Frequently Asked Questions

A semantic field is a semantically interconnected and in itself taxonomically structured interplay of content words (lexemes, base units of vocabulary) of one particular part of speech. The DWEE-project focuses on nouns. The inner structure of a semantic field can be determined on the basis of an analysis of generic and specific terms, which partially are inherited and partially arise in the course of history of language.

Conventional etymology describes the origin, history and development of meaning of a word. The etymological science of DWEE, however, doesn’t only apply to solitary words but to the semantic development of particular semantic fields cross-level of German language periods. That way we can investigate whether and how a change of meaning may also affect semantically adjacent words (generic, specific and secondary terms). Such indications provide important insights into language reception and complement other faculties, such as psycholinguistics or cultural history. We publish the research results in our project-volumes, which are separated according to superordinate semantic fields.

For the acquisition of etymologies as well as for the article and map data, the research associates have a specifically for DWEE developed editor, our Dweedit, at their disposal as a web application. From here the data on the one hand arrives at a relational database, which makes scanning and an internal network possible and which additionally serves as a long-term archive. On the other hand the data is transformed into XML-files, which are of use for the data output on this website as well as for re-utilisation.
For the data pool numerous sources are consulted: among them established classical dictionaries, etymological reference books and glossaries, specialised dictionaries, literary works, correspondences and current online-media. From this spectrum you can review the corresponding exact citation at the end of each article entry.

Historical linguistic research agrees on a certain period as regards Old High German. Where Middle High German is concerned, the time measurement varies according to the scientific observation frame, and so does the exact classification of the language periods into subsections (such as e.g. Classical Middle High German vs. Late Middle High German). For classification purposes concerning its data pool, DWEE codifies the following levels and time segments:

  1. Old High German (OHG) — 750-1050
  2. Middle High German (MHG) — 1051-1399
  3. Early New High German (ENHG) — 1400-1599
  4. Older New High German (ONHG) — 1600-1899
  5. New High German (NHG) — 1900 up to the present

Our articles may feature empty subitems for various reasons. Our staff is still working on the completion of the articles in this phase of publication. Instead of only presenting one particular part of the already developed corpus, we decided to display article content as regards your queries that may feature incomplete sections, which in return won’t prompt a result.
On the other hand, however, empty categories may instead be possible research results: The “gaps” are especially interesting for language change research when they are subject to changes in regard to diachronic examination. In such cases we indicate that there aren’t any findings available for the respective category/linguistic period.

In the data sets we present here, first of all, the overall state of the linguistic science corpus knowledge is reflected. The conclusions relevant for research — e.g. as regards language change and borrowing phenomena — are compiled on the basis of these findings and published in the books. On the grounds of legal regulations concerning publishing, the texts published there can’t be published on this web portal.

Yes, the content data of the articles and etymologies may be used, be it as a research basis or for private and commercial use. DWEE is to be perceived as a supply and as a tool: on the one hand it is directed at scientists who use our library as a data basis for their work, on the other hand we want to offer a practical contact point to those interested in language and semantic change as well as to those involved with foreign-language studies.
Excluded from the unrestricted use are images, graphics and contact information (see also Legal Notice).

For the corpus no individual data pool was created. Instead, existing compilations were utilised with emphasis on priorities. For this, first of all the ( was analysed, as in that case a precise alphabetic character search can be implemented via wildcard. That way it is possible to determine which formations exist overall. And as the rather capacious text iventory ranges from the (literary) Early New High German to the middle of the 20ieth century, this allows for a proper insight. The corpus of finds is then added to by assessing the DWDS-Corpus (
Apart from that we use Wikipedia Wikipedia ( as a source, as a continuation of the encyclopaedia of the 21st century as it were, as well as the Dictionary of Historical German Legal Terms (, the Early New High German Dictionary (Frühneuhochdeutsches Wörterbuch, the Dictionary Network of Trier (Trierer Wörterbuchnetz, which also hosts the Old High German Dictionary of the Saxon Academy, and the Middle High German Dictionary ( Google Books (, although difficult to use for scientific research, is used to close evidence gaps, and stray finds and general ideas from reading are added to the mix as well.