In a first phase, an overview will be given of the various senses in which the term "neutralization" has been used in 20th-century linguistics. At the same time, attention will be paid to the relation between the notion "neutralization" and other notions such as syncretism, metaphor, idiomatic norm reference, neutrality, etc. Also the relation "neutralization"-"markedness" will be discussed. In a second phase, lexical and grammatical neutralization will be empirically tested in German. Concrete examples will be taken from COSMAS II.