die vereinfacht-chinesische Schrift


die vereinfachte chinesische Schrift?

This is only an example of my question.
Now, I suppose these are two adjectives but I’m not sure.

What is the syntactical and semantical difference between those two statements? And what is more common to use?

  • 1
    I do not know the exact context, but I would likely talk about "Schrift/Schriftzeichen" instead of "Sprache", at least if you are talking about the way Chinese is written, and not about the language as such. – Gerhard Jun 20 '16 at 0:05

Apart from argumentation on Chinese language and Writing:

vereinfacht-chinesische Sprache


vereinfachte chinesische Sprache

Do not have much semantic difference to me (in your specific example, but see below). Connecting the two adjectives (they definitely are adjectives) is common, but not always accepted practice in German - Especially, when there is no obvious need to do so, you have found a completely acceptable alternative using your second example.

Using more than one adjective with one substantive can transport two distinct meanings:

  1. The second adjective is used as an unrelated additional attribute to the substantive, thus extending the first one and only tied to the substantive

  2. The second adjective is used as a modifier for the first one, so it is bound to the first adjective

While the hyphen form could imply (2) - closer bound to the other adjective, I am not sure that is always the case.

die helle blaue Blume

That definitely says the "Blume" is "hell" and "blau" and not "hellblau" could be expressed as

die hell-blaue Blume

according to your example. Here it is not very clear whether hell applies to the Blume or to blau. It could also mean

die hellblaue Blume

So it is preferable to use the non-hyphen form, because that makes it much more clear.

Transferring back to your example, vereinfacht-chinesische Sprache could mean "die Sprache ist vereinfacht und chinesisch" (unrelated) or "Die Sprache ist chinesisch in vereinfachter Form" (modified) - In your example, there is maybe little to no difference to me (but I don't know Chinese...)


In both cases you have two adjectives.

The difference between the two is that the hyphenated variant seems to pull the two hyphenated words together, creating something that is almost like us against them. For that reason, I’ll use a slightly different example:

Die chinesisch-japanisch-koreanischen Schriftzeichen unterscheiden sich deutlich von allen anderen, benachbarten Schriftzeichen.

The CJK ideographs are totally different from everything that surrounds them. Take for example Thai: There are symbols for consonants and markers for vowels; it makes sense to contrast it strongly to e.g. Chinese. The connection is strong, the first adjectives are entirely uninflected, putting them closer to adverbs (modifying the adjective rather than the following noun). They only really make sense together, separating them would result in something half-done. They are also not as weighted as in the example below; changing their order may well make sense.

On the other hand, having two separate words would allow for a ‘looser’ connection:

Die traditionellen chinesischen Schriftzeichen sind den japanischen oft deutlich ähnlicher als die vereinfachten chinesischen Schriftzeichen.

We’re contrasting something from inside a greater group where the contrast is not too obvious, and where different contrasts could be drawn depending on context. I might as well have contrasted simplified and traditional Chinese against Japanese in some other example. It is still clear that we have two adjectives, that they are weighted (the latter is more general than the former, else there would be a comma) and that they both belong to the noun.


In Die vereinfacht-chinesische Sprache, the vereinfacht is more coherent to chinesische Sprache. It is highliting the vereinfacht

  • But are the two words adjectives? Or is the first one a adverb or something like this? – Glasfaser Jun 19 '16 at 19:52
  • Both are definitely adjectives. See other two answers. – tofro Jun 29 '16 at 17:12

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