well, good, wohl, & gut

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Wed Aug 15 16:33:56 UTC 2001

Here's a German's response to my query about 'wohl' and 'gut'.  I'm not
sure her first two dict. entries are correct, unless she means (in St.
Eng.) 'done well' and 'to do well.'  But her final comment matches my
long-ago German study, and it corresponds to our conclusion about English
too, I think:  'good' is becoming increasingly adverbial, but not with the
same meanings as 'well' in all cases (the latter seems to be used more to
denote health and prosperity).  A History of German scholar could tell us
if German 'wohl' and 'gut' began as distinct adv. and adj. also, with 'gut'
gradually taking on adv. status and 'wohl' narrowing in semantic range.

>X-Sender: tenbrink at rzdspc2.informatik.uni-hamburg.de
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>Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001 13:51:20 +0200
>To: Beverly Flanigan <flanigan at oak.cats.ohiou.edu>
>From: Thora Tenbrink <tenbrink at informatik.uni-hamburg.de>
>Subject: well, good, wohl, & gut
>Cc: jonmach at informix.com, info-childes at mail.talkbank.org
>>Similarly, I agree that there's no misunderstanding in the German usage,
>>but my recollection is that "gut" is now the general adverb except in
>>expression of emotion, as in your example.  The performative adverb would
>>be 'gut', I believe--but let's hear from a native speaker!
>Seems like a good intuition to start from, I have no objections.
>A query in an online dictionary (LEO) brought about some interesting
>results that inspire for a more thorough investigation of the semantic
>fields of "well", "good", "gut" and "wohl":
>done good -- gutgetan
>to do good -- wohltun
>good deed -- die Wohltat / die gute Tat (which are two very different
>to feel good -- sich wohlfühlen (I did not find "sich gut fühlen" -- but I
>would certainly use it in certain contexts; however, it is certainly not
>equivalent to "sich wohlfühlen")
>to sell well -- sich gut verkaufen
>to bear oneself well -- sich gut betragen
>good -- das Wohl (e.g. common good - das gemeine Wohl/ Wohl der Gesellschaft)
>good -- das Gut (e.g. fragile good - zerbrechliches Gut)
>At first sight, and corresponding to intuitions, the semantic range of
>"wohl" seems to be quite remote from that of (adverbial) "gut".
>-- Thora

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