In my book, there is a differentiation of two types of personenbezeichnung made, it is categorized as primär and sekundär, however this is never explained further.

It's about semantics.


Primär: Mensch, Gast, Laie, Passagier, Insasse, Star, Flüchtling, Abkömmling, ...-ling

Sekundär: Vormund, Figur, Person, Putzkraft, ...-kraft, ...-hilfe, Wesen, Mitglied, Opfer, Individuum, Geschöpf.

I do not understand the difference between them. I have looked up "primär" and "sekundär" in this context but I can't find more about it. Note: It is in a professional publication by an educated author, so there is reason to understand this distinction.

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    I understand the idea but the examples make no sense.
    – Janka
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 18:22
  • @Janka They are from the book winter-verlag.de/en/news/ni12950c933c188aabffeafdf/… I've not changed any. Page 39. Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 18:50
  • I was about to ask: Could it be that the distinction is about which terms are masculine in a primary sort of way? For a moment I thought: the ones in the first set have masculine gender, but all in the second set are feminine or neuter... WAIT except "Vormund". But still?
    – Alazon
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 19:39
  • @Alazon That is probably the way in which it was intended. Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 19:45
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    I’m voting to close this question because it is not about the German language per se, but about (linguistic or philosophical?) concepts that are independent of a particular language. Commented Sep 18, 2023 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


Primärbegriff and Sekundärbegriff are fundamental classifications for symbols in semantics. Here, those terms seem to be fenced in to symbols that denote persons.

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    What could be the reason for "Mitglied" being sekundär, while "Mensch" is primär? Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 17:51
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    You would need to read about the theory of semantic symbols in human languages (the English term seems to be "primary and secondary symbols"). In principle, a primary symbol is the thing itself, very objectively without any influence of human perceiption, a secondary one is thats subjectively perceived with all possible assumptions not even in the term. Examples would be "man" as "male human" for a primary symbol, "teacher" primarily assumed to be a male teacher (even if it could be a female as well).
    – tofro
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 21:53
  • Okay, thank you for the answer! Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 22:35

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