pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

At least twice in recent days, I’ve seen people using “in dem” and “indem” incorrectly (I think one each of the two possible directions of mix-up).

It should be simple, really: the two-word one is the more literal “in which”; the one-word one is the fossilised “by” indicating the means:

“Er öffnete den Kofferraum, in dem er das Schloss transportiert hatte.”

“Er öffnete den Kofferraum, indem er das Schloss knackte.”

Annoying, especially because I hadn’t seen this particularly misuse before, and since the two are used rather differently syntactically, my mind was completely garden-pathed.

(By comparison, I think I’m less confused by people using the wrong spelling from the set “they’re, their, there”, because I’ve seen those errors too often.)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

Eben in meinem Spamordner als Betreffszeile entdeckt: „Warum sind Sie nicht beantworten meine E-Mail?”

Meine spontane Reaktion: „Weil du nix können sprechen deutsch.”

(Meine zweite Reaktion: *ungelesen lösch*)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

The other day, I finally got around to taking all the words I had jotted into the margin of my notebook during the week-long Esperanto course in March and look them up the dictionary and make Anki flashcards out of them.

Two of the words I got that way were ebeno and ebenaĵo.

They were defined in my eo–de dictionary as something like “(Geometrie, Physik) Ebene” and “Ebene (konkret; besonders in der Geografie)”, respectively.

And yesterday morning, I had the insight that while, in English, both of those words are 𐑐𐑤𐑱𐑯 in the Shaw alphabet, 𐐹𐑊𐐩𐑌 in the Deseret alphabet, /plɛɪn/* in IPA, and presumably Gregg shorthand outline p-l-a-n in Gregg shorthand, the first sense is spelled plane while the second is spelled plain.

Funny how both of those English words correspond to the same German one; I don’t think I’ve ever connected them. Presumably they both come from Latin but one of them took the scenic route through France.


* (or however you choose to notate English phonemes; perhaps you would prefer /pleɪn/.)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

At the moment, there are election posters in Hamburg with the slogan, “Reicht das Erzählte, oder zählt das Erreichte?”

I thought that a rather clever turn of words. (And I’m sure it wasn’t the candidate pictured who came up with it, though I had never heard it before.)

For those who don’t speak German, the meaning is, “Is what has been told enough, or does what has been achieved count?”, or perhaps a bit more fluently, “Are you going to be satisfied with what other people have told you they wanted to do, or are you going to measure people by what they have actually achieved?”.

The punchy bit is in the parallelism of the nouns and verbs: reichen “to be enough, be sufficient” vs. erreichen “to achieve” on the one hand and zählen “to count” vs. erzählen “to tell [e.g. a story]” on the other hand.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

So apparently Russian хлеб khleb “bread” is a loanword from Germanic, from a the ancestor of English loaf and German Laib.

I don’t think I would connected those three words off-hand. (Even though the English and German words at least mean the same thing! Perhaps because the word Laib is fairly rare in my speech; I usually talk about ein Brot rather than ein Laib Brot.)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

John Wells reports “some assorted nuggets of interest” from the ICPHs XVII (the 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences) in Hong Kong.

One of them is particularly interesting for me as a native speaker of German, and perhaps for those of you who speak German, too:

Klaus Kohler [sic] [demonstrated] among other things that German listeners needed no more than the palatalization of a single segment n to hear kann Ihnen rather than just kann, deeply buried in the middle of a rapidly spoken colloquial sentence.

And I tried it myself and I think I can nearly reproduce that, at least for the speaking bit (harder to test the comprehension bit): kann is [kʰan] while kann Ihnen is [kʰanʲː]. (Not quite [kʰaɲː], I don’t think.) I can imagine that in rapid speech, the final length would get lost, leaving only the palatalisation.

...and here I thought German had no palatalisation! (True, it's phonetic only, not phonemic, but still: very interesting. To me, at least :D)

It also provides a lovely synchronic example of how segments can get lost while their ghost remains in the effect they have on the surrounding segments: similar thing occur in all sorts of areas such as umlaut, tone, or Greenlandic uvularisation. And also how this can cause phoneme splits if segments get lost, where the previously allophonic distinction (caused by the presence of the affecting segment) becomes phonemic when the segment drops entirely (as with Greenlandic vowels, where three phonemic vowels [six, if you count vowel length] split into six [twelve], once the uvular consonant got assimilated completely to a following consonant, forming a non-uvular geminate, while the vowel remained uvularised).

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I’m watching a film where occasionally, people are subtitled: typically because they speak with a strong accent (whether local speech or foreign accent), because of ambient noise, or because the sound quality is otherwise low.

Usually, of course, the subtitles represent what the people are saying, but occasionally, things are changed: especially with foreigners, grammar is corrected and the language is generally “cleaned up” a bit.

But today, a segment made me laugh: subtitles came on at one point because of sudden background noise (a train going past in the distance or something), but I could still make out the man’s words. So at one point he said, about two young women who had asked for a drink of water and whom he had suspected of trying to break into his neighbour’s house, “Und dann hab’ ich gesagt, die sollen sich verpissen, und, trinken, da hätten wir genug Wasserpfützen. So habe ich das also wortwörtlich formuliert.”… which, in the subtitles, turned into “Dann habe ich sie weggeschickt.”

Heh :)


Hm, and a bit later, one of the two policemen who had been talking with the witness earlier turned to the camera and commented:

Es gibt eine Volksgruppe, da sind auch die jungen Frauen sehr aktiv. Und die sehen nicht aus, wie man sich das so gemeinhin vorstellt – mit langen schwarzen Haaren und goldenen Ohrringen und langem Rock – sondern die sind ganz modisch gekleidet, wie Sie und jede andere Dame, und beim ersten Hinsehen fallen die nicht auf.

Aber das ist eine Volksgruppe, die tagsüber derartige Objekte angeht.

There’s an ethnic group where young women are already very active. And they don’t look the way people usually think—with long black hair and golden earrings and long skirts—; rather, they’re dressed very fashionably, just like you or any other woman, and they don’t look out of the ordinary at the first glance.

But that’s an ethnic group who approach buildings like these (? might also mean “who do things like these”) during the day.

He didn’t name any names, but I think most viewers will know what he likely referred to (that Wikipedia article has no interwiki links but this would be the English one, I’d say).

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

In der Tagesschau war neulich von der Büste der Nofretete die Rede; der Sprecher sprach sie wie „büßte“ aus.

Ich hätte jetzt „Büsste“ getipt (auf „wüsste“) reimend. Ist das wieder ein Fall, wo mein persönlicher Dialekt sich nicht mit Hochdeutsch deckt (wie z.B. in „Erde“)?

Aber ein Blick in den Duden sagt mir, das Wort sei „Bụ̈|ste“ und mitnichten „Bü̱|ste“. Soviel also dazu.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s “halten: es hielt; tragen: er trug; leiden: er litt” but “halten: es beinhaltete; beantragen: er beantragte; bemitleiden: er bemitleidete” (and not “*beinhielt, *beantrug, *bemitlitt”), Dr Bopp has the answer.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

Im Blog „Fragen Sie Dr. Bopp“ (zu Themen der deutschen Sprache) war gestern ein Eintrag über Groß- und Kleinschreibung von Adjektiven.

Und ich muss sagen, nach der Lektüre dieses Artikels fand ich die Regel ziemlich kompliziert und wünschte, man würde zur gemäßigten Kleinschreibung übergehen. (So, wie sie in jeder anderen Sprache der Welt verwendet wird, bis auf Luxemburgisch, Niederdeutsch und teilweise Nordfriesisch.)

Zwar müsste man sich dann im Einzelfall immer noch Gedanken machen, ob ein Wort nun als Name oder als generisches Wort verwendet wird, aber tendenziell führt das doch sicher zu weniger Problemen als dieses Adjektiv-Großschreibe-Geraffel. (Hoffe ich zumindest mal.)

Oder man schafft die Großschreibung gleich ganz und komplett ab; die Georgier haben's ja auch hinbekommen. Sätze wie „Er hat Liebe genossen“ und „Er hat liebe Genossen“ kommen ja nun wirklich nicht so häufig vor.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I was writing up something for work and wanted to say, “the script copies table A to B but doesn’t touch that table again afterwards”, and said, “das Skript kopiert Tabelle A in Tabelle B, fässt die Tabelle hinterher aber nicht mehr an.”

Outlook, in which I was writing the message, underlined “fässt”, which made me wonder. “Ich fasse dich an, du fässt mich an, er fässt die Tabelle an”, right? Does it want three s’es, perhaps?

So I look it up in canoo.net, and lo and behold, it’s “fasst”—just like the second person plural form (“ihr fasst es an”).

Now why would I think that it’s “er fässt es an”? Talking with co-workers, one theory is that I was influenced by “lassen: ich lasse, du lässt, er lässt”.

So I guess that “er fässt” is either just plain wrong (but where’d I get it from, then?), or at least a non-standard regionalism (like the imperative “ess!” that my wife uses, in place of standard “iss!”; I used to think that was an idiosyncrasy of hers, but I’ve since heard that it’s not uncommon in northern Germany).

Huh. Always a bit disappointing when I discover that a part of my idiolect which I thought was standard is not, in fact, also part of the standard. (As a counter-example, I know that my pronunciation of final -g as /x/ is a northernism or that my pronunciation of long “ä” exactly like long “e” is not the prestige pronunciation; those are fairly obvious ones.)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

Als wir bei Ireens und Emilys Geburtstag waren, hat Ireen einen Witz erzählt, den ich so genial fand, dass ich ihn hier aufschreiben wollte.

Was lebt am Strand und spricht undeutlich?

Ein Seestern mit Sprachfehler? Ein Krebs mit Essen im Mund? )

Herrlich!

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

While I was leafing through my German dictionary looking for a definition, I came across the lemma "ei".

It listed not only the meaning I was familiar with (an interjection of surprise, as in "Ei, wo kommst du denn her?" or "Ei, ei, was seh ich da [= Œuf œuf, que lac-je là]?"), but also another one: "ei(, ei) machen", to caress or stroke, used to children, or "ei", the sound one makes when doing so.

I knew that phrase but had never seen it written, and had always assumed that it would be written "ai machen"—presumably based on 愛 "love", which is "ai" in Romanised Japanese and "ài" in Pinyin-Romanised (Mandarin) Chinese. (And FWIW, the phrase is simply "ei machen" for me; the doubled "ei, ei machen" sounds odd to my ears.)

So it's not "ai", then, is it? Huh. Oh well :)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

Apparently, it's allowed to omit the apostrophe when the "e" in "es" is omitted: "Mir gehts gut. Er macht sichs gemütlich. Nimms nicht so ernst."

Huh. I would've thought the apostrophe was obligatory there, but quoth Duden (Richtiges und gutes Deutsch, s.v. "Apostroph"):

Der Apostroph steht häufig, wenn Buchstaben am Anfang eines Wortes ausgelassen werden und das Wort dadurch schwer lesbar oder missverständlich ist. [...]

Man kann ohne Apostroph schreiben, wenn die Kurzform des Prononems es mit dem vorangehende Wort (Verb, Pronomen, Konjunktion) verschmilzt. iese Verbindungen sind im Allgemeinen nicht schwer lesbar. Der Wortzwischenraum wird in diesen Fällen nicht gesetzt.

Mir geht’s / gehts gut. Er macht sich’s / sichs gemütlich. Nimm’s / Nimms nicht so ernst.

Huh.

Oh, and Duden also says that according to the new orthography, no apostrophe need be used when a final -e in certain verb forms is dropped:

Ich find das schön. Ich lass es bleiben. Das hab ich nicht getan. Küss die Hand! Hab ich nur deine Liebe!

And the apostrophe is explicitly not to be used in general ("in der Regel") with common short-form imperatives ("allgemein üblichen verkürzten Imperativformen (Befehlsformen)"):

[...] bleib!, geh!, trink!, lass!, leg den Mantal ab!, führ den Hund aus!

I wasn't sure about the apostrophe rules there, so that was interesting to know.

But the "es" rule? That's one I never would have guessed. At least apostrophe-dropping is optional there, rather than mandatory.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I heard from a Swiss a sentence along the lines of "Ich bin froh, hab' ich ein Auto" where I would have said (if I understood her correctly from context) "Ich bin froh, dass ich ein Auto habe". ("I'm glad I have a car.")

It made me think about similar constructions; I would say, for example, "Ich wäre froh, hätte ich ein Auto" alongside "Ich wäre froh, wenn ich ein Auto hätte" but not *"Wäre ich froh, hätte ich ein Auto" yet "Wäre ich froh, wenn ich ein Auto hätte". (Actually, the asterisked sentence is fine but would mean something else: not "I'd be happy if I had a car" but "If I were happy, I'd have a car".)

But I think that sort of thing only works in the conditional for me. Interesting to see different constructions in different regional varieties of German.

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Philip Newton

June 2015

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