The question is on the highlighted phrase in this passage from Freud's Totem und Tabu. The Verbot is that against incest.

Dieses streng gehandhabte Verbot ist sehr merkwürdig. Es wird durch nichts vorbereitet, was wir vom Begriff oder den Eigenschaften des Totem bisher erfahren haben; man versteht also nicht, wie es in das System des Totemismus hineingeraten ist. Wir verwundern uns darum nicht, wenn manche Forscher geradezu annehmen, die Exogamie habe ursprünglich – im Beginn der Zeiten und dem Sinne nach – nichts mit dem Totemismus zu tun, sondern sei ihm irgend einmal, als sich Heiratsbeschränkungen notwendig erwiesen, ohne tieferen Zusammenhang angefügt worden. Wie immer dem sein mag, die Vereinigung von Totemismus und Exogamie besteht und erweist sich als eine sehr feste.


  1. Does in govern dem Beginn and separately nach govern dem Sinne? Or is in etwas nach a single expression like von etwas aus?

  2. Suppose we didn't have nach in the phrase, which would give us a preposition, viz. in, with two masculine nouns for it to govern. Can you say im Beginn und Sinne, or to get away from any semantic interference of the nouns (that is, the question is strictly about how to use prepositions and nouns), im Hof und Stall (in which case the two nouns so-to-speak share im)?

  3. Can you also say im Beginn und dem Sinne, or im Hof und dem Stall? (I note from Vom Fischer und seiner Frau that von and dem don't mind combining even if seiner is to follow, which also needs von, but here the two nouns are of a different gender.)

  4. If you can say either, how different (if at all) do they sound? (Again, this question is strictly on im A + B vs. im A + dem B, never mind what A or B might be.)

1 Answer 1


I'm taking it, from your question, that you principally have a good understanding of the overall meaning of the statement. I'll just quickly show my own translation of the highlighted part with some context:

... Exogamy, in its origin - meaning both in the temporal and semantic sense - has nothing to do with Totemism.

Or a bit less freely

... Exogamy originally - as in the earliest time as well as the original meaning - had nothing to do with Totemism.

So, as to your questions:

  1. Yes, im is linked with Beginn, as in in dem Beginn. Nach belongs to dem Sinne and is one those positional changes that German still maintains from its Indo-European roots, but English lost (source: The History of English podcast, somewhere around episode 30 or so - I just listened to those)
  2. Funnily enough, while you probably shouldn't, arguably you could try to be "cute" and do something like

    ... habe ursprünglich - im Beginne und Sinne - ...

    Would probably raise eyebrows and roll eyes, because of the horrible rhyme, but it wouldn't actually be completely wrong, rather only awkward.

    Your example im Hof und Stall however would be quite appropriate. Both are locations, in both cases im/in dem is the correct preposition.

    Keep in mind here that the word nach in this context would mean something like according to. That's the reason why trying to remove it and apply im for both Beginn and Sinn appears forced. We have

    im Beginn der Zeiten und dem Sinne nach


    in the beginning of time and according to the meaning

    With that you can see that your "short cut" isn't as applicable as

    im Hof und im Stall


    on the farm and in the stable

    which are still locations, thus allowing

    im Hof und Stall

  3. I personally think it would also be a very awkward use (since you ask how it would sound). You could maybe get away with im Beginn und dem Sinne nach, but you'd probably still get people to wonder Beginn of what?

  4. To me, they sound weird. But them, to me, the whole paragraph seems stilted and archaic.
  • @Catomic I've made some changes based on your clarification.
    – user21173
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 4:48
  • @Catomic I've added more info that had occured to me, specifically about the use of nach.
    – user21173
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 7:03
  • I am not sure that "dem Sinne nach" should be translated as "meaning" - It could as well be "intention" - like "im Sinne des Gesetzes". I think that was what was, well, intended.
    – tofro
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 10:13
  • @tofro Except in this case it refers to - or I take it to refer to - Exogamy, where I'm not sure it'd be right to use intention. intention of exogamy doesn't sound right, whereas meaning of (the term) exogamy does.
    – user21173
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 10:23
  • 1
    Of course the paragraph would seem stilted and archaic — it’s Freud ;)
    – Jan
    Commented May 8, 2016 at 16:06

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