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Topic: Grammatical Mutterings (Read 20201 times)

Grammatical Mutterings
It's simply a neuter indeterminate pronoun. A construction like "The girl went shopping. It came home with a new hat."*  is quite ordinary. "She came home..." would be ungrammatical in this context.
You are most probably right, and I must be fairly outdated in German grammar. I didn't know about such usages of "es". For me, "Es regnet" was the most representative usage of it. Thanks, anyway.
  • Last Edit: 2013-12-29, 16:02:01 by Frenzie

Re: Re: The Problem with Atheism
Reply #1

That's not necessarily any different from "it".

Except we have 3 genders: er, sie and es.
Der Mann ging einkaufen. Er kam mit einem neuen Hut nach Hause/nachhause.
Die Frau ging einkaufen. Sie kam mit einem neuen Hut nach Hause/nachhause.
Das Mädchen ging einkaufen. Es kam mit einem neuen Hut nach Hause/nachhause.
or more usually because of her gender
Sie kam mit einem neuen Hut nach Hause/nachhause.

But it becomes even more complicated:
The child looks hungry; give it food.
Das Kind scheint Hunger zu haben.
a, b, and c are correct answers.
a. Gib dem Kind etwas zu essen.
b. Gib ihm etwas zu essen. (if it's a boy)
c. Gib ihr etwas zu essen. (if it's a girl)

In case of an undefined subject We use "es"
Es regnet. Es schneit. Es donnert. Es blitzt. Es wird kälter. Es kann noch dicker kommen. Es mag schon sein ...  Es ist vorbei.

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Re: Re: The Problem with Atheism
Reply #2
The grammatical subject is always there, even though the presence may seem hidden. There are languages that don't (always) require a pronoun with the finite verb (I have noticed the term "pro-drop languages" on wikipedia), the grammatical subject is still expressed in the verb.

Consider, for example, "Rains." The equivalent of this qualifies as a full grammatical sentence in pro-drop languages. The position of the subject is empty, but the subject is still expressed by s in "Rains." The s expresses the third person singular. The pronoun in English "It rains." also expresses the same third person singular, so these two elements together in the sentence are actually redundant. English cannot drop this particular redundancy, because the conjugation of the finite verb is minimal in English, but languages with full personal conjugation can afford to drop the redundancy. The resultant sentence is not without a grammatical subject, just the redundancy in expressing it is dropped.

  • Frenzie
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Re: Re: The Problem with Atheism
Reply #3
Except we have 3 genders: er, sie and es.

I'd argue that, for now, English still has those same three genders. It's just that they only show in the referent. In Dutch we have something similar: the difference between masculine and feminine is nowadays made only in the referent. In Netherlandic Dutch this has over time led to almost all "de" pronouns except abstract pronouns becoming masculine, but in Brabantic Dutch (the dominant variety of Belgian Dutch) traditionally feminine words still hold on. That might lead to a Belgian saying e.g. "the dove took her food from the gutter" and I'm like "but how do you know it's a female dove; did you also see her male partner to whom she displayed feminine dove behavior? Doves are really, really hard to tell apart and you can't do it when they're alone." I imagine a Belgian might have the same reaction if I spoke of a dove and his food.

Long story short, German is kind of on the opposite end from the Romance languages. They don't have "it" at all, even though classical Latin did. English hasn't moved quite that far from its Germanic brethren yet. :P

But it becomes even more complicated:
The child looks hungry; give it food.
Das Kind scheint Hunger zu haben.
a, b, and c are correct answers.
a. Gib dem Kind etwas zu essen.
b. Gib ihm etwas zu essen. (if it's a boy)
c. Gib ihr etwas zu essen. (if it's a girl)

What if you don't know? :P

In any case, in Dutch it's perfectly fine like this to me: Dat kind ziet er hongerig uit. Geef het wat te eten. I think it's ungrammatical to say hem or haar even if you know the gender. However, the girl example is different from German the other way around: "Dat meisje ziet er hongerig uit. Geef haar wat te eten." Still, I think that might be acceptable in spoken German?

Re: Re: The Problem with Atheism
Reply #4
"the dove took her food from the gutter" and I'm like "but how do you know it's a female dove;


In German: die Taube - feminine noun, independent of the dove's gender
Diese Taube ist sehr zahm. Sie frisst mir aus der Hand.
In case you know it's a cock pigeon:
der Täuberich - masculine noun
Dieser Täuberich ist sehr zahm. Er frisst mir aus der Hand.
other examples:
das Pferd - neuter noun. You don't know the gender of the horse.
Dieses Pferd ist besonders schön. Es gefällt mir. Usually, "das Pferd gefällt mir".
In case you know it is a male: der Hengst. Er gefällt mir.
In case you know it is a female: die Stute. Sie gefällt mir.
or
die Katze - feminine noun,  independent of the cat's gender = sie
In case you know it is a male: der Kater = er
or
der Hund - masculine noun, independent of the dog's gender = er
In case you know it is a female: die Hündin = sie
In case you know it is a male: der Rüde = er

Quote from: Frenzie
What if you don't know? :P


Then a. will apply. You don't say: Gib es etwas zu essen.

Quote from: Frenzie
"Dat meisje ziet er hongerig uit. Geef haar wat te eten." Still, I think that might be acceptable in spoken German?


Not only acceptable but also correct.
Whilst "das Mädchen is a neuter noun, we refer to the gender of the person which in this case is feminine.
c. Gib ihr etwas zu essen.

Der, die, das
macht für Fremde
wenig Spaß  :)

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Re: Re: The Problem with Atheism
Reply #5
In case you know it is a male: der Hengst. Er gefällt mir.
In case you know it is a female: die Stute. Sie gefällt mir.

As if that many people in our increasingly less agricultural society still know the masculine and feminine names for all the animals. :P Okay, for horses it's hengst en merrie, stallion and... ummm...  mare? In any case, I'm pretty sure horses are in some sort of animal top ten.

Wikipedia has an incomplete list of some masculine and feminine animal names. It's probably to be expected that I wouldn't know those of the gerfalcon, but I've never even heard any of those names for hare (haas). And for some of those, including an ooi (ewe), I might not be able to produce them without any thought even if I would easily understand them.

Anyway, we also have alternative, more generic constructions like vrouwtjeshaas and mannetjeshaas (or hazenvrouwtje and hazenmannetje). For me those are actually the correct words to refer to different-gendered hares.

Incidentally, Germans don't seem to care too much about the difference between a hare and a rabbit. "Ach, was für eine süße Hase," a German girl once said about my pet bunny. One wonders if that's how the easter hare turned into an easter bunny in America.

Re: Re: The Problem with Atheism
Reply #6

Incidentally, Germans don't seem to care too much about the difference between a hare and a rabbit. "Ach, was für eine süße Hase," a German girl once said about my pet bunny.

hare, bunny = der Hase, (diminutive) das Häschen
female hare = die Häsin
rabbit = das Kaninchen
male rabbit = der Rammler

In German there is no Osterkaninchen. It's always "der Osterhase".

The correct spelling:
Ach, was für ein süßer Hase.
Ach, was für ein süßes Häschen.
Ach, was für eine süße Häsin. (barely used)
Ach, was für ein süßes Kaninchen.

As for children growing up in a town it's hard to make the difference between a hare and a rabbit. In cartoons they all look the same :)

I'm afraid we manage to hijack the thread or at least we are doing our best :P

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Re: Re: The Problem with Atheism
Reply #7
Right, sorry. Cases don't come naturally to me.
Ach, was für ein süßer Hase.

She probably said "ein", but I'm not so sure she said süßer. :P (Of course it's hard to say seeing how it was sometime between '05 and '07.)

As for children growing up in a town it's hard to make the difference between a hare and a rabbit. In cartoons they all look the same

Everything about a hare is bigger, especially its ears and legs. But even if they're too far away to see any of that clearly (which they usually are), hares jump around while rabbits run around. You can see which it is even if they're just a tiny dot at the other end of a field. That being said, they can imitate each other. There once was an escaped tame rabbit who tried to join a group of wild hares and it adopted a jumping means of movement in order to fit in. The hares simply jumped over a somewhat wide ditch and left the poor rabbit standing there, unable or too scared to make the jump.

Anyway, it's the paashaas, not the paaskonijn. :P

I'm afraid we manage to hijack the thread or at least we are doing our best

I am trying to compose some kind of finishing notes because that discussion was starting to take up too much of my time with a diminishing benefit.

Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #8

Ach, was für ein süßer Hase.

She probably said "ein", but I'm not so sure she said süßer. :P (Of course it's hard to say seeing how it was sometime between '05 and '07.)


"ein" = (masculine) indefinite article, e.g. "ein süßer Mann" (der Mann)
"ein" = (neuter) indefinite article, e.g. "ein süßes Kind" (das Kind)
"eine" = (always feminine)  indefinite article, e.g. "eine süße Frau" (die Frau)
"süß" being the basic form of the adjective

There is no such combination as "ein süße". This is a mismatch between genders.

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #9
I'm aware of the German case system, even if I've not internalized it to the extent where it comes without thought. Are you aware of West Low German? :D Another related concept is in-between language (English). That is, she may not have been speaking a pure variety of either in an informal context. Or perhaps the case system is on some kind of move closer to Dutch and English among younger Germans in general, similar how to I've been taught "ne ... pas" for French negation while in practice every French person I've ever met only said pas. Okay, that's a bit out there, because I've met plenty of Germans who certainly speak with the case system in full attire. Still, young women are apparently where language evolution starts. :P

Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #10
Okay, that's a bit out there, because I've met plenty of Germans who certainly speak with the case system in full attire.

Those who don't are usually immigrants of the first generation, no matter for how many decades they are living in Germany.
The case system is not something a native has to learn at school. He/she grows up with the language in his/her ears. Even an illiterate will use the case system when speaking. Only thing he/she can't is to read and write. Mismatches of cases or genders will simply hurt his/her ears :)
Local dialects are a different story but not related to mismatches of cases or genders.
Same applies for germanised words. E.g: "Ich war auf einer Party. Da habe ich einen coolen Drink getrunken."

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #11
Local dialects are a different story but not related to mismatches of cases or genders.

Not when local "dialects"* (a language is a dialect with an army and a navy) have a different case system. The German term for tussentaal seems to be Missingsch (actually more detailed in English). Something both Wikipedia articles kind of gloss over is that Missingsch will be an entire continuum from Low German to High German. Note, however, that in today's society this doesn't say much about the speaker's ability to speak standard German. It just means that your German and my Dutch formal and informal registers differ only lexically, while the formal and informal registers of a dialect or tussentaal/Missingsch speaker may well differ syntactically and phonetically as well.

None of this means that the German girl in question didn't use the proper case, because if nothing else it's simply been too long ago. But I can tell you that among those Germans who cross the border to go shopping because Enschede is closer or more pleasant than Osnabrück, it's mostly visually distinguishable immigrants who speak fully standard German in the relatively informal market context. I suspect most try to speak a form of Missingsch as close to their local dialect as they can manage in order to communicate most effectively with the Dutch speakers of Twents. There'll also be a fair bit of code-switching with some Dutch and German words thrown in. The younger generation on both sides of the border is increasingly less fluent in plat/Platt, but its influence is still present.

In conclusion, it's not simple at all.  It's incredibly, terribly messy, no matter what your experience as a High German speaking city dweller might be. :P

* Saxon is a different language than German. Franconian is Dutch, as well as all the German "dialects" bordering the south-east of the Netherlands. Saxon (also deceptively known as Low German) is spoken in the north-east of the Netherlands as well as most of northern Germany. German, as in the language considered standard in the whole of Germany, is from the south of Germany and Austria.

The case system is not something a native has to learn at school. He/she grows up with the language in his/her ears. Even an illiterate will use the case system when speaking. Only thing he/she can't is to read and write. Mismatches of cases or genders will simply hurt his/her ears :)

I'll bet you can think of an occurring change in German that hurts your ears, yet is happening. ;)
  • Last Edit: 2013-12-30, 11:14:27 by Frenzie

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #12
The case system is not something a native has to learn at school. He/she grows up with the language in his/her ears. Even an illiterate will use the case system when speaking. Only thing he/she can't is to read and write.
In case of a live dialect, the native grows up with the dialect in his/her ears. My country is highly literate and small enough so that dialect differences should be non-existent, yet occasionally I meet people who are grossly attached to their dialect and whose place of origin can thus be placed. (Actually, I am also grossly attached to my home dialect myself, but this only means some slight phonetic shift; otherwise the dialect of my home area matches the standard language very closely.)

A dialect is not too different from a closely related language. All aspects of the language may differ with a different dialect, vocabulary, phonology, morphology, syntax. I'm sure this includes the German case system, which has only minimal distinctive significance anyway. The only noun inflection suffixes are -(e)s, -er, -e, -en, and -em, which are used so as to keep the grammatical genders apart rather than the cases proper. The case and gender system in Germanic languages are evidently prone to modification even when comparing as close languages as Dutch and German (note the table) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_language#Genders_and_cases I would expect to see similar dialectal variation within German itself, because it covers a huge area in several countries.

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #13
In case of a live dialect, the native grows up with the dialect in his/her ears. My country is highly literate and small enough so that dialect differences should be non-existent, yet occasionally I meet people who are grossly attached to their dialect and whose place of origin can thus be placed.

The Netherlands and Belgium are said to have "een ander dialect elke tien minuten" (another dialect every ten minutes). That's a bit of an exaggeration because of dialect continua, but it does seem as if dialects in larger countries like Germany are more spread out. Perhaps it's simply a matter of population density: especially Flanders, Brabant, and Holland have been some of the most densely populated areas of Europe for almost a millennium.

I should add a note about Belgium. The Netherlands had a proper standard language to compete with the likes of French, English, and German since the early 17th century at the latest. However, in Belgium (Spanish/Austrian Netherlands) French was the prestigious standard language while the Dutch dialects were undervalued. As such Belgian-Dutch dialects are still very much alive--much more so than the perishing Netherlandic-Dutch dialects which have been in sharp decline since the 19th century at the latest. They're not dead yet because there were never any French-style discriminatory language policies, but they're hardly thriving either.

Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #14
I'm pretty sure horses are in some sort of animal top ten.

Men's best friends...
1. dogs
2. horses
3. women

Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #15

My country is highly literate and small enough so that dialect differences should be non-existent, ...

Dialect differences in Germany can be extreme, to a point where a Saxon won't understand a Bavarian or vice versa :D

Speaking of dialects, best wishes from Bavaria :)

Ois Guade zuam nein Jahr!

BTW,
Frenzie could exercise his Bavarian with the online translater: http://www.respekt-empire.de/Translator/?page=translateEngine
It's not perfect but gives you an idea at least ;)

Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #16

Men's best friends...

Hmm, did you really mean friends or pets  ???

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #17
Dialect differences in Germany can be extreme, to a point where a Saxon won't understand a Bavarian or vice versa

Like I said, Saxon, Franconian, and German are three different languages from a linguistic standpoint.

I'm aware that the Bavarian language is extremely odd. In Nürnberg there was supposed to be a Straßenbahn to the Reichsparteitagsgelände, but it didn't seem to be among the trams. I asked some transit employee where to find Straßenbahn 9 (or whatever; that's just what I got from the current website), and he pointed to a bunch of buses while saying something like "over there, of course." How a bus can "of course" be a tram is a secret that eludes me to this day. I'm pretty sure there were no signs about any trams being broken at the tram stop...

Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #18
How a bus can "of course" be a tram is a secret that eludes me to this day.

You have spoken to an idiot. That's it :)
BTW, here in the south (and in Austria) we also say (die) Tram.

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #19

Dialect differences in Germany can be extreme, to a point where a Saxon won't understand a Bavarian or vice versa

Like I said, Saxon, Franconian, and German are three different languages from a linguistic standpoint.
From the linguistic standpoint, it's well understood that dialect and language form a continuum. Linguistically, undisputed  languages belong to different families. Within language families, it's mostly politics that decides, not linguistics. A professor at the university brought an example concerning Indo-European languages: Lithuanian and Russian are separated to different groups (Baltic and Slavic respectively) while Icelandic and English which have significantly more grammatical differences belong to the same group (Germanic).

The Scandinavian languages are rather clearly a political phenomenon. Their mutual intelligibility is so fluent that they could be considered dialects. Saxon, Franconian, and (High) German have a common present. Politically they have a less common past, which makes them differ. It's a political choice if you prefer the point of view of the present or of the past. Geolinguistically they have been closely related all along.

Off-topic: It's apt that this thread split off one of the religion threads where I was in the business of defining God. According to one tenet, the relationship of the universe and God is like that of a word and its meaning. Indicative, not causal.

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #20
Ersi, you're right about "continuum" but not right about the families - which are trees not clumps. Trees means that you cannot juxtapose two languages for that purpose isolately - because they are the most probably just the current-day states (slices) of themselves taken diachronically - when in time, they intersect in their certain ancestor (if one).
Apart from the "smooth evolution" (which in the exact sense does not happen - ever), there are such processes as divergence (to the trees in the upper paragraph) and convergence. The latter means that UTTERLY different languages may (and do) produce let's call them hybrids. Although the taxonomy takes into account some deemed "core" properties of them to subdivide them into groups etc. For example, while English had a huge impact by those days' French, it still counts as Germanic - as its "grammatical core" wasn't warped by that French (or wasn't significantly).

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #21

Ersi, you're right about "continuum" but not right about the families - which are trees not clumps. Trees means that you cannot juxtapose two languages for that purpose isolately - because they are the most probably just the current-day states (slices) of themselves taken diachronically - when in time, they intersect in their certain ancestor (if one).
I studied linguistics at the university and one of the professors was fairly straightforward: "We call them language/family trees but they aren't really. They are more like shrubs or bushes."

Your remarks on divergence and convergence totally apply. Also assimilation should be an instantly understandable term. Other related terms are substratum and superstratum in language contact theory.

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #22
You have spoken to an idiot. That's it  :)
BTW, here in the south (and in Austria) we also say (die) Tram.

Haha, perhaps. I also had some issues asking for Sprudelwasser at this one restaurant. I wasn't then aware that the term in the south was Tafelwasser, but that hardly seems like a reason to immediately start speaking English to me.

"Ein Sprudelwasser bitte."
"Do you mean table water?"

From the linguistic standpoint, it's well understood that dialect and language form a continuum.

Whether you call it a "language" or a "group of dialects significantly more closely related than others" is fairly irrelevant to the point that you can divide the Germanic dialect continuum into three primary groups. I called e.g. Franconian a language rather than a group of languages and dialects because I was thinking more about 1500 odd years ago, but I should've made that more explicit. From around the 5th century we start to speak of Old Dutch, Old English, and Old German, so with Franconian I'm talking about the language of the Franks who settled these parts around the 3rd century.

Also, some parts of the dialect continuum might be more akin to a "taalbond," an area of linguistic convergence. A clearer example of this phenomenon can be found in south-west Flanders where Dutch has picked up many characteristics of French, and in the French dialects on the other side of the language border which were strongly influenced by Franconian and later Dutch. As such there used to be a "dialect continuum" between French and Dutch, today much less so primarily due to French language policies, yet French and Dutch are grammatically and phonetically so unrelated that this would seem like a pretty silly proposition. But if you have two somewhat related languages that happen to eventually border each other due to the Völkerwanderung, maybe a "fake" dialect continuum would be indistinguishable from the real thing.

Their mutual intelligibility is so fluent that they could be considered dialects. Saxon, Franconian, and (High) German have a common present.

That's what the Nazis said. :P

If you want to see politics truly gone crazy, consider the Germanic "Italian dialects" in the north-east of Italy.

@Josh Thanks.

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #23
Other related terms are substratum and superstratum in language contact theory.

Dutch differs primarily from the East Franconian and other Germanic varieties due to the strong Ingvaeonic substratum. I've heard it suggested that the High German consonant swift is actually a Romance language substratum.

The effects of substrata can be very strong. Dutch is Franconian with a strong Ingvaeonic substratum and English is a variety of Saxon with a strong Ingvaeonic substratum, but that probably makes them more similar to each other than to other varieties of Franconian and Saxon. (Admittedly the effect was destroyed a bit thanks to William the Conqueror, but Dutch is still the language most closely related to English by various measures.)

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Re: Grammatical Mutterings
Reply #24
On a semi-related note, on a Dutch linguistic site I saw a South-African lamenting that if the Dutch hadn't disavowed Afrikaans on account of apartheid, Dutch could now be a strong medium-large international language with close to 50 million speakers instead of a medium-small language with 23-25 million speakers. Nevertheless, Dutch is an official language in the Union of South American Nations, and English is not. Suck on that, English. :P