I found a children's book from 1969, published in Munich, and I've been studying it mostly to review grammar. However, when I looked up some of the nouns and verbs (e.g. wachzurufen) on Wordreference, they didn't seem to exist (but Google Translate recognized them). Is the German here outdated, and if so, is it worth trying to study it? The following are the introductory paragraphs:

Es war einmal ein Hähnchen und ein Hühnchen, die lebten in einem Dorfe nahe am Waldesrand auf einem kleinen Bauernhof. Das Hähnchen war als Frühaufsteher bekannt, und kaum begann der Morgen zu dämmern, warf es sich in die Brust und schrie aus vollem Halse: »Kikeriki Kikeriki« Es war gar nicht so leicht, all die Schläfer wachzurufen.

Das Hühnchen gehörte nicht zu den Langschläfern. Es erwachte gleich beim ersten Krähen. Das Hähnchen aber beachtete es zunächst nicht besonders, da es ja mit dem Wecken genug zu tun gab. Doch das war nicht weiter schlimm, denn das Hühnchen hatte frühmorgens stets mächtigen Hunger und ging sogleich auf Futtersuche. Auch das Hähnchen pickte während seiner Arbeit hier und da ein Körnchen auf oder zog einen Wurm aus der Erde. Und weil es sein Hühnchen lieb hatte, vergaß es nie, ihm die Hälfte abzugeben. Auch das Hühnchen teilte redlich jedes Körnchen mit seinem Gefährten.

  • 4
    Please be more specific about your concerns.. apart from a few typos and very few pre-reformed spellings I see nothing peculiar wrong in your example.
    – Takkat
    Sep 25 '16 at 7:00
  • wordreference.com/deen/wachrufen In this text it is used in its literal meaning, though.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 25 '16 at 10:24
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    You're being confused by inflection. wachzurufen is an inflected form of wachrufen, and only the base form is in the dictionary. You absolutely have to appreciate inflection to learn German beyond the very first steps. Sep 26 '16 at 6:29

I don't see any outdated words in this text. But of course, you will not find all wordforms in a dictionary, because in the flow of natural language you use words in many different declensions and flexions. But in a dictionary you will only find the basic form of a word (i.e. nouns are listed in nominative case singular, verbs are listed in their infinitive form).

(German has also tons of compound nouns like »Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz« that are not listed in any dictionary, because you can find every single component in the dictionary. But this is not the problem here.)

The wordform you mentioned (»wachzurufen«) is part of a construction that you can find in grammar books as

»zu + Infinitiv«

It is »to + infinitve« in English like in:

Es ist schwer, bei diesem Lärm zu schlafen.
It is hard to sleep with this noise.

Mit diesem Stift ist es leicht zu schreiben.
It's easy to write with this pen.

But German also has a special grammatical feature for some verbs that doesn't exist in English:

separable verbs

Separable verbs are verbs which have a separable prefix that can be split off and put elsewhere in the sentence. I give you a few examples:

fortgehen (to go away)

Ich werde fortgehen.
I will go away.

Ich ging bei Nacht und Nebel fort.
I went away in a foggy night.

einschlafen (to fall asleep)

Ich kann nicht einschlafen.
I can't fall asleep.

Ich schlief gestern Abend auf der Couch ein.
I fell asleep on the sofa yesterday evening.

And now comes the trick:

When you use zu + Infinitiv together with separable verbs, then the word »zu« slides into the word, quite after the prefix, and the word is not separated. This is how it looks like:

Es fällt mir schwer, fortzugehen.
Es fällt mir schwer, einzuschlafen.
It's hard for me to go away/fall asleep.

And finally:

Es war gar nicht so leicht, all die Schläfer wachzurufen.
It was not so easy, to wake up all the sleepers.

So, the naked infinitve of »wachzurufen« is »wachrufen«, and this is the word you find in a dictionary: http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/wachrufen

The verb wachrufen is a separable verb. It is not used very often, but it is not outdated. Even if you never heard this verb before, you can learn it's meaning immediately from its components (wach = awake, rufen = to call) and from the context. So »wachrufen« means: To call/shout to wake up someone.

  • 1
    Would I be correct in saying that "Dorfe" is an outdated form? (Or is it just a typo?)
    – TonyK
    Sep 25 '16 at 19:08
  • 1
    @TonyK, yes it is somewhat dated, see this question.
    – guidot
    Sep 26 '16 at 13:49
  • Great answer! Lucky me, am I a native speaker ... :-) Inflection sounds like a real pain ... ;-)
    – alk
    Sep 26 '16 at 17:14

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