I have already asked a similar question about forming new compound nouns and the answer was that any compound noun is correct as long as it is understood in its context by native speakers. I wonder if that also applies to adjectives and if it is okay to to form new compound adjectives as long as they are understood in their context.

Examples:

freundschaftstreu, familietreu, schachbegeistert, lesenbegeistert, emotionenreich, diamantartig, diamantswert, helfenbedüftig, essenfähig...

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    Short answer: very – tofro Sep 22 at 16:10
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Your examples are useful to show that there are limits.

From your examples schachbegeistert und diamantartig will be accepted wihout question.

We will correct lesenbegeistert to lesebegeistert, emotionenreich to emotionsreich und helfenbedürftig to hilfsbedürftig (coming from the noun "Hilfe").

If you use essenfähig we will guess you mean essbar (eatable). This is kind of the first indication where something can go wrong. Fähig is pointing to a skill and eating is not considered an act that requires skill. So it is important that the words used are correct in the context of what is described.
This is also why word with ...artig und ...begeistert work so well. If an item appears to be like what you prepend to ...artig then this will be understood an can't go wrong easily. The same is for ...begeistert. For example you can prepend anything people might do for a hobby to ...begeistert.

For the first 2 words I assume you mean "treu" instead of true. Treu is normally used for an intimate relationship, like a couple or for the attitude of a dog to his owner. So it doesn't work with family or friendship. This is again a hint that the words must work within the context of what is described.

The Problem with diamantswert is that the wert part of the word is used in the meaning of the noun, hinting at the value of the diamond. The second part of a compound adjective must be an adjective by itself though. But n words like erwähnenswert oder lebenswert the wert has the meaning of "worth it".

In conclusion you are free to prepend adjectives with another word as long as it is usable in the context.
If there are established words that are already existing those should be used. For example you wouldn't use wasserartig if you mean flüssig (fluid).
Another issue is that you have to learn how to connect them like in the case of emotionsreich.

You really have to know the proper use of the ending adjective. It will give you a better understanding which words might work to be prepended.

In comparison to compound nouns there are more restriction in compound adjectives. At least it is harder to find correct combinations than with nouns.

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    "essensfähig" may occur in a medical context, meaning "being able to eat". – Uwe Sep 22 at 18:56
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    There is an adjective in my dictionary goldwert and I tried to make a similar adjective but with Diamant – user34137 Sep 22 at 19:59
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    @Abdullah I haven't heard goldwert as an adjective yet. It might be derrived from the expression Gold wert sein . It sounds a bit odd to me as goldwert, but very odd as diamantwert. Maybe it's a regional thing. – Javatasse Sep 22 at 20:18
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    Instead of describing someone as "essensfähig" (able to eat) you could use "Essfähigkeit" to describe a persons ability to eat, e.g. "der Patient hat eine eingeschänkte Essfähigkeit". That term also gives more results on google. – kapex Sep 23 at 14:41
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    @Abdullah I think we Germans mostly tend to a more moderate way of expressing emotioal things like that. For example something like "Er ist ein wertvoller Mensch" is a very strong statement. To express loyalty to the family we might just say "er ist ein Familienmensch" and for friendship "ein verlässlicher Freund" should express what you are looking for. – Javatasse Sep 24 at 7:43

German is rather flexible in forming new compounds, including adjectives. In many cases, however, there is already some compound with a certain meaning, and then a slightly different compound with the same meaning sounds odd. Let's consider your list of examples:

freundschaftstrue, familietrue, diamantswert

look odd. First of all, "true" is not a German word. Do you mean "treu"? But even then, it's unclear to me what you want to express.

schachbegeistert, diamantartig

are okay. In fact, these are established compounds.

lesenbegeistert, emotionenreich, helfenbedüftig, essenfähig

would be okay, if there were no established words "lesebegeistert", "emotionsreich", "hilfsbedüftig" (or "hilfebedüftig"), and "essensfähig". (In general, using the infinitive of a verb without trailing "-s" to form a compound adjective is uncommon.)

The problem is that there is no fixed rule that might tell you the common form of a compound adjective. For instance, there are "schreibfähig", "lesefähig", "leidensfähig", and "arbeitsfähig". The first one is built using the stem of the verb, the second one uses the stem with "-e", the third one uses the infinitive plus "-s", and the fourth one uses the associated noun. If you use any other combination, say "schreibensfähig", "lesfähig", "leidfähig", or "arbeitefähig", people will understand what you mean, but still it sounds wrong.

  • Yes, I mean treu. I wanted to express 'loyal to friendship, loyal to family, worth diamond' as to describe ' a person who's loyal to his family or to his friends, or a very important question that is worth diamond'. By the way, I formed these words and are not available in my dictionary including schachbegeistert, diamantartig – user34137 Sep 22 at 19:43
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    Familientreu is for example a dog who easily becomes part of a family. Ad ad word they would use at Tiere suchen ein Zuhause or a similar TV programme. Everyone would understand what noun+begeistert should mean, also noun+artig. These are well-known building principles. However, you have to be careful about the metaphors you are using. Diamonds are forever, but in Germany, diamonds are at first a tool to cut everything. Anyone who has seen a bus window scarred with a glass cutter for a (bad) street vandal tag will frown on diamonds. – Janka Sep 22 at 19:57
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    And you couldn't use gold either, because goldig means child-alike. Friendships are best described with loads you could put on them. For example freundschaftsschwanger could mean someone totally wants to have friendship to be born. The word bedeutungsschwanger exists and means carrying meaning to term by purpose. – Janka Sep 22 at 20:06
  • @Janka I think the reason it works so well with a dog might be that treu in german has a small submissive component as in regierungstreu oder amstreu. That might be a reason why it doesn't go so well with human friendship and family. Even when you say "er war mit immer ein treuer Freund" you sense the friend as somewhat submissive. I think I remember Karl May texts. – Javatasse Sep 22 at 20:47
  • I remember nibelungentreu, which is now considered foolish in general. Also consider treudoof. And for generally untrustworthy friends, we have Parteifreund already. – Janka Sep 22 at 20:53

I addition to what others already wrote, the German compound adjectives you built as examples are of the sort noun+adjective and verb+adjective. This of course misses other building principles:

scheinheilig (noun+noun+ig)

And the parts of such an adjective could also be compunds, of course.

sterbenslangweilig (verb+[adjective+noun]+ig)

gesellschaftskritisch ([noun+noun]+isch)

bewusstseinserweiternd ([past participle+noun]+present participle)

arschkriecherisch ([noun+noun]+isch)

fadenscheinheilig ([noun+noun]+noun+ig – made up just now)

These are especially productive. Viel Spaß.

  • One might add that these compounds, when used in the right context, may even contribute to the quality of the text as artful literature. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 22 at 20:29
  • And may I add here, for the record, the notorious lebensmittelunverträglichkeitsintolerant (noun + noun + noun + adjective) which describes a person that hates people who parade their pickyness with food. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 22 at 20:32

Compounds à la adjective+adjective are also part of the language:

  • blaugrün (mix of blau and grün)

  • tolldreist (toll works as an enhancer for dreist)

  • kleinlaut (klein works as a diminisher for laut)

  • großmächtig (groß works as an enhancer for mächtig)

Words like »vor« and »über«, usually used as preposition or adverb, have also become start components (prefixes) for adjectives, e. g.

And a numeral can lead an adjective as well:

dreifarbig

Besides: Some adjective parts look like nouns but are classified as prefixes, e. g.

  • Yes, all the patterns mentioned above can be simplified in one line: verb/noun/adjective + adjective = compound adjective – user34137 Sep 23 at 8:24
  • @Abdullah: Please see my edit. – Pollitzer Sep 23 at 9:40
  • Thank you. This is new to me. In forming compound nouns, the first component may also be a numeral (Dreirad) or a preposition (Untertasse) or an adverb (Jetztzeit). Can you think of compound adjectives that might begin with a numeral, a preposition or an adverb as well? – user34137 Sep 23 at 10:21
  • @Abdullah: Please see my second edit. – Pollitzer Sep 23 at 11:23

"Freundschaftstreu" und "familientreu" are legitimate word creations and will be fully understood by a native speaker. It means loyal to the a friend or to family. See also "königstreu" for loyal to the crown (in a monarchy).

"Can you think of compound adjectives that might begin with a numeral, a preposition or an adverb as well? "

Yes, I can. Because they exist.

Begining with a numeral: neunmalklug

Begining with a preposition: anstößig (anstoßen = an + stoßen); mitfühlend (mitfühlen = mit + fühlen)

Begining with an adverb: wohlmeinend

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