Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft

Compounds in GermaNet


Composition is a very productive word formation process in German. For many applications, it is helpful to have information about the parts of the compound, as usually the semantic interpretation is based on the meaning of its parts. In GermaNet, nominal compounds are therefore split into their constituent parts, i.e., modifier and head. This splitting identifies the immediate constituents at each level of analysis and thus reflects the recursive nature of compounds that have more than two constituent parts such as Autobahnanschlussstelle(‘motorway junction’). The immediate constituents of this compound are Autobahn and Anschlussstelle, with the first constituent then splitting further into Auto and Bahn and the second constituent further split into Anschluss and Stelle (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Split compound

What makes compound splitting for German a challenging task is the fact that compounding is not always simple string concatenation, but often involves the presence of intervening linking elements or the elision of word-final characters in the modifier constituent of a compound (Henrich & Hinrichs, 2011). In GermaNet, all modifiers are lemmatized and if a modifier is ambiguous with respect to its word class (due to conversion), both possibilities are specified:

  • Laufschuhe: lauf- (en) [verb] and (der) Lauf [noun]
  • Baustelle: bau- (en) [verb] and (der) Bau [noun]

Compound splitting in GermaNet is supported by an automatic algorithm, which combines several individual compound splitters. Please see the referenced paper below for more information on the automatic splitting. All automatically split compounds are manually post-corrected and enriched with relevant properties before they are inserted into GermaNet.



The following properties are specified for modifiers and/or heads:


If one part of the compound is an abbreviation, it is labelled as Abkürzung.


Compound Modifier Head
SIM-Karte SIM (abbreviation) Karte
ISO-Norm ISO (abbreviation) Norm
Bonus-CD Bonus CD (abbreviation)


Affixoids are morphemes with a special status between bound and free morphemes. As they have a clearly assigned meaning, it makes sense to split the respective words. The bound morpheme is labelled as Affixoid.


Compound Modifier Head
Grundfrage grund (affixoid) Frage
Riesenchance riesen (affixoid) Chance
Hauptsaison haupt (affixoid) Saison
Generalschlüssel general (affixoid) Schlüssel

Foreign Word

If one part (or more) of the compound is not a German word, it is labelled as Fremdwort. Note that those constituents which are borrowed words but are nowadays used as loanwords defined in a standard German dictionary (such as Duden) are not considered as foreign words in GermaNet (e.g. Drink and Pool in the examples below).


Compound Modifier Head
Longydrink long (foreign word) Drink
Swimmingpool swimming (foreign word) Pool
Logdatei log (foreign word) Datei


The label Konfix refers to a word which is borrowed from a foreign language, in many cases from Latin or Greek, and whose meaning stems from that particular language. Konfixes are bound morphemes, but in opposition to all other affixes two Konfixes can be combined to form a so-called Konfixkompositum. Those Konfixkomposita are not split in GermaNet, whereas compounds existing of a Konfix and a native word are split.


Compound Modifier Head
Milligramm milli (Konfix) Gramm
Zentimeter zenti (Konfix) Meter
Monokultur mono (Konfix) Kultur

Opaque Morpheme

Modifiers whose meaning is not transparent any more without considering the etymology of the word are labelled with the property opaques Morphem.


Compound Modifier Head
Himbeere Him (opaque morpheme) Beere
Karfreitag Kar (opaque morpheme) Freitag
Sintflut Sint (opaque morpheme) Flut
Lebkuchen Leb (opaque morpheme) Kuchen
Elfenbein Elfen (opaque morpheme) Bein

Proper Name

If the whole compound is a named entity, it is not split in GermaNet. If only the modifier is a proper name, the compound is split and the label Eigenname is added to the modifier.


Compound Modifier Head
Hubbleteleskop Hubble (proper name) Teleskop
Wertherstimmung Werther (proper name) Stimmung
Hiobsbotschaft Hiob (proper name) Botschaft

Virtual Word Form

Virtual word forms, labelled as Virtuelle Bildung, are regularly built according to existing word formation rules. However, they do not exist in isolation, but only as part of a compound.


Compound Modifier Head
Einflussnahme Einfluss Nahme (virtual word form)
Fragesteller Frage Steller (virtual word form)
Farbgebung Farbe Gebung (virtual word form)

Word Group

Modifiers consisting of a phrase are marked as Wortgruppe and the parts of the phrase are annotated as the modifier.


Compound Modifier Head
Dreiwege-Katalysator drei Weg (word group) Katalysator
Nacht-und-Nebel-Aktion Nacht und Nebel (word group) Aktion
Pro-Kopf-Einkommen pro Kopf (word group) Einkommen

The following table gives an overview of the constituent parts of a compound (i.e. modifier and head) and the corresponding properties that are annotated for each constituent in GermaNet:

Property Modifier Head
Abbreviation x x
Affixoid x x
Foreign Word x x
Konfix x  
Opaque Morpheme x x
Proper Name x  
Virtual Word Form   x
Word Group x  


In addition to the information described above that is included in GermaNet (since release 8.0), a list of split compounds with their modifier(s) and head is freely available for download here:

The list of compound data is free for academic research as defined in GermaNet's academic research licence agreement. For any other intended purposes, please contact us.

The format of these split compounds is one compound per line: first the compound itself, then a <tab> space, then the modifier (in case of two modifiers, these are separated by the pipe (|) symbol), then a <tab> space again, and finally the head. For example:

Apfelbaum      Apfel   Baum
Goldmünze     Gold   Münze
Laufband       laufen|Lauf     Band


The following paper describes the automatic compound splitting that is performed before the manual post-correction. If you want to use the split compounds in the context of scientific or research work, please refer to the paper:

Verena Henrich and Erhard Hinrichs: Determining Immediate Constituents of Compounds in GermaNet. In Proceedings of Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing (RANLP 2011), Hissar, Bulgaria, September 2011, pp. 420-426.