English manual for the Bobby Schenk Yacht module, anyone?



Anyone got this?

I have a German version, but I don't read German any better than Swahili...


Was ist das?


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Was ist das?

Ça c'est quoi?

http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/awfgrmlg.html

a real masterpice :-)


this is hilarious! When he comes to the point of long german words, here is one my father once told is the longest he saw once

Donaudampschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitanskajuetentuer.
(the door at the cabin of the captain of the company of the steam boats on the Danube, quite simple actually...)

Or something to that extent. The first part of the word is actually the legal name of a company (Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft). And, that word carries another of those exceptions as it should have 3 'f' in the middle (Schiff has 2 f's and when paired with Schiff-Fahrt, a quite normal word, you would have 3 f's). However, there are only 3 f's if they are between a vowel and consonant, as in 'Sauerstoffflasche' (oxygen tank) and as far as I know that makes german the only language with tripple letters in a word...

Not sure if the paper her read it in wanted to make a joke or he read it in some 'Amtsblatt' (goverment memo). It was quite amusing nevertheless.


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as far as I know that makes german the only language with tripple letters in a word...

Not quite as I'm sure her countessship would agree...

- Pauli


nice. only concession one could think of is that oxygen tank is a slightly more modern and more used word than countessship...

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Donaudampschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitanskajuetentuer.
(the door at the cabin of the captain of the company of the steam boats on the Danube)


I can make it even longer... ;-)

Donaudampschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitanskajuetentuerschluessel

(the key of the door at the...)

or

Donaudampschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitanskajuetentuerschluesselanhaenger

(the key ring of the door at the...)

Just imagine how many points you can get for this word at Scabble ...

Christoph


Nice demonstration so far of the dangers of copy and paste. Please take Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänskajütentürschlüsselanhänger instead - or Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenskajuetentuerschluesselanhaenger for the poor who can't read umlauts ;)

yes, I'm well aware of the possible extensions, but I think my dad had actually seen that one used...

It's amazing how consistently Twain delivers, even after so many years. He stands apart.

I vividly remember, working at Boeing on the NATO/European version of AWACS (that 707/KC-135 with the radar mushroom on top). I heard one of the German contractor-engineers in Seattle on the phone with his counterpart somewhere in Germany, working over a translation of the maintenance documentation. They were talking over certain difficult phrases found therein, and constructing words on the spot to adequately convey (we can only hope) the original American/English intent. What a marvelous language it must be -- especially for an engineer!

The longest German word I ever heard was Reichseisenbahngleisenknotenpunkthinundhersteller. (Obviously a joke word!) Any German speakers here familiar with that one? :-)


Very nice but never seen before. Just a minor correction: it should read Reichseisenbahngleisknotenpunkthinundhersteller.

IMO the longest German words really used (not meant to be joke words) are found in laws. Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (Federal law for the promotion of studies) is one of them, Baumaschinenmeisterprüfungsverornung ((approximately: ) regulations for the approbation of persons being competent in construction vehicles) another one. Presumably caused by the fact lawyers and attorneys must use a very elaborated code.

Edited: 4 Nov 2010, 1:56 a.m.

Pure Mark Twain.

Ángel --

Thank you for the link to a work by Twain.

The complex grammatical rules of "High German" (and other dialects, I'm sure) have changed little if any since the late 19th Century. Verbs at the end of sentences, separable verbs, nonsensical noun genders, adjective endings that add little if any meaning -- it's all still there.

I would hope that internationalism and modernity has helped to discourage convoluted sentences, and long compound words where concise international words are available.

I've heard that Russian has seven grammatical cases, and that English was more complicated until intermixing of peoples (Norman invasion of 1066?) resulted in simplification.

-- KS


Edited: 28 Oct 2010, 11:39 p.m.


Russian has six cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental and prepositional assuming I've remembered correctly a subject I last studied almost thirty years ago :-)

- Pauli

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The complex grammatical rules of "High German" (and other dialects, I'm sure) have changed little if any since the late 19th Century. Verbs at the end of sentences, separable verbs, nonsensical noun genders, adjective endings that add little if any meaning -- it's all still there.

I would hope that internationalism and modernity has helped to discourage convoluted sentences, and long compound words where concise international words are available.

(emphases added)

I hate to tell you, but IMHO these three sentences are a textbook example for the attidude which made the US of A the friend of all peoples (and the British Empire before etc.). FYI, a Chinese may use almost all of your statements for judging the "English dialects". China has its colonies as well, but that's another story.

HTH

Edited: 29 Oct 2010, 9:38 a.m.


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...the attitude which made the US of A the friend of all peoples...

Did you mean the same US of A whose "attitude" helped free Europe of German domination... twice?

Thanks for asking. The people of this US of A did have my greatest respect - though I was far from being born then. Seems to me, however, the world has changed a bit in 65 years as it did before and keeps doing. So e.g. some statements of Mark Twain may have been appropriate or just marketable in 1895 - like many other old texts and opinions looking strange today at least. Of course you are free to consider my remark about a specific other posting or drop it d:-)

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Did you mean the same US of A whose "attitude" helped free Europe of German domination... twice?

Not to mention the occasional financial market crash... ;-)

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I hate to tell you, but IMHO these three sentences are a textbook example for the attidude which made the US of A the friend of all peoples (and the British Empire before etc.).

Hmm? I meant only objectively-verifiable assessments of the German language, not some "more enlightened than others" pronouncement. Everything Samuel Clemens (Twain) wrote in 1880 rings just as true today.

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FYI, a Chinese may use almost all of your statements for judging the "English dialects".

I would not concur with that:

Modern English makes do just fine without article genders or adjective endings. Verbs -- none of which is a separable word -- tend to be close to their subject nouns, with perhaps a prepositional phrase or adverb slipped in between. Both subject noun and verb usually appear near the front of well-written sentences.

Moreover, common nouns need not be capitalized, and pluralization is usually accomplished by adding an "s" (but plenty of exceptions to that).

A traditional typing exercise in English that uses every letter of its 26-letter alphabet at least once is the following:

    "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs."

Let's write that in simplified German, using English-like grammatical rules:

    "Das rasch braun fuchs sprung über das faul hunde."

Na, ist das nicht ebenso verständlich als richtige deutsch? (Now, isn't that just as understandable as proper German?")

:-D

I'd also believe that modernity, with its far-reaching instant media, has eliminated most true dialects of both English and German. Sure, differences in manner of speech, pronunciation, spelling, slang, and certain nouns exist between different regions and countries with a common tongue. However, I'd say that commonality within both languages is the rule, not the exception.

The faster pace of modern life tends to reward a direct, get-to-the-point approach to writing, instead of the obfuscation seen in Clemens' examples from novels of the era.

I will certainly concede this: The 'adaptability' of the English language has rendered any rules of spelling and pronunciation rather unreliable.

-- KS


Edited: 30 Oct 2010, 5:28 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


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I hate to tell you, but IMHO these three sentences are a textbook example for the attidude which made the US of A the friend of all peoples (and the British Empire before etc.).

Hmm? I meant only objectively-verifiable assessments of the German language, not some "more enlightened than others" prouncement. Everything Samuel Clemens (Twain) wrote in 1880 rings just as true today.

You obviously didn't get my point. You as a foreigner did disqualify another language. You could have done the same with French or Spanish or ... and I would have stood up as well. You simply will not make friends in other countries with this attitude.
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FYI, a Chinese may use almost all of your statements for judging the "English dialects".

I would not concur with that ...

Modern Chinese makes (do??) just fine without articles at all, without conjugating verbs nor declining other words, etc. So, applying your measures, Chinese is THE language - don't you stop with English half way :-D
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A traditional typing exercise in English that uses every letter of its 26-letter alphabet at least once is the following:

    "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs."

Let's write that in simplified German, using English-like grammatical rules:

    "Das rasch braun fuchs sprung über das faul hunde."

Na, ist das nicht ebenso verständlich als richtige deutsch?


Almost. Besides some little errors - if you want to give advise in other languages, please be correct at least there.

It's a wide spread error assuming schematic translation will do. Besides leading to really hilarious results this will miss a lot of subtext a good translator will "feel" and transmit. And don't forget some redundancy may be beneficial for understanding - one reason why grammatically more primitive languages tend to become unefficient is a lack of redundancy, so a single typo may switch the whole meaning of a sentence or prevent it being understood correctly at all. BTW, even the web can't translate the word "prouncement" you used above - please enlighten us.

On topic again: That's one of the benefits of math symbols: everyone has to learn them - no unfair advantages by birth - no discussions about different ways expressing the same facts - forced precision etc. And it may have some reasons that some of the greatest mathematical thoughts were thought and recorded in (what you call) complex languages like French or Latin. Please think about it.


Edited: 30 Oct 2010, 1:12 p.m.


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You obviously didn't get my point.

And you don't seem to be getting mine, which was simply that the idiosyncrasies of the German language that Twain discussed at length in that 19th century essay are still present today. If this constitutes an "attitude" on my part...

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You as a foreigner did disqualify another language.

I did no such thing. And from further along in the thread:

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Well, Mark Twain: As far as I read, he judged a foreign language from his view as a foreigner. Any foreigner will always find strange stuff in any other language and may tell jokes about it.

Why would the reasonably-informed views of a "foreigner" or non-native speaker -- myself, Twain, or anyone else -- be invalid?

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Modern Chinese makes (do??) just fine without articles at all, without conjugating verbs nor declining other words,

To "make do" is a colloquial expression in English meaning loosely "to function or operate without". It sounds awkward, I admit.

A meaningful comparison of an alphabet-based language to a character-based language, though, is very difficult to make.

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Almost. Besides some little errors - if you want to give advise (advice) in other languages, please be correct at least there.

Should "sprung" be replaced by "sprang", and "in richtige deutsch" be replaced by "in richtigem Deutsche"? If these are still not right, please make them so. Also, please write the "quick brown fox" sentence in proper German, just for comparison.

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BTW, even the web can't translate the word "prouncement" you used above - please enlighten us.

I meant to type "pronouncement", but missed an entire syllable. Sorry for the typo -- one of several I have corrected.

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And it may have some reasons that some of the greatest mathematical thoughts were thought and recorded in (what you call) complex languages like French or Latin. Please think about it.

I never used the word "complex", nor did I mention French or Latin. However, there may be some truth to the concept that the mastery and usage of advanced and/or intricate languages helps to develop analytical reasoning.

Fundamentally, though, the 'major' languages based on the Roman alphabet are similar, although there are at least several major categories of them.

-- KS


Edited: 30 Oct 2010, 9:52 p.m.


I suspected this thread might cause some roughing of feathers, that's a shame but of course not surprising. After all there's a very strong link between language and culture, making very difficult to involved parties (i.e. native speakers) to objectively discuss the goodness and shortcomings of their own tongue.

Interestingly enough in some cultures more acutely so than others, like I've never experienced resentment from a Finnish or Hungarian person when critiquing their (may I say complex?) languages. It's something they have assumed and don't mind at all what the foreigner's perspective is. Not out of arrogance, but of pragmatism. Furthermore, they don't make it as a sign of differenciation between "us" and "them".

I agree with Karl that comparing Chinese to any alphabet-based language is not a fair trade. Too different starting points. And wouldn't you think that people think in different ways, or express their thoughts differently depending on the language-tool they use?

I also agree with his comment that the idiosyncracies described by Mark Twain continue very much alive and present in today's German.

The point again was a humoristic approach to the situation, driven with intelligence and wit. Taking it as a foreing attack wasn't in his agenda, that's a sure thing.

But of course all this is written by a person (me) for whom both English and German are foreing tonges - so maybe that alone disqualifies me :-)

Cheers,
'AM

Edited: 31 Oct 2010, 3:06 a.m.


Holá Ángel,

of course everybody may call any arbitrary language complex. But that's far from calling it nonsensical, isn't it? And that's the attitude I was criticizing, nothing more.

Walter

Addendum:

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Taking it as a foreing attack wasn't in his agenda, that's a sure thing.

I can only see what is written. If anybody steps into a catholic cathedral wearing shorts, his or her "intentions" (or lack of sensibility) aren't the point either.

BTW, why did you post the same text twice?


Edited: 31 Oct 2010, 5:03 p.m.

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You as a foreigner did disqualify another language.

I did no such thing.

So I have to quote you again (with emphases added by me):
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The complex grammatical rules of "High German" (...) have changed little if any since the late 19th Century. Verbs at the end of sentences, separable verbs, nonsensical noun genders, adjective endings that add little if any meaning -- it's all still there.
An eulogy reads different :)


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Why would the reasonably-informed views of a "foreigner" or non-native speaker -- myself, Twain, or anyone else -- be invalid?

These views may be simply based on ignorance, though the viewers think being "reasonably-informed". E.g. most Roman languages decline adjectives. English does not. Which way makes more sense? If you don't understand that doesn't mean it being nonsensical ...


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Modern Chinese makes (do??) just fine without articles at all, without conjugating verbs nor declining other words,

A meaningful comparison of an alphabet-based language to a character-based language, though, is very difficult to make.

Heh heh, good trial but no way to escape.


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Should "sprung" be replaced by "sprang", and "in richtige deutsch" be replaced by "in richtigem Deutsche"?
I'll let you "im eigenen Saft schmoren" til you find out yourself.


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BTW, even the web can't translate the word "prouncement" you used above - please enlighten us.

I meant to type "pronouncement", but missed an entire syllable.
OK, together with my "advice" this results in 1:1 in your mother tongue.


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And it may have some reasons that some of the greatest mathematical thoughts were thought and recorded in (what you call) complex languages like French or Latin. Please think about it.

I never used the word "complex",

Please see your quote above :)


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Fundamentally, though, the 'major' languages based on the Roman alphabet are similar, although there are at least several major categories of them.

This is far from true, only camouflagued by the lack of precision of the language you used. The Roman alphabet is employed for many languages which didn't know this alphabet for the greatest part of their history.

Walter --

For the indisputable record, I stated "complex grammatical rules" and "nonsensical noun genders", which were my terms for aspects of language that were discussed at length in the old essay. I never stated "complex language" or "nonsensical language", and I never 'invalidated' anything. Rhetorically speaking, what would define a "complex language" or make one invalid?

You continue to state that you were only criticizing "attitudes" -- mine, that of certain countries, (and perhaps Mr. Clemens', by implication). I don't consider it 'bad attitude' to point out that certain substantiated observations stated humorously 130 years ago remain valid today -- even if your feathers got ruffled in the process. If anything, you invalidated Mr. Clemens' opinions, which I essentially echoed, by labeling us dismissively as mere "foreigners" lacking the requisite expertise for the topic.

I would consider several statements in your last post to be fine examples of clever rhetorical 'spin' by implication. I won't spend time to refute them.

It seems that this could go on ad infinitum if you had your wishes, but it's off-topic, anyway. Enough already.

-- KS


Karl,

I agree on the record speaking for itself. Amen.

Walter


All this, and poor Geir still does not have his manual in English!

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Also, please write the "quick brown fox" sentence in proper German, just for comparison.

"Der schnelle, braune Fuchs sprang über die faulen Hunde."

I suspected this thread might cause some ruffling of feathers, that's a shame but of course not surprising. After all there's a very strong link between language and culture, making very difficult to involved parties (i.e. native speakers) to objectively discuss the goodness and shortcomings of their own tongue.

Interestingly enough sin ome cultures more acutely so than others, like I've never experienced resentment from a Finnish or Hungarian person when critiquing their (may I say complex?) languages. It's something they have assumed and don't mind at all what the foreigner's perspective is. Not out of arrogance, but of pragmatism. Furthermore, they don't make it as a sign of differenciation between "us" and "them".

I agree with Karl that comparing Chinese to any alphabet-based language is not a fair trade. Too different starting points. And wouldn't you think that people think in different ways, or express their thoughts differently depending on the language-tool they use?

I also agree with his comment that the idiosyncracies described by Mark Twain continue very much alive and present in today's German.

The point again was a humoristic approach to the situation, driven with intelligence and wit. Taking it as a foreing attack wasn't in his agenda, that's a sure thing.

But of course all this is written by a person (me) for whom both English and German are foreing tonges - so maybe that alone disqualifies me :-)

Cheers,
'AM

Edited: 1 Nov 2010, 3:00 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


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The point again was a humoristic approach to the situation, driven with intelligence and wit. Taking it as a foreign attack wasn't in his agenda, that's a sure thing.

THANK YOU!

Ángel --

I second Martin Pinckney. Your entire post was much appreciated.

Of course, the "humoristic approach" must have been Twain's, as my own comments were matter-of-fact, not witty...

-- KS


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Of course, the "humoristic approach" must have been Twain's, as my own comments were matter-of-fact, not witty...

Being a great author, Mark Twain's words and humor were in many ways typical for his time and background - your objectivity and sensibility may be typical for yours ... Since even you admit your comments were "not witty", don't you want to focus on topics you're an undisputed expert?

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"The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs."

The correct German translation is:

"Zwei Boxkämpfer jagen Eva quer durch Sylt."

I wonder how long it will take Google to translate that correctly.

Cheers

Thomas


Are there any other national versions of this sentence?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pangrams#German ?

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The correct German translation is:

"Zwei Boxkämpfer jagen Eva quer durch Sylt."

I wonder how long it will take Google to translate that correctly.


Thomas --

Of course, that is a near-pangram (as ö, ü, and ß are omitted), not a translation. The link that Gerson provided includes some in other languages that are hilarious.

Bill --

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I have seen it this way more frequently:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" 

I have too, but either one works.

-- KS

Edited: 31 Oct 2010, 1:00 a.m.


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Of course, that is a near-pangram (as ö, ü, and ß are omitted), not a translation

Both sentences are examples of filler text common in typography. You'd do a lousy job translating them verbatim. In most cases at least. It's a similar problem with puns. Usually the joke is lost when translated literally. A good translator at least tries to take that into account.

Sometimes we have to exagerate a little to make our points. I should have said one of the possible instead of the correct translation. I assumed you'll notice I wasn't that serious with my statement.

It's funny, I read your plural version and thought, "wait a minute, that's right but not quite what I remember" and so I said it out loud and realized from the rhyme-feel what I had remembered it as. Then, I pulled a calligraphy book off the shelf and sure enough, there it was. I think it is fun that it works both ways.

As for language, I just showed the remarkable range of flexibility and register range of English...some of which breaks rules based on Latin (synthetic) which were arbitrarily placed upon English (analytic) some time in the 18th century.

Edited: 2 Nov 2010, 8:49 a.m.

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"The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs."

I have seen it this way more frequently:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"

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I've heard that Russian has seven grammatical cases, and that English was more complicated until intermixing of peoples (Norman invasion of 1066?) resulted in simplification.

From the Oxford Companion to the English Language entry on Old English, pg 724:

Declension of definite article se: (singular only)
---------------------------------------------------------
Masculine Feminine Neuter
---------------------------------------------------------
Nominative se: se:o þæt
Accusative þone þa: þæt
Genitive þæs þæ:re þæs
Dative þæ:m þæ:re þæ:m
Instrumental þy: þæ:re þy:
---------------------------------------------------------
(colons used in place of macros)

I think Mark Twain would have agreed the equivalent German declension table looked somewhat less complicated.

I liked Mark Twain's novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court when I read it 1978. A weak point in the story is the impossibility of mutual understanding between Hank Morgan and Arthur's courtesans as described, but I was not aware of this then.

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The complex grammatical rules of "High German" (and other dialects, I'm sure) have changed little if any since the late 19th Century. Verbs at the end of sentences, separable verbs, nonsensical noun genders, adjective endings that add little if any meaning -- it's all still there.

I would hope that internationalism and modernity has helped to discourage convoluted sentences, and long compound words where concise international words are available.


Speaking from my own experience -- I was born and raised in the Netherlands, but most of my relatives are German, and I grew up bilingual and always spoke German with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins -- the complicated grammar of German is used almost exclusively in writing and when making speeches; that is, when communication is one-way.

In conversation, people tend to use a much simpler subset of the grammar. The weird noun genders are still there even in conversational German, but those aren't a problem because you learn them at the same time you learn any noun; i.e. you don't learn "Mädchen", you learn "das Mädchen", and the fact that it might be a bit odd that the word for "girl" has neuter gender never bothers anyone until they start to think about (or rather, over-think) these things.

Maybe German will lose some of its complexity some day, but I'd say that it already has. The use of the more sophisticated grammar in print makes sense, because a writer can spend the time to arrange his sentences for maximum clarity, and it is in that kind of usage that the highly synthetic grammar really shines. If, on the other hand, you just want to exchange thoughts with a person face to face, you're going to skip the genitives and conjunctives etc. and just use simpler constructs (and a few more words) instead -- like English- and Dutch-speakers do all the time.

I wouldn't use the trickier parts of German grammars myself when speaking, and I'd be very cautious using them in writing, but I have no problem whatsoever understanding them while reading, and in fact I like them in that context -- I think that kind of language is very elegant, expressive, and concise.

- Thomas


Thank you for your thoughtful commentary, Thomas -- written in absolutely impeccable English, I might add.

Thank you also for providing, as a native speaker, a proper-German translation of my version of the well-known English sentence:

"Der schnelle, braune Fuchs sprang über die faulen Hunde."

It certainly 'checks out', upon consulting with my language reference.


This may be an opportune time to point out that the regular contributors here who speak other native languages write English that is very good to excellent. It is a refreshing change from the shockingly-horrid anonymously-posted garbage found in the "reader comment" sections of on-line newspapers and magazines in the US.

-- KS


Edited: 3 Nov 2010, 2:17 a.m. after one or more responses were posted


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This may be an opportune time to point out that the regular contributors here who speak other native languages write English that is very good to excellent.

Agreed!
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It is a refreshing change from the shockingly-horrid anonymously-posted garbage found in the "reader comment" sections of on-line newspapers and magazines in the US.

It is so horrid that I despair of the survival of our republic - at least if such written English is any indication of the intellect used to produce it.

Yes, so true. Sometimes I see prefaces here by non-English speakers, "please excuse my poor English" etc and yet, no apology necessary!

There's this guy, Bastian Sick, who writes a column in Spiegel Online called "Zwiebelfisch". He wrote also a series of books "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod" which turned out to be bestsellers. From his long-lasting success I conclude that quiet a lot of people care about their language. If only they try to avoid the "Deppenapostroph".

So in my humble opinion there's still hope ...


Edited: 3 Nov 2010, 7:47 p.m.


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quiet a lot of people care about their language

:)


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quiet a lot of people care about their language

:)

:) but quite a bit unfair - AFAIK English isn't Thomas' mother tongue. If every typo / native language error would be marked :) here, the forum would be even funnier :)

That translation wasn't mine -- wrong Thomas. :-)

My version would be Der schnelle, braune Fuchs springt über den faulen Hund, reflecting the way I would see that sentence in the Windows Font previewer.

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It is a refreshing change from the shockingly-horrid anonymously-posted garbage found in the "reader comment" sections of on-line newspapers and magazines in the US.

Don't worry, you're at least not alone. This is also true for German reader comments and forums.

But wait, this is maybe even more reason to worry??!? :(

Now that voluminous commentary has been posted in response to a comment about complexities of grammar and noun gender in a particular language, here is an example of the other side of the coin -- namely, ambiguity caused by inexact writing of (comparatively-simple) English.

The San Francisco Giants won the championship of American baseball -- please see recent thread titled, "Long Live RPN... and Go Giants! (somewhat off topic)". One story about it closed with the following awkward-sounding sentence:

"Baseball's best play in San Francisco."

"Play" can be a noun or a verb, and neither is capitalized. If a noun, the sentence is incomplete. (Which play? And what about it?)

Also, "Baseball's" can be possessive or a contraction of "Baseball is". If the latter, a minor change will make a meaningful sentence:

"Baseball is best played in San Francisco."

However, those who brave the powerful and chilly Bay Area sea breezes during summer afternoons and evenings might disagree with such a statement.

Here's what was meant -- and what the author ought to have written:

"The best in baseball play in San Francisco."

Or, more precisely:

"The best team in baseball plays in San Francisco."

-- KS


Edited: 3 Nov 2010, 1:15 a.m.


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"Baseball is best played in San Francisco."

Makes most sense to me in this context. But who knows what the author wanted to express in this particular language if (s)he can't write?
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However, those who brave the powerful and chilly Bay Area sea breezes during summer afternoons and evenings might disagree with such a statement.

Why? Isn't this another cup of tea?

As mentioned by different posters previously, language prima facie is a tool for transmitting information. This holds for written language in particular. If, however, the information content may be distorted by ambiguities, smallest errors in writing, sloppy proofreading, or by an author erroneously picking the wrong word and then denying responsibility for his choice, exhausting discussions may come up about his intentions or the "real" meaning of his text. This might either fall back on the author himself or point to said particular tool became a bit too ... hmmmh ... lean?


Edited: 3 Nov 2010, 4:13 a.m.

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Bobby Schenk Yacht

Ça c'est quoi?


Schenk ist ein Segeln-Abenteurer und Autor. Dies ist ein Navigationssystem Modul.

Since no one else answered. And my apologies to Walter et al.


Danke sehr! Ich bin auch ein Segler.

Almost :)

Schenk ist ein Segelabenteurer und Autor. Sein Yachtmodul ist ein Navigationsmodul für den HP-41.

And referring to the Donaudampf... : This is a very old joke. Generally, such composite words are perfectly ok in German, but nobody would ever drive it so far. Anyway, it avoids repeating "of the" several times, which is quite annoying in my eyes.

For long words you may also look to Suomi (Finland), where they attach postpositions instead of using prepositions. For example, rautatieasemaan and rautatieasemasta meaning "to the train station" and "from the train station", respectively IIRC. May be the proper language for RPN aficionados ;)

Well, Mark Twain: As far as I read, he judged a foreign language from his view as a foreigner. Any foreigner will always find strange stuff in any other language and may tell jokes about it. E.g. they told us about the Englishman in France wanting to buy tickets for the train two to two to Toulouse. In Mark Twain's times such jokes were pretty common, nowadays this kind looks just primitive. Nevertheless I enjoy his books about Tom Sawyer & Co.

About the triple "f": When I went to school, "Schiffahrt" was spelled the way mentioned above avoiding a triple "f". But in a feeble attempt to ease spelling and cut exceptions our ministers of education decided you may write "Schifffahrt" now. FWIW. They decided a lot of real nonsense in this attempt as well, making quite obvious they don't know much about grammar, but that's another story.

In general, there seems to be a long term trend going to grammatically simpler languages: compare the ancient global languages Greek and Latin with English and Chinese nowadays. But that's just my personal view again d:-)

Best regards, Walter


Chauvinisms (and poetry) apart, language should be a tool to communicate amongst people and express your own mind in the most-effective and descriptive manner, regardless of which one is your native tonge.

Some languages are better equipped than others due to the cultural influence, customs, openness, its evolution, etc. Archaic constructions or rigid rules normally difficult things, even for native speakers having trouble to achieve a lucid mind with the hindrance of a sub-optimal tool.

Language molds the mind, and maybe the other way around as well. May each one chooses the best-suiting une.

Quote:
Well, Mark Twain: As far as I read...

... in a feeble attempt to ease spelling and cut exceptions our ministers of education decided... FWIW. They decided a lot of real nonsense in this attempt as well, making quite obvious they don't know much about grammar, but that's another story.


Near the end of the Twain piece, he offers his own suggestions how to improve the language. Perhaps you would find some humor in that.

Most definitely. Every language can be improved, even English... and if you don't think so have a look at this:

http://www.icw-net.com/howto/funstuff/euroengl.htm


Way back in my college days, I was in one of those private study rooms in the library. I had gone there to practice pronouncing Chaucer's Middle English. (Yes, that was something we did--to try to understand the language better. How we know how to pronounce it is a whole story unto itself).

There was a window looking out, and a guy coming by out in the hall waved and popped his head in and said, "you are practicing German, I can tell."


And I hadn't even studied Deutsch yet--only French at that point.

Edited: 28 Oct 2010, 5:26 p.m.

Quote:
But in a feeble attempt to ease spelling and cut exceptions our (German) ministers of education decided you may write "Schifffahrt" now. FWIW. They decided a lot of real nonsense in this attempt as well, making quite obvious they don't know much about grammar, but that's another story.

Walter --

Well, I'll be darned! I didn't know about that 1996 act, which is described at length in a Wikipedia article that I found by following links in Gerson's post:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_orthography_reform_of_1996

I would agree with you. From just scanning the article:

  • I am surprised that the changes were undertaken;
  • Much time and effort was spent on inconsequential issues;
  • The changes were arguably ill-advised.

-- KS

Edited: 30 Oct 2010, 8:46 p.m.


Quote:
The reformed orthography became obligatory in schools and in public administration. However, there was a campaign against the reform and in the resulting public debate the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany was called upon to delineate the extent of reform. In its decision of July 14, 1998,[1] the court stated that because there was no law governing orthography, outside the schools people could spell as they liked, including the use of traditional spelling. In the wake of this decision there have been complaints and fear of the rise of Beliebigkeitsschreibung (arbitrary spelling).[citation needed] For example, confusion caused by the use of both the traditional spelling Kongreßstraße and the newly correct Kongressstraße could lead to the completely inconsistent spelling Kongreßstrasse.

Apparently reforming the language is a touchy subject internally - to the point of involving the constitutional tribunal to rule on it. It's not clear then that the reform brought any additional clarity, leaving the situation worse that it was (because it was bad before, wasn't it?)


Quote:
It's not clear then that the reform brought any additional clarity, leaving the situation worse that it was (because it was bad before, wasn't it?)

As usual, the situation was a bit more complex. IIRC it all began with an international study called PISA. In this test, German students (not students ;)) didn't perform as well as we expected. So our "education mandarins" became excited. After some discussions they eventually stated German spelling being too difficult for average students (honestly, no joke! Can you imagine any French person of importance would ever say this about French?!). So they started said "reform". And they did it the German way, i.e. very exhaustive, but in this case unfortunately not at all systematic (or they were unable to see the systems). It's always dangerous when uneducated people get busy. So besides some minor simplifications we have a big mess now - and teachers are forced to teach it :(( though in real life some of the worst cases are already turning back again.

Hi

Quote:
Can you imagine any French person of importance would ever say this about French?!)

We got our share of orthography reforms, and some of them goes back to XIV century

[link:http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rectifications_orthographiques_du_français]Rectifications orthographiques du français[/link]

Patrice

Why does this sound like math and science education in the U.S., particularly the big cities?

1) The nice thing about this reform is that no private person can be forced to use a specific orthography or grammar. We can all write just the way we want. And even if a judge would write his rulings in his own orthography or grammar or even as a poem, it would still be a legal ruling.

2) The average German does not use future tense or subjunctive while speaking. For example, the future tense is usually formed by using the present tense and indicating a time in the future: Tomorrow I go to school. Out of the many possible past tenses, only one is used in the average spoken language.

3) Noun genders in German are actually nonsensical. They are totally arbitrary and don't add any more meaning to the sentence apart from only a few words that have different meaning when used with a different gender: die See (ocean), der See (lake); das Schild (sign post), der Schild (shield).

4) Language is just a tool. How wonderful to have one with many levels of complexity, being able to use the appropriate level of complexity when it is needed: a simple one for every day use, a concise one for legal issues, a complex and redundant one for poems. How poor would we be had we only the simplest one.

As an aside: as far as I know (having read it somewhere) Mark Twain was very fond of the German language and the German culture. His text is a satire written with great humor, knowledge and love.

Have a look: >>>CLICK<<<

Edited: 2 Nov 2010, 5:00 a.m.


Thanks for that link. This text is consistent with all I've written here about Mark Twain without actually knowing it then already.

After all, I'd still strongly suggest using the attribute "strange" instead of "nonsensical" for features you don't understand in other cultures, languages, habits etc. as long as people of the respective culture are listening. Else it would be easy finding a real lot of nonsensical points as well in what's going on where US citizens are involved, not only linguistically. OTOH in some strange corners of this world you may suffer severe personal damage when publicly calling the local way "nonsensical" - and it seems you won't even know why if you were not warned before. So take care d8-)

Edited: 2 Nov 2010, 8:08 a.m.


I think most Americans would agree that at least 50% of politicians, and what they say are nonsensical, in any language ;-)

Quote:
Else it would be easy finding a real lot of nonsensical points as well in what's going on where US citizens are involved, not only linguistically.

Walter, are you trying to pick a fight again?

Martin, I want to reach peace instead. "Nonsensical noun genders", however, can't be left standing for the reasons explained at length - but you didn't write that d:-)


Well, it is nonsensical. But so are French, Italian, Spanish noun genders. English ain't got 'em, that's all.

And like Thomas said, you simply make sure to learn the words with their attached articles. Of course this is easier said than done...if you are an English speaker, you tend to discount articles, and so after 3 years as a kid, not paying attention to this, you find yourself with a pretty big vocabulary of unattached nouns...fenêtre, segel, porte, fenster, etc etc etc. Sometimes you are lucky and the correct article simply sounds right (from having heard or said it a few times) so la fenêtre, la porte, das fenster...


Quote:
Well, it is nonsensical. But so are French, Italian, Spanish noun genders. English ain't got 'em, that's all.

Used to. Have noun genders, that is. Whether nonsensical or not, is debatable. In any event they have been phased out, it seems to me.

Waitress, actress, seamstress, etc. all gone. Fireman and policeman became firefighter and police officer. PC: I still use the old forms out of protest, mainly.

We kept some adopted forms, such as masseur and masseuse, I suppose so people can declare their preference without being so obvious about it.

But when was the last time you heard someone distinguish between alumnus and alumna?


Hi Martin,

Your examples are Sensical genders, not nonsensical (as in door, window etc). They are being obsoleted because of the insistence of some that the vowel in the suffix "man" is a stressed vowel and therefore carries the meaning "male." One way to continue your protest while having some linguistic fun is to point out that the vowel is in fact a schwa unstressed and that it is not explicitly meaning "male" anyway. Just a thought...even if indefensible. (I hate the new term "drafter." As in, "hey, I need a drafter to draft these rafters by tomorrow." The word sounds more like it should mean someone who makes annoying air movements for a living. "Hey, it's awfully drafty in here. Somebody, please take that fan away from the drafter; I'm getting goosebumps.")


The funniest story I heard about that development you describe was some female students wanted to rename "history" in "herstory". It brings all the necessary ingredients together: absolutely no idea (about etymology in this case), but unlimited good will and belief in being on the right way.

And if by chance anybody would dare interfering, bad luck for him, we just want his best ;)


FYI, the etymology of "history" is rich and gender-agnostic. That it also ended up as a portmanteau of "his story" is a cute coincidence.

(The existence of similar words in other contemporary languages (e.g., the French "histoire") is a good clue of this.)

"History" has a full page in the OED (2nd ed.) and you can find a more succinct description of its etymology here:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=history

Haha, that explains why everyone who graduated from college is now referred to as a form of aluminum oxide.

Quote:
"Nonsensical noun genders", however, can't be left standing..

I understand your position on that. But its "as well in what's going on where US citizens are involved, not only linguistically" that I was referring to.

Yeah and besides, US citizens are pretty sensical. It is our politicos who are not.


Ooops, I didn't know we have "politicos" in this very forum ;)

Maybe it was too difficult so far, so I'll try to make it crystal-clear: "Nonsensical" reads like "nonsense". IMHO no outsider (or foreigner, stranger, French: étranger, Italian: straniero, German: Ausländer, Chin.: wai4 ren2) may deliver this judgment about another language or culture, by mere respect. We and you may find such things "strange", but in no way "nonsensical".

For those who have no respect for other (even older) cultures: you may just as well behave for reasons of politeness. It may help you to survive (please see above).

Reminder: We are not talking about science here, where truth may be found by debating.


Well, what do you know: below it the exact text of a message I wrote today, in response to one of Bill Platt's, but then decided not to post. But since I turn out to be at least half right, I now post it:

"Speaking of misunderstandings, it occurs to me that perhaps Walter took 'nonsensical' to mean something along the lines of 'I don't understand it, so I therefore think it is nonsense,' rather than 'seemingly illogical or incongruent,' which was probably closer to Karl's intent.

But why am I speculating on either Walter's understanding or Karl's intent? Probably dangerous territory."

What do you call this: A real difference in language/cultural understanding results in a disagreement over a perceived affront about language/culture. Irony? Self-fulfilling something-or-other?


nonsensical: seemingly illogical or incongruent is certainly my meaning. Perhaps it would have been more precise to have said inconsistent, or incongruent.

American Heritage Dictionary:

nonsense (n&#335;n's&#277;ns', -s&#601;ns) n. 1. Something that does not make or have sense; especially, behavior or language that is meaningless or absurd. .... --nonsensical adj.


Quote:
American Heritage Dictionary:
nonsense (n&#335;n's&#277;ns', -s&#601;ns) n. 1. Something that does not make or have sense; especially, behavior or language that is meaningless or absurd. .... --nonsensical adj.

Your dictionary tells exactly the point (emphasis added by me). Please read this (written 3 days ago). What's so difficult to understand?? By people living in a society where you must call a fat man horizontally challenged not to hurt his feelings??? (Poor old Mark Twain: all his Mississippi tales have to be rewritten for improper speech.) Looks like political correctness had to be invented as guideline for people who lost the sense for collateral damages ... :(

To that definition I think one should should add: to the beholder/observer, e.g. even RPN is nonsensical to some.

I must say, all these observations provide an interesting thread - without an answer to the OP after 80 posts, poor Geir ;-)

Nonsense or nonsensical - whatever! I think we have understood by now that it meant 'linguistically and semantically without meaning' not 'Germans are suckers'. ;)

Now: Can someone try to explain, what exactly is the sense of noun genders in any language? Does a sentence with them convey any more information than the same sentence without them or with the "wrong" noun genders?

Apart from sounding strange at first glance, where is the informational difference between these three sentences, if there is one:

a) 'Der Mann geht in die Küche und kocht die Suppe'

b) 'Die Mann geht in das Küche und kocht den Suppe'

c) 'Mann geht in Küche und kocht Suppe'

I concede, the last one can have a slightly different meaning. For example 'kocht die Suppe' could mean a specific soup, whereas 'kocht Suppe' would mean no specific soup, just soup. But a) and b) have no different meaning, only that b) is orthographically/grammatically wrong by current standards.

Edited: 3 Nov 2010, 5:44 a.m.


Quote:
Can someone try to explain, what exactly is the sense of noun genders in any language?

  • added redundancy
  • There are nouns in German that are distinguished by gender: der Schild (buckler) vs. das Schild (plate). Others aren't and still have different meanings: das Schloss (castle or lock). So no general rule here.
  • In Arabic language male and female you are distinguished. Who could be possibly interested to know whether you're talking to a lady or a man on the phone? Well wait, that grammar stuff must be much older than the invention of the telephone.

Just what came to my mind. Sorry, but I'm not an expert in these matters.

Edited: 3 Nov 2010, 8:12 p.m.

Quote:
Now: Can someone try to explain, what exactly is the sense of noun genders in any language?

If you think noun genders are weird, take a look at Navajo grammar, where things like softness/hardness, roundedness/angularness, hairiness/smoothness, etc., are encoded as part of nouns. That language is so bizarre that the U.S. used Navajo speakers as "code talkers" during W.W. II. :-)

Or to take an example from the Indo-European family, which is what most of us on this forum are familiar with: what I remember from my high school Ancient Greek is that that language lets you express things like "I would have been going to walk" using a single word, by attaching all sorts of prefixes and suffixes to the verb stem.

It looks like, in the long run, this kind of elaborate grammar is losing out to simpler grammars where there is a substantially reduced number of cases and tenses, and where the subtleties are expressed using a small set of auxiliary verbs and prepositions... but to answer your question, the fact that some features of the original, highly synthetic Indo-European languages stubbornly refuse to disappear is, in my estimation at least, because of something you mentioned yourself, namely, that abolishing some features altogether (like gender in German) would simply "sound weird". Never underestimate the power of peer pressure to resist anything that's different, even if it would be an improvement in the long run.

(For comparison, consider trying to get the U.S. to abandon the old Imperial units and switch to SI... The fact that such attempts (yes, they have happened!) have failed to gain traction isn't so much due to U.S. backwardness; rather, the U.S. was in fact one of the earliest adopters of nationwide standards for units of measurement, and by the time the rest of the world started to adopt the French system, the incentive to adopt new standards in the U.S. had already largely disappeared. Sure, SI would be an improvement, but the weirdness factor will prevent it from happening in the foreseeable future.)

I'm guessing -- nobody really knows anyway -- that way back in the pre-historic past, some people simply decided that there was a need to express things like gender, and they decreed that this be part of a word, rather than indicated by a separate word. This was a sub-optimal choice, obviously, but in the small communities of pre-modern humans, peer pressure would have been much more intense than it is in the large nation-states of today, and so change would have been very difficult. Again, I'm just guessing here, but I find it interesting that the most complicated languages in use in Europe today are Icelandic and Basque, both of which are spoken by small groups. The larger a language is, the more easily it mutates.


Edited: 3 Nov 2010, 10:33 p.m.


Quote:
Navajo_language... That language is so bizarre that the U.S. used Navajo speakers as "code talkers" during W.W. II. :-)

Well, not actually because it is bizarre, but because no Japanese could be expected to be familiar with it.

Thomas --

That's another insightful 'short essay.' Yes, "Never underestimate the power of peer pressure to resist anything that's different, even if it would be an improvement in the long run." is a keen observation that explains why many things -- standards, customs, institutions -- remain entrenched, even when better alternatives are available.

Sheer inertia plays a role, too, when to change an established institution or design would be a major investment or undertaking. Would the incremental benefit justify the cost?

Martin is right about the use of Navajo. Japan had foreign-exchange students in the US and elsewhere, and could be expected to translate most any European language. Not so the indigenous languages of the US.

-- KS

Edited: 4 Nov 2010, 1:08 a.m.

Both Thomas's,

Thanks for your interesting answers, which were very enlightening but did not answer my question. I don't think the gender-noun-feature is any weirder as any other language feature. The language just came up with it and that's it.

But coming from 'nonsensical', I really am interested if someone has an idea if noun genders really do transport more information than just the bare noun.

I used the 'der Schild/das Schild' example myself above and I don't think it's a valid case of transporting more information by means of noun genders. Both words are just different words that sound alike. The diffenrentiation between them could be made adding letters or changing them or calling 'das Schild' from now on 'Glumpf'.

For example: Does 'das Haus' convey any more useful (!) information than 'die Haus', 'der Haus' or 'Haus'?


Those "gendered" words come from a time long, long ago, but from our galaxy. You find them e.g. in ancient Greek: "hó ánthrOpos" (with O pronounced as a long closed o, the Omega), "hä gynä", "tó cháos", corresponding to "der Mensch", "die Frau", "das Chaos" in German or "the man", "the woman", "the chaos" in English. For man and woman so-called "natural gender" rules, but why is "to chaos" neuter in all these languages? And why is "hä lÓpä", i.e. "the coat", female in Greek, male in German and neuter in English? I can't tell you. Most of these genders do not carry a meaning IMO today. This doesn't mean, however, they are distributed stochastically or nonsensically. There are rules: e.g. all diminuitives are neuter in German - e.g. "die Frau" -> "das Frauchen" = "the little woman". This for example is the reason for "das Mädchen" = "the girl" = "the little young woman".

The articles, in any case, are important for differentiating e.g. "das Mädchen" and "die Mädchen" ("the girls") and "der Mädchen" ("of the girls"). Confused? Well, we have more: "dem Mädchen" ("to the girl"), "den Mädchen" ("to the girls") and "des Mädchens" ("of the girl"). But it's really easy - already 3-year-old toddlers know it.

Summing up: IF you are interested in a language, THEN you should deal with it before claiming anything being "nonsensical". HTH although I have my doubts :-/

Edited to correct some English errors.

Edited: 5 Nov 2010, 2:30 p.m.

Quote:
Thanks for your interesting answers, which were very enlightening but did not answer my question.

Well, we'll keep trying, then. :-)

My guess (and that's all it is!) is that sometime in pre-historic times, when language was much more primitive than it is today, people started feeling the need to qualify nouns. For example, if you're herding cattle, the difference between male and female cattle is important. If you're foraging for fruit, the difference between unripe and ripe is important. And so on.

Now, when you have to design a way to express certain attributes of physical objects, and you already have words that reference those objects (i.e., nouns), what are you going to do? You could modify the existing nouns in a way that expresses those attributes, like the Latin pattern of adding -us to anything male and -a to anything female, or you could define a new word that expresses the gender property (i.e., an adjective), and say that word just before or just after the noun in question, whenever the attribute in question is important.

From where we are now, it seems obvious that the approach of using separate words to express attributes (adjectives) is better, but if you try to put yourself in the position of someone for whom the very notion of expressing such properties is totally new, the choice may not be very obvious at all. Inventing the words "male" and "female" would be a big leap for people who speak a language that doesn't have adjectives yet; if you do have them, adding gender to the set of adjectives is a lot easier. Maybe Navajo is weird simply because they were late inventing adjectives?

I think that the choice of making gender an intrinsic part of a noun was a bad one (and the Navajo pattern of making aspects like softness, sharpness, hairiness, etc. part of a word was even worse) but once such a choice is made, it's not easy to go back and revisit it.

The worst aspects of Indo-European seem to have eroded almost completely by now. In English and Dutch, for example, cases have disappeared almost completely (only the Nominative remains, plus the Genitive for proper nouns, plus a small handful of special cases), and the tense system for verbs has been reduced almost completely to present imperfect and past imperfect (everything else being constructed using a few auxiliary verbs plus infinitives and participles).

Gender in Germain remains, I think, mostly because dropping it would sound weird, and because it still serves a purpose in establishing cases (ich setze mich auf die Bank vs. ich sitze auf der Bank).

In short -- cases, genders, etc.: bad idea, using separate words to convey that information is much more efficient. Why were those bad choices made in the first place? Because people make bad choices sometimes (to err is human) and also because it isn't always obvious which choices are best initially (short-term benefits are often at odds with long-term ones). Why do bad choices persist even after it becomes obvious that another choice would have been better? Peer pressure, inertia, and because many of them aren't really all that bad. The really bad features of Indo-European have mostly disappeared already; the questionable ones survive because they're not really all that problematic anyway, and because reversing them would feel weird.


Bravo, Thomas. You may very well have hit the nail on the head.

Edited: 5 Nov 2010, 1:19 a.m.


Quote:
Bravo, Thomas. You may very well have hit the nail on the head.


I second that!

But to prevent this very funny thread from ending soon, I have to spin it a little further again: I understand why a shepherd needs to differentiate between male and female, young and old. The thing is, real professionals don't do this by noun genders but with proper words: Lamm = younger than 1 year; Hammel = male, castrated, older than 1 year; Schaf = female, > 1 year; Bock = male, not castrated, > 1 year. The respective words exist for other animals as well.

An then, while I would want to know if my two sheep can produce offspring together, why would I bother if my table (der Tisch, male) and my lamp (die Lampe, female) have different genders? ;) Sadly, they will never be able to produce a table lamp together...


George,

Quote:
why would I bother if my table (der Tisch, male) and my lamp (die Lampe, female) have different genders? ;) Sadly, they will never be able to produce a table lamp together...

:)) Well, please see above. And IIRC there are also languages featuring more than three genders.

Hi Thomas,

Great stuff, and nicely written :-)

The business about small groups having their language change more slowly is a well-identified linguistic dynamic. I remember learning about it way back when--language "freezing" was the term I think. Examples given were given for English in London progressing and changing faster than Northumbria, and of Sea Island in the US being an 18th century time warp.

But when trying to apply the same rule to the set of Latin derivatives, it gets messy because the "center" kept changing, therefore Spanish, Italian and French all progressed a lot along the way. But there might yet be some identifiable features under this rule.

Another set of rules which I find utterly fascinating are Grimm's law and the even more fascinating related one Werner's law. This it the set of rules that sets the Germanic languages apart from the Latin ones and relates HunDred to CenTum for instance.

One final change moment that remains a mystery as far as I know, it the "Great Vowel Shift" in English, which occurred some time between Chaucer circa 1400, and Shakespeare circa 1550. This is what gives English all the dipthongs and "long" vowels distinct from the more consistent ones on the continent.

If I hadn't needed to make a living, I might have been a linguist. It is fascinating! (Maybe I am just not very good at it).


A good reading is the Encyclopaedia Britannica article about Languages Of The World (I don't have my copy at hand, it's a huge Macropaedia article). It handles much of the stuff discussed here. I don't recall any details and can't easily look them up now. Take your time and read yourselves!


tnx,

I have the whole 1978 edition right behind me. I should read it!

Hello!

Quote:
IIRC it all began with an international study called PISA.

The first PISA study was in 2000, the spelling reform in 1996. I would say that because of that stupid and nonsensical spelling reform, the PISA test results were so bad in Germany ;-)

Greetings,
max


Hallo Max,

da hast du recht - ich hatte vergessen, dass die das völlig ohne Not begonnen haben. Vermutlich hatten sie nichts Besseres zu tun und wollten auch mal in die Nachrichten. Wie gesagt: gefährlich wird es, wenn die Dummen fleißig werden. Nur die Wörterbuchverlage haben davon bis heute kräftig profitiert.

(You're right. I did forget they started this without a need, maybe due to lack of work and the wish to appear in the media. Only the dictionary editors made profit ...)

Thanks for your hint.

ohmygosh, then it must be a time warp that caused the German manual to be written in English before it was published!!
^^^^

Sorry Geir, I think my posting of Mark Twain's work was nonsensical in the context of this thread!

Quote:
The changes were arguably ill-advised.

Maybe, but maybe not. One of the changes I actually like is how the ß is replaced by ss at the end of closed syllables, e.g. Schuß became Schuss (reflecting the fact that the u is short) while Gruß remained Gruß (reflecting the fact that the u is long). Arguably this could have been carried even further, by changing the ß to s in the latter case; the s at the end of a syllable is always sharp anyway, so there is no need to use a special letter. (But that wouldn't fly because it would look weird.)

Then again, there is the issue of Maß, which is pronounced with a long a in most of Germany, but with a short a in Bavaria, so for most of Germany, the old spelling of Maß makes sense, while in Bavaria, Mass would be more appropriate under the new rules.

Every spelling reform causes its problems, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they shouldn't happen at all. I mean, I like the fact that the spelling of European languages is at least somewhat phonetic in general, and the fact that the letters of the Latin alphabet still have more or less uniform phonetic values, even across languages (English being the main exception due to its Great Vowel Shift), 2000 years after that alphabet was adopted across the continent. That uniformity is due to repeated spelling reforms that restored the correspondence between the spoken language and the written one. I mean, good luck trying to get people to change the way they *speak* to match the way their grandparents *wrote*. I think it's pretty neat how the Latin word homo, which survives as French homme, Spanish hombre, and Italian uomo, while obviously having changed a lot, is still spelled phonetically. If we had maintained Latin spelling religiously, we would have the advantage of uniform spelling across the continent, but we would have lost the advantage of phonetic spelling.

When spelling reforms happen, they can be jarring, but the bad reforms simply tend to get rejected, while the sensible reforms tend to survive. I've seen evidence of this in Dutch spelling reforms where redundant double vowels and -sch endings were replaced with single vowels and -s respectively, e.g. "het groote bosch" became "het grote bos", and apart from my Dutch grandfather, I have never heard anyone complain about *that* change... while the proposal to change -isch endings to -ies, which would make perfect sense phonetically, hasn't gained traction. And yet, I wouldn't be surprised if even that change were to happen eventually.


Quote:
I like the fact that the spelling of European languages is at least somewhat phonetic in general, and the fact that the letters of the Latin alphabet still have more or less uniform phonetic values, even across languages (English being the main exception due to its Great Vowel Shift), 2000 years after that alphabet was adopted across the continent.

Almost. French is another major exception IMHO - think of eau, eaux etc.

Quote:
Quote:
I like the fact that the spelling of European languages is at least somewhat phonetic in general, and the fact that the letters of the Latin alphabet still have more or less uniform phonetic values, even across languages (English being the main exception due to its Great Vowel Shift), 2000 years after that alphabet was adopted across the continent.

Almost. French is another major exception IMHO - think of eau, eaux etc.


There is certainly a big disconnect between French spelling and French pronunciation, but that disconnect is mostly because of all the letters that are silent. To a first approximation, you can pronounce French pretty well using a simple set of rules by just dropping the final consonants from most words and making the final vowels sound nasal. The phonetic values of Latin letters in French is pretty predictable; figuring out what to pronounce and what not to is a bit trickier. And, of course, the reverse process is completely impossible!


Thomas,

thanks for your response. I should have explained my point better. Think of "tombeau" - the last "o" is pronounced like the one in "Hugo". Who knows by hearing such an "o" in an arbitrary word how to spell it in French? Or take "paire" and "père" ...

So IMHO French is far from featuring phonetic spelling. Same with modern Greek. Better examples are southern Romanic languages, or Germanic east of Rotterdam, or Slavic AFAIK.

Thomas,

Quote:
Then again, there is the issue of Maß, which is pronounced with a long a in most of Germany, but with a short a in Bavaria, so for most of Germany, the old spelling of Maß makes sense, while in Bavaria, Mass would be more appropriate under the new rules.

FYI, the Bavarian (and Austrian) Maß with short a is female (die Maß) and exclusively used for Bavarian beer: eine Maß Bier = a jar of 1 l beer, enough for many people. The general German Maß is neuter (das Maß), has another meaning and is used in Bavaria, too.

Quote:
Maybe, but maybe not. One of the changes I actually like is how the ß is replaced by ss at the end of closed syllables, e.g. Schuß became Schuss (reflecting the fact that the u is short) while Gruß remained Gruß (reflecting the fact that the u is long).
This was a big mistake. Actually, the 'beta' is a sz ligatur indicating a sharp s. Over the time, in some instances the smooth s became a sharp s in the actual pronunciation but the simple s remained in written language. *That* should have been addressed.

You'd use:

Dasz Schlosz sitzt an der Tu"r.

instead of

Das Schloss sitzt an der Tu"r.

See what I mean? Both s are pronounced identically but are written differently.

Edit:

'Das' - sharp s / 'Schloss' - sharp s / 'sitzt' - smooth s

Edited: 6 Nov 2010, 6:29 a.m.


Quote:
You'd use:

Dasz Schlosz sitzt an der Tu"r.


Depends on your way to speak. I think the writing

Das Schlosz sitzt so an der Tür, dasz man es gut erreicht.

is perfectly phonetic. Since our mandarins want me writing

Das Schloss sitzt so an der Tür, dass man es gut erreicht.

instead I can live with that as well. Both sz and ss define a sharp s. I didn't see a necessity to change the spelling though. As mentioned above already, however, I didn't see a need for this "reform" at all.


Quote:
[...] I didn't see a need for this "reform" at all.

Same here.

But when you enter into reforming the language to help students, you should ensure that in the end people can write as they speak (in high German - you have to agree on smoething, right?).

OTOH - often I recognize Bab..., erm, Bavarians the way the misspell words where they use the sharp s instead of the correct smooth s ;-p.

And the manual?

;-)


Hej Geir,

don't you stop this nice thread with your most trivial request ;)

So you also have one in Swahili? {:-)


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