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This is a sentence from I. Asimov's, I, Robot:

The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of plantinumiridium about the size of a human brain.

I have translated it with an adjectival phrase:

Die Meilen von Relais und Fotozellen waren der schwammartigen, ungefähr menschliche gehirngroßen Kugel aus Platin-Iridium gewichen.

But I have 2 questions. 1) "gehirngroß" is a compounded adjective, but I cannot find a reference describing such compounding. For instance, Google tells me that "house-sized", translates to "hausgroß", but "dog-sized" translates to "hundegroß", not "hundgroß". Assuming Google is correct, how can I learn the rules for doing this type of compounding?

  1. I am not sure how the word "menschlich" should be declined above, since it is an adjective describing Gehirn, but stands before the word "gehirngroß".
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  • The first thing to note for an engineer is that in German it's kilometers ;-). Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 11:03

2 Answers 2

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»Kugel« is female in German, so it would be

waren der [...] Kugel [...] gewichen.

The way you write »menschliche gehirngroßen« (disregarding declination for the moment) it implies that the sphere is human. Which I hope it is not.

I don't know any rules about when exactly an e or an s occur between the two parts of a composite word, but »gehirngroßen« is correct.

So if you want to stick with your construction, I'd say

waren einer schwammartigen, ungefähr menschenhirngroßen Kugel [...] gewichen.

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An alternative to Raketenolli's translation is "von ungefähr/etwa der Größe eines menschlichen Gehirns".

So the full sentence would translate to:

Die Meilen von Relais und Fotozellen waren der schwammartigen Kugel aus Platin-Iridium von etwa der Größe eines menschlichen Gehirns gewichen.

A subclause is also an option:

Die Meilen von Relais und Fotozellen waren der schwammartigen Kugel aus Platin-Iridium gewichen, die etwa die Größe eines menschlichen Gehirns hatte.

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  • Delighted to see these alternatives. But I would have thought the relative clause had to be put with the noun to which it refers: "Die Meilen von Relais und Fotozellen waren der schwammartigen Kugel, die etwa die Größe eines menschlichen Gehirns hatte, aus Platin-Iridium gewichen."
    – user44591
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 19:51
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    <nitpick>While technically not answering the question as asked</nitpick>, this is absolutely the more elegant way to put it in German. Interestingly, it is also closer to the English original. Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 23:24

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