Date Tags ling

This morning I tried to look up the next date for trash collection in my neighborhood. When I found the information on the relevant site, something still struck me as funny about the expression I saw on my screen: Restmüll (14 tägliche Abfuhr). Somehow I’d expected to find 14-tägige Abfuhr rather than what I did in fact find. So then I wondered whether my expectation was really unreasonable or not.

If you look at täglich ‘daily’ in the DEWAC corpus, it’s clear that it’s about frequency. Importantly, täglich usually occurs without a prior count noun:

(1) Bereits der tägliche Genuss von einem Liter Milch ergibt ca. die 12-fache PCDD/F Aufahme jener durch die Atmung. ~ “The daily ingestion of a liter of milk results in a PCDD/F intake about 12 times as large as that by respiration”
When the specific word form tägig occurs as a single word with white space around, it is in all cases in the DEWAC an orthographic error; the form is always preceded by a cardinal number.
(2) Ein Hamburger Züchter entsorgt 14 tägig seine Tauben am Straubinger Rastplatz. ~ ‘A Hamburg breeder disposes of his doves bi-weekly at a Straubing [highway] rest area.’
Of course, the lemma tägig has other forms. (Ignoring for now that example (2) might concern an adverb rather than an adjective.) However, at least in my copy of the DEWAC, these are lemmatized separately. E.g. below the lemma is tägige. The TreeTagger, which was used to lemmatize the data, seems not to have been able to map tägige to a lemma tägig.
(3) Wir haben für die 14 tägige Reise ( 4 Erwachsene und 2 Kinder ) insgesamt 5015 , - Euro bezahlt ~ ‘We paid a total of 5015 Euros (4 adults and 2 children) for the 14-day trip’.
The example above is actually typical for the majority of uses of tägig: it’s about durations and not rhythms. At least to my mind, tägig cannot be replaced by täglich in the travel context above with the same meaning preserved (*14 tägliche Reise). Note that this also applies to wöchig and monatig: they’re about duration and need a cardinal number with them. Further note: come to think of it, with some imagination I could interpret the phrase 14-tägige Abfuhr in the trash context as saying that my trash will be hauled away for 14 days and then returned to me ;-)

I did a bunch of Google searches (shown below) to find out which way of talking was more common for my bi-weekyl trash removal example. (Here comes a guilty nod to Adam Kilgarriff’s Googleology is bad science.)

  • NB: I did these queries all within quotes, .e.g “14-tägige Abfuhr”.


  • 14-tägige Abfuhr 16,400
  • 14-tägliche Abfuhr 13,200
  • vierzehntägliche Abfuhr 66
  • vierzehntägige Abfuhr 154
  • zweiwöchentliche Abfuhr 465
  • zweiwöchige Abfuhr 1660
  • 2-wöchige Abfuhr 506
  • 2-wöchentliche Abfuhr 32,100
  • halbmonatliche Abfuhr 9
  • halbmonatige Abfuhr 0
  • wöchentliche Abfuhr 4250
  • vierwöchentliche Abfuhr 599
  • vierwöchige Abfuhr 217
  • 4-wöchentliche Abfuhr 41,200
  • 4-wöchige Abfuhr 2,980
  • monatliche Abfuhr 682
(Google also gives results for monatige Abfuhr and wöchige Abfuhr but these are really cases where it has “corrected” the query for me and what is returned are cases of “4-wöchig” etc.)

What the numbers show is that the uses for the -ig and -lich forms are only close for the biweekly case, when speakers choose to count in days rather in weeks. One intuition is that the uses of the duration-construction in which tägig/wöchig/monatig normally occur seem to interfere because they’re generally much more common than the uses of the frequency construction with a cardinal number, which is very marked. Here some numbers from the DEWAC:

  • 4-monatig. 69
  • 4-monatlich 0
  • 5-monatig. 42
  • 5-monatlich 0
  • 4-wöchig. 252
  • 4-wöchentlich. 16
  • 4-tägig. 136
  • 4-täglich. 0
  • 7-tägig. 160
  • 7-täglich. 0
  • 2-tägig. 282
  • 2-täglich. 2
  • 2-stündig. 685
  • 2-stündlich 6
However, once we abstract over the specific numbers, it seems that the pattern of greater frequency of cardinal number + ig-adjective also solidly holds for wöchig and monatig (see folllowing DEWAC numbers).
  • [0-9]+-tägig.“; 4222
  • [0-9]+-täglich.“; 296
  • [0-9]+-wöchig.“; 1423
  • [0-9]+-wöchentlich.“; 41
  • [0-9]+-monatig..“; 2184
  • [0-9]+-monatlich..*”; 32
However, with wöchig and monatig, in the trash collection case, the -ig forms still only make up a minority of the cases.

Intermediate conclusion: it seems that from a semantic point of view, 14-tägliche Abfuhr is correct: it fits the paradigm for how people talk about frequency with days and months and years. But from the point of view of which kind of forms (lich vs. ig) goes better with a preceding cardinal number, the duration construction seems to attract attention and speakers use its form even when they aim for the frequency construction’s meaning. At least I do: to me the -ig version (14-tägige Abfuhr) just sounds so much better than the -lich version (14-tägliche Abfuhr). The unsolved piece of the puzzle is why this interference doesn’t seem to happen as much with 2/4-wöchige Abfuhr .