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Semantic classes

 
 
Nouns denote persons, animals, plants, objects, materials and abstract concepts like qualities, actions, processes, relations, etc. According to the nature of what they denote, nouns are categorized into different semantic classes:

Semantic classes refer to
  subclasses
Concrete nouns something material, something that is perceptible by the senses
        Proper names one specific person, place, work of art etc.
Common nouns  persons, animals, plants and objects
Material nouns materials, substances
Collective nouns   a group consisting of several persons, animals, plants or objects
Abstract nouns something that is not material, not perceptible by the senses:
processes, states, qualities, relations, concepts, emotions, etc.


Concrete and abstract nouns

Concrete nouns refer to something material, something that is perceptible by the senses. Examples:

Mensch, Frau, Bruder, Automobilistin, Redner; Hund, Vogel, Amöbe; Eiche, Baum, Tulpe, Blume; Hemd, Kleidungsstück, Straßenbahn, See, Steilhang, Felsbrocken; Luft, Mehl, Salzsäure; Dorf, Vieh; Martin, Donau, Matterhorn.

Abstract nouns refer to something that is not material, not perceptible by the senses, like processes, states, qualities, relations, concepts, emotions, etc. Examples:

Ruhe, Liebe, Alter, Würde, Dummheit, Höhe, Freundschaft, Entfernung, Unterschied, Musik, Geographie, Verstand, Seele

Verbal nouns (= nouns denoting the action of a verb) and nominalized infinitives are also abstract nouns:

Wurf, Erziehung, Schlaf, Reise, das Lesen, das Komponieren, das Zusammensein.

Some nouns are be both abstract and concrete:

abstract concrete
die Schönheit  quality of being beautiful  beautiful person
die Jugend time when one is young young people
der Grund reason, cause ground

See also: Nouns used only in the singular, Abstract nouns.
See also: Nouns without article, Abstract nouns.


Proper names

A proper name is a name of one specific person, animal, place, work of art, etc.

Felix, Frau Müller, Bello, Frankfurt, Donau, Matterhorn, Ägypten, die Antillen, Jupiter, Titanic, „Aida“

Even though, for example, there is more than one person called Felix or more than one city called Frankfurt, the names Felix and Frankfurt usually refer only to one specific person and one specific city.

Because proper names refer to one specific individual or thing, they are not or rarely used in the plural. See Nouns used only in the singular, Proper names.

Plural proper names like die Antillen, die USA, die Pyrenäen, die Wiener Sängerknaben also refer to one specific entity. These entities usually consist of a group of elements (e.g. islands, mountains, singing boys). In this respect, plural proper names are related to the collective nouns.


Common nouns

Common nouns are a subclass of the concrete nouns. They denote:

persons:  Mensch, Frau, Bruder, Automobilistin, Redner
animals: Hund, Amsel, Amöbe, Fisch
plants: Eiche, Baum, Tulpe, Blume, Strauch, Alge
things: Hemd, Kleidungsstück, Straßenbahn, See, Steilhang, Felsbrocken

Common nouns refer to a class of persons, animals, plants or things as well as to a member of the class:

class member of the class
Ein Redner ist jemand der eine Rede hält.  Der Redner sprach wieder einmal viel zu lang.
Die Tulpe ist eine Zwiebelpflanze. Die Tulpe ist verblüht.

Some nouns are both common nouns and proper names:

Proper name Common noun
Krösus  the legendarily wealthy king a very wealthy person
Bibel the religious work the printed book

All common nouns have plural forms.


Material nouns

Material nouns are a subclass of the concrete nouns. They denote materials and substances. Examples:

Metall, Eisen, Glas, Zement, Wasser, Holz, Baumwolle, Leder, Bier, Wein

Material nouns are uncountable, i.e. they have only singular forms. When they are used in the plural, they cease to be material nouns and become common nouns: they denote different types of a material or items made of a material.

die Harthölzer, die Weine, die Gläser

See also: Nouns used only in the singular, Material nouns.
See also: Nouns without article, Material nouns.


Collective nouns

Collective nouns are a subclass of the concrete nouns. They denote a group of individual persons, animals, plants or objects. Examples:

Familie, Geschwister, Bevölkerung, Publikum, Vieh, Wild, Geflügel, Herde, Obst, Besteck, Dorf, Dutzend, Haufen

When they are used in the plural, they are closely related to the common nouns.

See also: Nouns used only in the singular, Collective nouns.
See also: Nouns without article, Collective nouns.







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