.
The book-set discusses how we are to interpret these novelties.
In the Self-Test section of the three-volume book-set, the author provides
hundreds of instructive examples that give a quick visual grasp of the practical
significance of groupings assigned according to word-structure. It also offers
practice in recognizing and translating many types of Compound Nouns, and of
The author also provides word-lists for practice in the reading, speaking, and hearing of Compound
Nouns. These are organized under individual headings, some examples of which are: Solar
Energy, Chemistry, Business, Computer-Technology, Fuel-Cell Technology, Heat-Transfer,
Law, Medicine, Microelectronics, Porometry, Coordinate-Metrology, & Induction-Hardening.
● GERMAN BEYOND THE NOUN DECLENSION
Compound Nouns: Inner-workings, Irregularities, Translation
—An introduction for Ausländer
This second book by V.F. Perna on the subject of long nouns is composed largely
of extractions and condensations from his three-volume set, German Scientific
Compound Nouns. Even with expansion from one educational Module to a
series of four, German Beyond the Noun Declension remains several times
shorter than his book on scientific Compounds. In modular form, the author
feels it is suitable for both classroom use and for self-study.
In the book, the author includes his clear system of specific classifications of
types of Compound-structures. This now makes possible orderly descriptions of
the inner workings of long nouns and clarification of the colloquial irregularities
that have much hindered systematic use of long nouns by non-native speakers. It
shows how stand-alone word-forms of the Noun Declension can be connected to
others to make Compounds, how those connections may be diagrammatically
displayed and readily understood, and also examines the antiquity of use of such
Some topics covered are:
Overview of Long-Noun Features and Usage
Recognizing, Understanding, and Using the Connection Agents,
Diagrams and Origins of Compound Nouns
Including Those Built Around Viking S-form Internal Links
Translating German Compound Nouns into English
and English Phrases into German Compounds
Based upon the author’s conclusions from his research and analysis, and his
testing of them on Compound Nouns, it appears that translating long nouns can
become a well-regulated, orderly, and non-complex process.
Compound Nouns can combine numerous concepts into one word, be
wonderfully expressive, and be powerfully vivid, and some can at times be
“freight-train” in length. As a result, this ancient form of word-composition,
having multiple nouns linked as one unit, differs radically from the stand-alone
noun of the Noun Declension.
Unlike other areas of the German language, Compound Nouns reportedly lack
written rules of grammar. From what native speakers have told the author:
Learning how to make and use Compound Nouns begins early during youth, at
home, and not in a classroom. ( —It also expands through immersion in the culture &
Although that method of instruction is effective and time-proven, such training is
not readily usable by adult Ausländer who are already advanced in the business-
world & in family responsibilities, who often need to remain working in far-off
lands, who traditionally learn from material written in their own language, and
who need to study it at times which are convenient for them.
Yet, that manner of word-assembly, though declared to be lacking in formal
written grammar, has nevertheless been effective, partly because it is
pragmatically utilitarian and flexible when speakers encounter a need to express
themselves quickly and in ways which the ancient word-formats at times seem
inadequate to supply. It is therefore not unusual to see word-forms being
adjusted, in a surprising manner and in mid-sentence, to fit the momentary needs
of the speaker. Many of such adjustments apparently come from a tendency to
seek Convenience-for-the-mouth during speech.
One section of this Expanded Edition can be studied as a catalog of grammatical
Oddities, Novelties, and Irregularities among Compound Nouns, including those
that can result from “Convenience for the Mouth.” These oddities illustrate
linguistically novel usages which can be confusing to Ausländer, —but which in
German Beyond the Noun Declension can be learned as a group, in advance of a
reader’s otherwise encountering them unprepared and without understanding.
Some non-native speakers of German who are grammarians not living in Europe
appear (from their writings) to look askance at oddities such as word-forms that
incorporate ad-hoc-at-will-changes that are allowed by lack-of-written-rules.
Nevertheless, peculiar colloquial usages can be clarified and newcomers can
come to understand the causes and realistic purposes of the suddenly occurring
novel structures. Being thus pre-equipped by this book, newcomers should be
able to avoid stumbling when unexpectedly faced by irregular forms.
Other sections of the book provide methods for systematic dis-assembly of even
the longest nouns, well-ordered procedures for making translations from German
to English, and also a way for rapidly converting almost any normal phrase in
English into one single Compound Noun in German. The knowledge and skill
thus provided can make the understanding and translation of long nouns a source
of linguistic satisfaction.
Potential Audiences for These Books
This analyst spent many hours reading German scientific texts and 20 years
listening intently to German television (e.g., to Deutsche Welle – TV, via
www.scola.com). This included programs such as Projekt Zukunft, Politik Aktuell,
Made in Germany, Typisch Deutsch?, Gute Reise!, Politik Direkt, Kultur 21, Berlin Direkt,
Im Focus, Journal, Thadeusz, Euromaxx, Quadriga, hart aber fair, ANNEWILL, Maybrit
ILLNER, im|PALAIS, menschen der woche (mit Frank Eltsmer), GLOBAL 3000, |Presse|club|,
hier und heute, EuroNews, hessenschau, tagesschau, and others. As a result, this TV-
listener has concluded that the utility of his two recent books on key aspects of
the German language extends to any technical or literary or social setting that
requires interpreting German Compound Nouns.
Therefore, these books are likely to benefit:
● Technologists in Industry who had university training in basic German but
discovered that it was not adequate for accurately deciphering scientific or
● Instructors and administrators who are responsible for equipping students to
enter technical industries (where knowledge of German is often required)
● Persons needing to accurately interpret technical reports and to examine
documentation in German
● Skilled specialists who want to study or work in German-speaking countries
but for whom long Nouns are daunting
● Security agencies for which the speed and accuracy of communications can
have life-or-death outcomes
● Translation companies and court Interpreters
● Commercial groups, governmental departments, and others who may need to
read original source material in German when investigating gaining energy from
sources such as solar, wind, oceanic wave & tide, fuel-cell, biological, and other
● Ausländer who are employees of German-speaking companies, especially in
foreign branches far away from the main headquarters
● Libraries and other institutions that create and maintain collections for private
or public use
● Speakers of German who desire to learn the technical English that is
associated with fuel cells (e.g., via the bilingual Glossary in German Scientific Compound
● Private language schools, tutors, and other organizations whose clients come
to them for accelerated instruction in technical and business German
● Linguists who want to analyze more fully the structures and patterns seen in
German compound word-forms
● Persons for whom it is important to become integrated into social contexts
where the German language is spoken
● Those who would like to see the German language become more widely used
by Ausländer: in international politics, world trade, and negotiations — contexts
in which complex Nouns would need to flow easily
● Non-native users of English & German for whom Fugenelemente (e.g., noun-
connectors) are seen as sources of confusion
● Researchers who may be working in areas such as those represented by some
of the following topics on linguistics:
—Construction of Machine Translation Rules
—Analysis of Phonological and Morphological Phenomena
—Structural Disambiguation of Compounds with Three or More Constituents
—Guessing Morphological Classes of Unknown German Nouns
—Improving Search Engine Retrieval Using a Compound Splitter
—Reading-aid Engines for Material in Foreign Languages
For more information about the books as well as about
Technical Services, including Writing and Marketing
that are available from the company:
Science & Language, LLC
—and provided by the company’s multilingual physicist, Vincent F. Perna,
Science & Language, LLC, at:
Post Office Box 4929, Ithaca, New York 14852-4929
FAX: 1.607.275.0759 www.tech-translate.com
—of V.F. Perna is reflected in the scope of his 21 published technical works
including scientific papers which he wrote and presented as a speaker before
audiences of engineers and scientists. The works include 18 papers that were
also printed in the Proceedings of symposia and industrial conferences plus
articles published in technical journals. These publications deal with porometry
(as applied to nonwoven substances for filtration, batteries, and hygienic
products) and deal with circuit design covering a three Gigahertz spectrum in
One of his three books is on engineering (electronics at microwave frequencies)
and two of the books deal extensively with enabling non-native speakers of
German to communicate effectively in the German language, —particularly in
such areas as science, engineering, commerce, and government where long nouns
often are used.
He has also composed multiple manuals in English for personnel who install, use,
and service Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs), —massive instruments
which can require overhead cranes to move them but can take data on dimension
& position with an accuracy of millionths of a meter, regardless of the shape of
the object being measured.
V.F. Perna’s professional experience is presented in substantial detail in the
Science & Language, LLC, company brochure.
Writing Equipment Manuals
Composing Manuals for industrial and scientific equipment (e.g., covering
Operation, In-house Maintenance, Field-repair, Glossaries of Terms) based
upon first-hand use of the hardware being described and direct consultation
(in English or in German) with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
Writing Scientific Reports and Summaries
in English about Subject Matter in German
Contracts, Documentation, Literature, …..
Multilingual Technical Marketing at Trade-Fairs
Discussion with engineers and scientists in German or English on
the characteristics of equipment on-display and the technological
applications and advantages of each
Creating Brochures, Technical Advertisements, & New-Product Reviews
to highlight a client’s expertise, research, and hi-tech products
Presentations followed by in-depth Question & Answer sessions
of Doctoral Dissertations, technical manuscripts, & papers for
presentation at scientific symposia, —including works composed by
non-native speakers of English (scientists, engineers, …. )
Techno-lingual Document Analysis
Linguistic Dissection & Grammatical Analysis of German texts,
e.g., in the manner noted in the books:
German Scientific Compound Nouns, and,
German Beyond the Noun Declension,
can be worth applying where some key commercial, scientific, or legal
factor is at risk or under intense discussion and there are many Compound
Nouns in the text.
The method involves lexical research which examines the German face-
value (essentially literal) meanings of the individual segments of long
German nouns and those of the connecting symbols (Fugenelemente)
© Copyright 2013 by Vincent F. Perna, Jr., Ithaca, New York 14852-4929, USA