Is there a difference between the German suffixes -ation and -ierung?

Examples are

  • Identifikation vs. Identifizierung
  • Publikation vs Publizierung
  • 4
    I would recommend to change this to -tion and -ierung, see Abstraktion and Abstrahierung. – RoyPJ Feb 15 at 16:02
  • 2
    Also, I think that the -ierung form more or less describes the action, while the -tion form describes the state itself. Nevertheless I can't really explain it nor have any reference besides my feeling. – RoyPJ Feb 15 at 16:04
  • @ RoyPJ: Right, I did no think of that case. I edited the question. – NashVio Feb 15 at 16:08
up vote 11 down vote accepted

As RoyPJ mentions and the German Duden denotes the following differences:

  • mostly, in common usage, they can be used both ways.
  • sometimes, there is the subtle difference between indication of action and indication of state.
    • the suffix "ation" denotes the result of an action,
    • the suffix "ierung" the action itself. But, as a native speaker of German, this is subtle in many situations.

My source (in German) is https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/_ation__ierung

  • Thanks PiedPiper and others for correction of my English - all my I* products I use from time to time do correct my English writings to German, and I always try to correct back... Typing on a IPhone with default language German is hard under these circumstances. – Walter Feb 17 at 17:55

-ation tends to denote a process as a whole or a notion, possibly even an object (cf. Publikation in the sense of published work as a printed artifact, Spezifikation as a technical document ), while -ierung focuses on the process over time. Examples would be:

  • Abstraktion - Abstrahierung
  • Indikation - Indizierung
  • Publikation - Publizierung
  • Spezifikation - Spezifizierung

I cannot provide a reference other than the intuition of a native speaker. I can, however, give evidence that the difference is not clear-cut. In particular there are word pairs where the individual items carry wildly differing meanings and which cannot be substituted for each other:

  • Differentiation - Differenzierung ( math. operation vs attention to differences in detail )
  • Kontraktion - Kontrahierung ( redution in volume vs. establishing a contract )
  • Reservation - Reservierung ( segregated territory vs. booking in advance )

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