Andreas Blank

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Andreas Blank (1961 April 26, Lahr, Germany, – 2001 January 20, Kirchhain near Marburg, Germany) was a German Romance linguist who is best known for his contributions to cognitive and diachronic lexical semantics.


Blank studied Romance philology and history in Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany), completing his final exam (Staatsexamen) and MA (1986). 1987-1990 he was a research assistant at the University of Freiburg, where he obtained his doctorate (1990). 1991-1997 he was a research fellow at the Freie Universität Berlin, where he earned his habilitation (1996). From 1998 until his death he was full professor of Romance linguistics at the University of Marburg (Germany).


Blank’s early work shows a rather literary orientation, albeit under the influence of the linguistic theorizing at the Collaborative Research Center 321 in Freiburg on orality and literacy. This orientation is reflected in his 1991 dissertation on the literarization of orality in the work of the French authors Céline and Queneau, which was received very favorably not only by linguists, but by literary scholars as well.

From 1991 Blank definitively devoted himself to linguistic research, where he focused on lexical change, bringing its investigation to a whole new level by resorting to cognitive semantic approaches. Blank’s magnum opus is his professorial dissertation (Habilitationsschrift) published as Blank 1997a. It stands out from the cognitive mainstream, first, through a critical discussion of earlier theoreticians, especially Ullmann, and of the European structural semantics. Moreover, Blank explicitly draws on the fundamental association relations of similarity, contrast and contiguity, known since Aristotle, whose gestalt-theoretical interpretation is the starting point for his re-examination, in a rigorous and original fashion, of the entire field of semantic change: common processes like metaphor, metonymy, generalization and specialization, previously insufficiently described processes like ellipsis, folk etymology, strengthening and weakening, as well as formerly neglected types like antiphrasis, autoantonymy and cohyponymic transfer (and the well-justified nonexistence of amelioration and pejoration). This is supplemented with innovative considerations of the motives of semantic change (cf. also Blank 1999) and the relationship between the processes of semantic change and semantic types of polysemy (cf. also Blank 2003a).

Starting from his theoretical concepts developed in the domain of semantic change, Blank extended his considerations regarding lexical change altogether in several successive directions: borrowing (Blank 1995), phraseology (Blank 1996), and word formation (Blank 1997b, 2004). These threads are ultimately tied together in the idea of a comprehensive cognitive diachronic onomasiology (Blank 2003b). The introduction to Romance lexical semantics (Blank 2001), a concise summary of many of these thoughts, has become a major success with a whole generation of students.



  • (1991): Literarisierung von Mündlichkeit. Louis-Ferdinand Céline und Raymond Queneau, Tübingen.
  • (1995): “Lexikalische Entlehnung – Sprachwandel – Sprachvergleich. Beispiele aus dem Computer-Wortschatz”, in: Chr. Schmitt/W. Schweickard, eds., Die romanischen Sprachen im Vergleich, Bonn, 38–69.
  • (1996): “Tyson est aux anges – Zur Semantik französischer Funktionsverbgefüge”, ZFSL 106, 113–130.
  • (1997a): Prinzipien des lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen, Tübingen.
  • (1997b): “Outlines of a cognitive approach to word-formation”, Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Linguists, Oxford, paper No. 0239.
  • (1999): “Why do new meanings occur? A cognitive typology of the motivations for lexical semantic change”, in: A. Blank/P. Koch, eds., Historical Semantics and Cognition, Berlin/New York, 60-89.
  • (2001): Einführung in die lexikalische Semantik für Romanisten. Tübingen.
  • (2003a): “Polysemy in the lexicon”, in: B. Nerlich/Z. Todd/V. Herman/D. D. Clarke, eds., Polysemy. Flexible Patterns of Meaning in Mind and Language, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 267-293.
  • (2003b): “Words and concepts in time: towards diachronic cognitive onomasiology”, in: R. Eckardt/K. v. Heusinger/Chr. Schwarze, eds., Words in Time. Diachronic Semantics, Berlin/New York, 37-65.
  • (2004): “Cambio semantico e formazione delle parole”, in: M. Grossmann/F. Rainer, eds., La formazione delle parole in italiano, Tübingen, 23-30.]


Koch, Peter. (2003): “Andreas Blank”, in: Romanische Forschungen 115, 484-488.


Originally contributed by Peter Koch.