Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Chauncey J. Mellor

Committee Members

Stefanie Ohnesorg, Daniel Magilow


The varying presentations of the rules for nicht and kein found in intermediate grammar books for students in North America and DaF-learners in Germany highlight the difficulty in finding sources that are both reliable and consistent as well as easily applicable. This thesis seeks to compare the explanations found in A.E. Hammer’s German Grammar and Usage (revised by Martin Durrell), Helbig/Buscha’s Deutsche Grammatik, and Hall/Scheiner’s Übungsgrammatik, comparing all three to the basis of their information, Duden: die Grammatik. In order to assess how and where these sources converge and diverge, the analysis compares the intended use of each book, followed by the underlying concepts and terms, and then finally the rules for negation. The final two chapters attempt to answer two important questions that arise from comparing these sources. First, do beginner level textbooks prepare students with sufficient declarative grammar knowledge to understand and apply negation rules successfully? An analysis of Kontakte’s approach to teaching grammar, most specifically how to use nicht and kein, seeks to answer the first question. Secondly, could authors use a different approach for explaining this difficult grammar topic? Professor Hardarik Blühdorn’s approach, as presented in his course Negation: Syntax, Prosodie und Semantik at the Universität Mannheim during the Fall semester of 2007, serves as an example of new research. His different approach might help non-native speakers of German learn how to use nicht and kein correctly. The analysis reaches three main conclusions. First of all, the rules differ primarily in the amount of detail used, as well as in the inconsistent use of common terminology across the sources. Secondly, beginner’s level textbooks do not provide students with sufficient information about general grammar or negation to help them transition to using explanations found in intermediate grammar books. In order to understand the rules of nicht and kein, these students must first work through the background material methodically. Finally, intermediate learners could not rely on Professor Blühdorn’s approach, as it focuses on the scope of nicht, not on the correct placement of nicht in order to negate an entire sentence. Appendix B provides a chart comparing the rules found in each source.

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