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As I was looking up the word durchdringen in dict.cc, I noticed the following notes: [ ' - - - ], [ ' - - ], [- ' - - ], [ - ' - ]. What do they mean?

Here's how the dictionary entry for durchdringen looks like in dict.cc:

VERB1 durchdringen [ ' - - - ] | drang durch/durchdrang [ ' - - ] | durchgedrungen

VERB2 durchdringen [ - ' - - ] | durchdrang [ - ' - ] | durchdrungen

These notes do not seem to appear very often. For example, they are absent in the dictionary entries for such verbs as schaffen, abschaffen, or durchqueren.

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I believe it's a way to indicate where the emphasis in pronunciation is, and therefore whether it's the separable or inseparable version of the verb. It should only appear for words which have two different meanings depending on whether the prefix is separable or inseparable.

Some, but perhaps not all, of the prefixes which have this property:

  • durch
  • über
  • um
  • unter
  • wider

As evidence, it also appears on two other words which have different meanings depending on whether the prefix is separable or inseparable: überspringen and durchschauen.

However, a third word, umschreiben, is also one such word, but doesn't have the notation.

4

These notes show the emphasis of the syllables of the word.

The ' shows the emphasis.
The - shows the solitary syllables.

So your example would be "durch-drin-gen" and "durch-drang".

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