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I'm reading "Der logische Aufbau der Welt" by Rudolf Carnap, which is quite an interesting book. But I found something I do not understand.

Everytime he writes the numeral "eine" or "ein" etc. he writes "éine" or "éin" etc.

Does anyone know why he does that? Is that an old spelling-rule that I as a native speaker am not aware of (which seems plausible, I'm not a professional linguist).

Here is one example:

enter image description here

This seems to happen all through out the book, so it's not a simple typo I guess.

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Google Books also yields books.google.com.eg/… , which does the same. –  Toscho Jan 17 at 16:34
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Found out that it's used to denote the stressed syllable for german words in my linked book. –  Toscho Jan 17 at 16:37
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Maybe it’s to distinguish the indefinite article (English a) from the numeral (1). Look at the second word: It’s any Konstitutionssystem. In, the marked examples however, it’s the numeral. However this is made clear anyway by the use of nur. –  Wrzlprmft Jan 17 at 17:02
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@Wrzlprmft... why don't you make that an answer. It sounds incredibly convincing to me. –  Emanuel Jan 17 at 18:35

1 Answer 1

I have also found the following quote from Carnap (bold face by me):

Wie soll die Wissenschaft zu intersubjektiv gültigen Aussagen kommen, wenn alle ihre Gegenstände von einem individuellen Subjekt aus konstituiert werden, wenn also alle Aussagen der Wissenschaft im Grunde nur Beziehungen zwischen „meinen“ Erlebnissen zum Gegenstand haben? Da der Erlebnisstrom für jeden Menschen ein anderer ist, wie soll da auch nur éin Satz der Wissenschaft objektiv in diesem Sinne sein, d. h. für jedes Individuum gelten, wenn es von seine individuellen Erlebnisstrom ausgeht?

Taking this together with the three occurrence of ein/éin in your example, I hypothesise that éin marks the numeral one and ein marks the indefinite article (a in English). Let’s look at some examples:

Wenn ein Konstitutionssystem der Begriffe oder der Gegenstände in der angedeuteten Art möglich ist, so folgt daraus […]

Here, the wenn-condition is fulfilled, if there is a Konstitutionssystem that fulfills the requirements. There may be many of those, it does not need to be exactly one.

[…] es gibt nur éin Gebiet von Gegenständen […]

Here he states that there is only one realm of items. It cannot be two or more; it is not indefinite in the sense that he refers to an arbitrary realm out of many possible (where you would use the indefinite article).

However, this is only a hypothesis based on six examples that needs to be tested by somebody who has access to the whole text.


In general, the double meaning of ein in German is hardly a problem, since it is most often clear from context which one is meant. However, I can imagine that this issue arises more often in philosophical texts.

Other ways to solve this disambiguity are to use:

genau ein – exactly one (this is frequently used in mathematics)

1 (this is frequently used in board and card games, since it takes less space than genau ein and there is little space on cards)

mindestens ein – at least one

nur ein – only one

In spoken language the disambiguity can be avoided by emphasising the numeral ein, which is what might have inspired using an accent as a marker.

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Thanks. This is a very interesting and logical approach. When continuing reading I will cast an eye on that. But I'm of course still open to answers by anyone else. –  TheReader Jan 17 at 20:29
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+1 and you can stop calling this a hypothesis. A stress mark marks stress by definition, in fact by its very name. Spanish does this, Russian does this, Greek does this, and while German typically does not do this, the atypical usage is nonetheless quite transparent. That being said, in Modern German it's far more common to use italics. –  RegDwight Jan 17 at 22:22
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@RegDwight: While the aspect of stress or emphasis is another relevant angle to this phenomenon, I would not jump to conclusions for the following reasons: 1) This is the very first time I saw something like this. 2) If Carnap actually were using this as a stress mark, why does he not use it on stressed words other than ein? 3) The numeral ein is not always stressed. Though it may be stressed in all the available examples, there may be other examples where the éin is used for the numeral, but not stressed – if yes, the acute does not mark stress here; if no, my hypothesis is wrong. –  Wrzlprmft Jan 17 at 23:32
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The first occurence of your additional quote is an ein without acute ("von einem individuellen Subject"). From my point of view, this should denote the numeral and consequently be éin instead. So maybe, it's just emphasis, which helps to differentiate indefinite article and numeral. –  Toscho Jan 18 at 9:25
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@Wrzlprmft The following clause speaks of "'meine' Erlebnisse" which indicates to me, that it is indeed one and only one person ("Subjekt") for all the objekts ("Gegenstände"). The text is just about, that all these constructions are valid only to one person. –  Toscho Jan 18 at 13:34

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