BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ.

I rewarded myself for finishing some work by watching the 1931 Phil Jutzi version of Berlin Alexanderplatz (with dialogue by Alfred Döblin, the author of the novel). Years ago, when I read the novel, I was frustrated trying to track down images of Alexanderplatz and Berlin from those days; it’s amazingly satisfying to see a whole movie filmed on location at the time, with the actual streets, squares, and bars of the day. The Jutzi movie is just one item on the supplementary disc 7 of the Criterion set (see my Christmas post), but I’m glad I watched it first, because it’s been long enough since I saw the Fassbinder that I wasn’t mentally comparing it, and I thoroughly enjoyed this in its own right (so much so that I created a Wikipedia page for Jutzi, who started out a leftie and wound up working with the Nazis). The acting is good, especially Heinrich George as the protagonist, Franz Biberkopf—he’s exactly right physically, with his bull torso and squinty eyes, and he does the role proud, conveying poor doomed Franz’s good-hearted idiocy and baffled affection for the women who love him.
And yesterday I followed up by watching the first segment of the Fassbinder version, which is on another artistic level entirely (and of course much longer—the first segment is only a few minutes shorter than the Jutzi, and not a single thing in it after Biberkopf’s initial release from prison made it into the earlier version). I could go on about Fassbinder, but this being a language rather than a movie site, I will instead mention the dialect used in the film. Berliners speak a variety of East Low German, with the Low German absence of consonant shift (ik and wat for ich and was), long vowels in place of standard diphthongs (Augen und Beine comes out as oohe un beene), and most strikingly, initial g- becomes y-, so that geh, gut, ganz become yeh, yut, yanz. I have no idea how it sounds to German speakers (though I’m sure my German-speaking readers will be glad to tell me), but I find it quite piquant.

Comments

  1. michael farris says:

    “with the Low German absence of consonant shift (ik and wat for ich and was”
    I’m not sure about ‘was/wat’, but I’m pretty sure that the Berlin first person pronoun is spelled ‘ick’ when it’s written as spoken.

  2. Ah, well, I know nothing about traditional dialect renderings; that’s why I have comment threads!

  3. What would the difference be between the sound of “ik” and “ick”? Bigger or smaller than the difference in sound between “colour” and “color”?

  4. I was under the impression that michael farris was simply talking about spelling; i.e., how the pronunciation /ɪk/ is normally represented in writing.

  5. Oh, and there is no difference in sound between “colour” and “color”—was that a joke? Dear God, have I missed another joke?

  6. David Marjanović says:

    What you write h is certainly /x/, not /h/. And of course no German speaker would write [j] as y in a not sufficiently exotic language; indeed, the Berliner one is traditionally rendered as j.

  7. Sorry, Hat, it was a joke.

  8. And of course no German speaker would write [j] as y
    Of course not! But not being a German speaker, I wrote it the way it sounded to me.
    Sorry, Hat, it was a joke.
    No, it is I who am the sorry person. It seems my brain is ossifying.

  9. It seems my brain is ossifying.
    How did we get on to the subject of Trans-Tasman migration?

  10. /x/ would be untypical for Berlin… Most likely it’s /ɣ/ or even /ʁ/. To me, Berlinerisch sounds pretentious, saubreißn åi mitnånd, a su wia de renn, då duats der jå en d’oawåschn weh. But then I’m hardly an unbiased observer :)

  11. The modern Berlin language variety is really standard (i.e. High) German, just stuffed through a Low German phonological filter, in the same sense that in Picardy and Normandy nowadays most people speak French with a Picard or Normand phonology rather than actual Picard or Normand, which are obsolescent.
    And if it comes to that, standard pronunciation has also been stuffed through a Low German filter, just a less radical one, or there would be no [g] in the language at all.

  12. Sadly, I don´t have a joke handy to conceal the fact that the middle consonant in Augen/Oohen is, in fact, unchanged, i.e.: Oogen.
    I am, however, reminded of an auditory recollection from my early childhood that involves a fine specimen of the metrolect spoken by the people of Berlin but, due to being completely Dada, doesn´t need any translating:
    “Abraham”, sprach Bebraham, “kann ick ma´ dein Zebra ha´m?”
    (I guess you can tell that I´m still not fully convinced that language is essentially just an efficient means of communication. Or, to offer a Spanish version of the sentiment:
    La poesia / es el tema / del poema.)
    I remember having read two etymological stories connecting Berliner idioms to French linguistic influences that were so outrageously plausible I can´t help but both distrust and retell them at the same time:
    “Mir ist blümerant” (I´m feeling blue) is supposed to derive from “bleu mourant”, and “mach keine Fisimatenten” (Be careful / Don´t do anything out of the ordinary) from “Visite ma tente”, a line claimed to have been popular with French soldiers encountering girls in the streets of Berlin during the Napoleonic occupation.
    Now to top this off, I should link to some Youtube goodness featuring the archetypal “Berliner Schnauze”: singer Claire Waldoff. Except that I cannot seem to find much beyond a few uninspired renditions of songs made famous by Waldoff but not particularly well done by the ladies who availed themselves of the material written for her. There is, however, a 4-minute mini-doc on her (entitled “Kurze Herstory: Claire Waldoff”, in German).There is also a song that starts off with the observation:
    “Jeder schimpft heut´auf Berlin,
    aber alle loben Wien.”
    You may not be disposed to accept my thesis that this is actually an inscrutably deep insight. Then again, you probably didn´t learn Latin from the same textbook as I did. So you can´t possibly know that knowledge of all things Latin originates from Marcus asserting that very same eternal truth – only applied to Syracuse and Rome – in conversation with Aemilius. And that Roman slacker didn´t even care to have his reasoning rhyme! I mean, is there any sentiment known to man to which rhyme cannot add a whole new level of fresh vinyl? (Further investigation of the topic of the use of formulaic textbook language to literary effect will probably turn up a post touching on a play by Ionesco – either on this site or at Language Log).

  13. atzematratze says:

    Sorry, but it’s Oojen /’o:jən/ un Beene. (Not an Urberliner but been living here for 20 years.)

  14. Berlin Alexanderplatz inspired a pet etymology of mine (those averse to guesswork in etymology should probably avert their eyes): Ge Braut (“bride”) as the source of dated AmE slang broad, “woman” (originally “prositute”?). Braut is used in the novel, I presume authentically, to mean “prostitute” or “girlfriend” (both, I think, but I haven’t read it for years). How about that? Any takers? Maybe via a Yiddish cognate, if there is one with the same sense? OED doesn’t have a separate etymology for the slang word.

    I see I’m not the only one to have thought of this.

  15. @atzematzratze
    Common misconception to think that all “g”s turn into “j”s (or “y”s). I don’t have a rule handy, but while it’s “jerne”, “jut”, but never “Oojen”.
    “Ohen” is close, I’d say the “h” is actually closer to “r”, or a very “soft” version of “g”.

  16. AJP Crown says:

    I find it quite piquant
    Yes, me too. I’d no idea about this, it went completely over my head, because I didn’t know any German the last time I watched Franz Biberkopf and his pals (1985-ish).
    The dvd cover shown on Amazon, for anyone interested in the visual side of this, though I don’t know if it has any connection to Fassbinder, is in the early, Expresionist style of the first Bauhaus, at Weimar. The Weimar Bauhaus was influenced by Johannes Itten, who ran the foundation course, and its other staff, Blaue Reiter members including Lyonel Feininger, Klee and Kandinski. You can compare this to the later Bauhaus located at Dessau the work of which is more well-known today — it’s stylistically more crisp and machine-like. The Dessau Bauhaus’s work was influenced or made by different people, not the Weimar lot (Itten was forced out), namely Theo van Doesburg, Walter Gropius, Mies, Moholy-Nagy etc.

  17. As far as I know, “Mir ist blümerant” means I’m feeling queasy or dizzy or possibly anxious more than I’m feeling blue.

  18. That cover art is incredible. Too bad the movement was so short-lived. “Crisp and machine-like?” That’s a diplomatic description.
    Those cube buildings are deplorable. They remind me of barracks. They might have inspired this building, notable for a huge number of ladies’ rooms, none of which you can find. If you do find one, you will never, ever find your way back. I audited an Arabic class in this building. This one is even worse. I once delivered a rebuilt teletype to this building. The psych department was there at the time, which spawned a lot of jokes about rats in mazes.
    Why can’t they have those nice off-yellow buildings with the brick red tile roofs and the copper flashing like that first Bauhaus anymore? I would love to work in a building like that.

  19. AJP Crown says:

    I didn’t mean to imply that the Bauhaus’s influence was only architectural. Nor do I want to derail the Berlin language discussion, from which I’m learning something interesting.

  20. AJP Crown says:

    Here is a fuller biography of Alfred Döblin than is shown on Wiki. I don’t have the material available to verify whether it’s even close to being correct. He does sound interesting, though. Though he knew Brecht well, there’s no mention that he knew the members of the Frankfurt School. Funny that he became RC. I’d like to read a proper biography of him.

  21. Berlin city dialect has hardly ever been Low German. It is south of the Benrath (machen/maken) line, which makes it formally a Mitteldeutsch dialect anyway. It has some Low German features such as ik for ich, but that is what Mitteldeutsch dialects have. The standard language is surprisingly Southern in its stance towards the Zweite Lautverschiebung: the p -> pf is found only in Bavarian and Alemannic, and as far south as in Frankfurt am Main, the local name for cider is Äppelwoi or Ebbelwoi, definitely nothing with pf. And the das/dat linie is south of Cologne – in Kohlenpottdeutsch (the Ruhr area colloquial), they say “dat” and “wat” all the time.
    To confuse you even more, the fact that somebody calls his or her dialect a kind of “Platt” does NOT mean that he or she were speaking Low German. Even many speakers of Mitteldeutsch dialects tend to call their vernacular “Platt”, usually qualified with some adjective.

  22. My apologies: I had “dizzy” on my fingertips. Does T9 do that? Well, whatever. (Or perhaps: Mon Bleu!)
    No retraction regarding “Oogen” – a quick glance at texts shows that it is used in the majority of cases.

  23. Fisematenten or Fisematentchen seems to me to be a very widespread colloquial word. The “visitez ma tante” story is obviously just an anecdote. Wahrig’s dictionary says it comes from the Latin “visae patentes litterae”, explained as “regularly acquired patent”, which then acquired the figurative meaning “red tape, unnecessary bureaucracy”. Wahrig also mentions a Middle High German “visament”, meaning “frippery” as an influence.

  24. AJP Crown says:

    Does that mean when US President Kennedy said ‘ik bin ein Berliner’, he was speaking more like a Berliner than we had been led to believe by the donut story?

  25. the middle consonant in Augen/Oohen is, in fact, unchanged, i.e.: Oogen.
    No, it’s not, not in the movie, anyway. I can’t swear as to the exact quality of whatever was there—I didn’t hear a consonant, but it could well have been a soft fricative /γ/—but it was definitely not a normal /g/.
    Panu: Thanks for your informative and confusing explanation. I now know more than I did before, but feel as if I know less; I will try to remember never to say anything at all about German dialects, just to be on the safe side.

  26. Blümerant! I haven’t heard/read that in donkey’s years.
    As Bruessel says, “Mir ist blümerant” means I’m feeling queasy or indisposed. It doesn’t mean “I’m feeling blue”. It’s something one’s languorous, genteel aunt might say on a hot summer’s day. I think I know it from some 19th century novel, but I may be wrong about that. My German colleague across the disk remembers hearing it as a kid (20 years ago) in an audiotape of “Benjamin Blümchen” stories (Benjamin is an elephant in a book and film series for children)
    An expression to be saved from desuetude.

  27. And the das/dat linie is south of Cologne – in Kohlenpottdeutsch (the Ruhr area colloquial), they say “dat” and “wat” all the time.
    To confuse you even more, the fact that somebody calls his or her dialect a kind of “Platt” does NOT mean that he or she were speaking Low German. Even many speakers of Mitteldeutsch dialects tend to call their vernacular “Platt”, usually qualified with some adjective.

    Yes. Kölsch is a name for various dialects spoken here in Köln and immediate environs. That is, the speakers themselves call what they speak just “Kölsch”, as though there were only one, but they all know about the other “Kölsch” variants. You hear them called “Platt”, too.
    You can hear the differences – phonetic and verbal – quite clearly in people from the Südstadt, as compared with those who grew up say in Chorweiler in the north of Cologne. In all of them, dat/wat is the rule. You may hear das/was when someone is trying to “speak proper”, or communicate with a foreigner (i.e. someone not from Cologne).
    I know a businessman in the finance sector who, when talking, deliberately slides around between Handelsblatt German and country Kölsch. I get a kick out of listening to the way he talks – a subtle panorama of social comment, insinuation, indignation and hard cash.

  28. What are the criteria by which Western Germanic (dozens of dialects or languages, many of them mutually unintelligible) is one language family, whereas Northern Germanic (no more than four to six dialects, several of which are mutually intelligible) is a different language family, and Gothic (one extinct language) is a third language family.
    It would seem that even if the three groups are clearly distinguishable, Western Germanic should be further divided, possibly at the same level (making a five branch or ten-branch tree, instead of three branches.)
    In short, are there any Wstern Germanic languages are far removed from the others as the others are from Northern Germanic.
    I’m thinking of Sardinian, which is no longer classified with Italian.

  29. What are the criteria by which Western Germanic (dozens of dialects or languages, many of them mutually unintelligible) is one language family, whereas Northern Germanic (no more than four to six dialects, several of which are mutually intelligible) is a different language family, and Gothic (one extinct language) is a third language family.
    It would seem that even if the three groups are clearly distinguishable, Western Germanic should be further divided, possibly at the same level (making a five branch or ten-branch tree, instead of three branches.)
    In short, are there any Wstern Germanic languages are far removed from the others as the others are from Northern Germanic.
    I’m thinking of Sardinian, which is no longer classified with Italian.

  30. Panu: Thanks for your informative and confusing explanation. I now know more than I did before, but feel as if I know less; I will try to remember never to say anything at all about German dialects, just to be on the safe side.
    I am not very good at German dialectology either. I needed to check a couple of things in the German Wikipedia. But I have been involved with Luxembourgian recently, for professional reasons, and at that time I needed to find out about the exact relationship between Luxembourgian and German.

  31. Doug Sundseth says:

    Vaguely on topic:
    While much younger, I remember listening to someone speaking a south-German dialect (ch > sch, among other things) with a strong Texas accent. Grammatically correct (IIRC), but auditorily … distinctive. 8-)
    “…who started out a leftie and wound up working with the Nazis”
    A leftie ended up in the National Socialist German Workers’ Party? I’m shocked; shocked I say. It’s almost as if a member of the People’s Front of Judea joined the Judean People’s Front. (Splitters!)

  32. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t get it? There was never any doubt about what the Nasties stood for.

  33. AJP Crown says:

    Language on Phil Jutzi: After the completion of Berlin–Alexanderplatz (1931), based on the Alfred Döblin novel, his political orientation changed drastically. In March 1933 Jutzi joined the Nazi Party,
    I mean, how do you make Berlin Alexanderplatz and join the Nazi Party two years later? What did he find out in those two years that made him come to the conclusion that that was the right thing to do? He must have known Alfred Døblin, too.

  34. Hat:
    I didn´t to mean imply that you shouldn´t trust your ears. The pronunciation you hear in the movie may just not be the most representative.
    And while Panu´s points are accurate, they don´t really add up to a picture of extreme diversity, do they? They serve not to eliminate Mitteldeutsch from the picture. There is an entry about Berlinisch in a linguistic lexicon on the web that wastes no more than about ten lines on the dialect yet manages to include what Panu says.
    “Blümerant” took second place in a vote designed to compile a list of the most endangered German words. I would say that most 20th-century usages of the word likely already reflect an ironic attitude significantly different from that we might expect from a 19th-century novelist. The author referred to by Grumbly, though, may have been Theodor Fontane – who could be described as both an empathic archivist and an ironic observer of the old ways and words (in contrast to more dated writers of the “bourgeois-realist” school). By the way, the top spot in that vote for most endangered German word was taken by “Kleinod”. Strictly speaking, that would seem to be utterly inaccurate, as it is not dialect-specific and and therefore by definition more widespread.
    Panu, thanks for the real story behind Fisimatenten. Don´t have a Wahrig to fall back on at the moment.

  35. AJP Crown says:

    They didn’t even like him. They never let him make a major motion picture.

  36. John, I finally understood the point you were getting at when you mentioned Sardinian. I can´t answer your question based on my own knowledge, but I can´t find support for your suspicion either.
    But there is something that comes to mind here. With regard to Sardinian the question arises whether that isn´t more of a family of dialects than a language. I mean, if a language has to be codified first before it can be put to full-spectrum practical use, it appears to be not quite there yet, does it? I´m well aware that “the Sardinian language” is used as a title of books etc. It might just be that for classification purposes we may need to be more picky.
    Regarding West Germanic, I´d say that at a minimum there would have to be proof of a larger number of unintelligible pairs than in North Germanic.

  37. The point with Sardinian isn’t so much what it is, but that it isn’t a form of Italian. It’s been given its own branch of Romance.
    Marjanovic, IIRC, says that the whole NW part of Germany is unintelligible to him (from the SE). English counts as North Germanic, and it’s not mutually intelligible with any other WG language. As far as I know, Icelandic and Faroese cannot be understood by anyone except each other, Norwegians understand Swedish and Danish, but Swedes and Danes have trouble with each other.

  38. The point with Sardinian isn’t so much what it is, but that it isn’t a form of Italian. It’s been given its own branch of Romance.
    Marjanovic, IIRC, says that the whole NW part of Germany is unintelligible to him (from the SE). English counts as North Germanic, and it’s not mutually intelligible with any other WG language. As far as I know, Icelandic and Faroese cannot be understood by anyone except each other, Norwegians understand Swedish and Danish, but Swedes and Danes have trouble with each other.

  39. I´ll hold back on that one in hopes of David Marjanovic chiming in.

  40. Well, yeah, but then Sardinia is isolated geographically. I suspect the reason Sardinian got its own branch (and not, say, Sicilian) is the absence of a dialect continuum linking it to Tuscan. And, of course, politics.

  41. Kron:There was never any doubt about what the Nasties stood for. If I could be humored a moment to introduce a brief bump in the tracks, a question for Kron I suppose…there are news stories being passed around teh interwebs the last couple days about how Norway is now full of eeevil Arabs shouting “kill the Jews”–if you trust the reports, all of Oslo is in turmoil with it. Truth or full moon?
    The last couple days I’ve been getting jumped on in forums and even received hate-mail, since I have a sort of Arab-sounding nickname. The video of an “Oslo” demonstration they put up looked like it could have been Norway, but the demonstrators getting dispersed sure weren’t speaking Arabic.

  42. Jörg: Yes, I’m pretty sure it was Fontane. I happen to be reading Effi Briest at the moment, that’s what rang the bell, conjuring up a languorous, genteel aunt. Many people today indulge a jokey, dismissive attitude towards words like blümerant. I myself wouldn’t dignify it as irony. It’s just ignorance. Fontane as “an empathic archivist and an ironic observer of the old ways and words” – yes indeed. Reading more of him is not the worst way to develop a sense of the social subtleties. I’m afraid there’s not much more that can be done, at present, to preserve Blümeranz.
    I’m doubtful about this Wahrig business of “visae patentes litterae”. What soldiers would these be, seducing with mangled Latin? Sounds like a wet dream of Professor Unrat. And somebody out there doesn’t seem to know his aunt from a tent. The whole thing has become urban legendy. Any urbaneness that might have been there once has been whacked out of it.

    Does that mean when US President Kennedy said ‘ik bin ein Berliner’, he was speaking more like a Berliner than we had been led to believe by the donut story?

    AJP: He was speaking more like a Berliner, and less like a German. For full marks, he should have said “ik bin Berliner”. And it was not donutdom he aspired to, because a Berliner doesn’t have a hole though it. It has a cavity in it, filled with cavity-inducing gloop. A donut has the gloop on the outside, and a peephole. A donut is an exvaginated Berliner.

  43. I happen to be reading Effi Briest at the moment
    Of which Fassbinder made a wonderful movie.
    For full marks, he should have said “ik bin Berliner”
    Linguist Jürgen Eichhoff, writing in the academic journal Monatshefte, confirms there was no flub on Kennedy’s part. “‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ is not only correct,” he says, “but the one and only correct way of expressing in German what the President intended to say.”

  44. And it was not donutdom he aspired to, because a Berliner doesn’t have a hole though it. It has a cavity in it, filled with cavity-inducing gloop. A donut has the gloop on the outside, and a peephole. A donut is an exvaginated Berliner.
    Nice ailes de pigeon, Grum! Now, don’t neglect to spend time at the barre as well.

  45. I’m pretty sure that Sardinian has been separated from Italian by linguists, not nationalists. It’s a romance language under Italian political control, but sufficiently different from other romance languages to have its own branch.
    The language / dialect terminological confusion plays a role here.

  46. I’m pretty sure that Sardinian has been separated from Italian by linguists, not nationalists. It’s a romance language under Italian political control, but sufficiently different from other romance languages to have its own branch.
    The language / dialect terminological confusion plays a role here.

  47. “For full marks, he should have said “ik bin Berliner”
    Since when does a foreign head of state get full marks for talking to his foreign audience in a dialect? Or some non-standard sociolect? Would the current German president – a former head honcho of the IMF – get bonus points for addressing a British crowd with Cockney phrases? Or for using a term like “head honcho” in referring to, let´s say, Alistair Darling?
    “the one and only correct way of expressing in German what the President intended to say”
    While the pastry issue is just ridiculous,
    I could imagine a more succinct way of explicating the import of the presence of the indefinite article in Kennedy´s phrase.
    At any rate, the indefinite article in the phrase is a marker of pragmatic context, and I´d disagree with any claim that written text has to include such pragmatic context markers. They are optional. Had Kennedy preceded his remark about being a Berliner with a story about how he realized that he was also a New Yorker (because that is where the Statue of Liberty was erected and Ellis Island is located) and perhaps a Washingtonian and a Philadelphian (for reasons featured equally prominently in the history books), Eichhoff would not have been so dogmatic about the indefinite article. To expect a non-native speaker to pick the most persuasive pragmatic context marker available is nuts. Such usage cannot possibly be prescribed. E.g., “”Auch ich bin Berliner” would have been A-o.k. (I´d surmise that precisely the people who would have taken that variant for granted should be expected to look for a reason why it wasn´t employed. Their only clue appears to have been that you would indeed typically include the indefinite article if you wanted to announce that you are a jelly doughnut. It is, after all, pretty iffy whether you would want to do that in the first place.)
    I just realize that being prescriptively non-prescriptive is the ultimate recipe for inducing boredom. Next stop: a seminar on Gertrude Steins “The Making of Americans”. No excuses, please! I have embarked on a mission to provide even the most severely afflicted insomniac with a trustworthy substitute for their sleeping pills…

  48. AJP Crown says:

    Grumbly and Jørg can rummage through the last year’s worth of archives if they want to find fuller discussion of the donut, or doughnut, or berliner aspect of Kennedy’s speech. Just don’t look under any likely heading, it’s buried under something innocent-sounding.
    Nij, I’m not sure about Oslo demonstrations, I think I saw something on the telly. I steer clear of Oslo if I can. There’s a fair-sized Muslim population there and many pro-Palestinians in the general population. I was at a dinner where a woman told us that the Israeli bombardment of Gaza was totally unacceptable.

  49. Thanks Kron, I thought you were actually in Oslo. Sometimes when a big kid hits a little kid, people don’t see it in the context of a 50-year history. Here the Moslem population has tight protection, especially at Eid. My friend who teaches Koran (I join their women’s class once in a blue moon) had telephone threats but the police traced it and it was another Moslem. Most Arabs here are from Jordan and aren’t usually very passionate about Palestine. Haven’t been over there lately, though. Maybe it’s time to hit the Arab bakeries, refill the freezer, and see if there’s any juicy gossip.

  50. A leftie ended up in the National Socialist German Workers’ Party? I’m shocked; shocked I say.
    As I identify as a moderate bourgeois liberal these days, I am neither shocked nor amazed. It is my lordship’s opinion that leftism is not the way to fight fascism, any more than rabid, racist nationalism is the way to fight Islamic extremism. Estremes mutate into each other very easily. I prefer to keep on the middle of the road, to protect that position against extremists, and to see to it that there is enough room in that position. I used to be a leftie and a conscientious objector myself, but now I am all right, thank you very much. There are far too few militant and self-reliant moderates around these days.
    To get back to Berlinisch: we should also remember that in German there is a difference between regional colloquial (regionale Umgangssprache), which is basically a kind of more or less failed attempt to acquire the standard language, and genuine dialect, which has its own morphology and which has been around, in some sense, way before the standard language. I tend to think the variety known as Berlin dialect has always been something of a koine, mixed language and even regional colloquial rather than a, uh, dialect kind of dialect.

  51. I for one wish that more of our Presidents had proclaimed themselves to be jelly donuts. Call me a true believer, call me delusional, but that’s how I’ll always think of our sainted President Kennedy. I’m not going to let some pointy-headed “linguists” desecrate the image of one of our greatest Presidents.

  52. I for one wish that more of our Presidents had proclaimed themselves to be jelly donuts. Call me a true believer, call me delusional, but that’s how I’ll always think of our sainted President Kennedy. I’m not going to let some pointy-headed “linguists” desecrate the image of one of our greatest Presidents.

  53. Call me reactionary if you will, but I would prefer that a president be a simple doughnut, frosted with sugar of course, but none of your sickly-sweet jelly. (I personally am fond of crullers, but it is clear the American people would never elect a cruller president.)

  54. Yes! Crullers! Unfortunately these days they are almost as endangered as the Blümerant or the Kleinod. Where does one find them now that Dunkin’ Donuts dropped them? Once upon a time there was a bakery in Laconia, NH that made perfect crullers, but that’s vanished like the NH accent.

  55. Not being a “”linguist””, perhaps I can cheer you up with a somewhat more positive spin on feu Monsieur le Président. I was just visited by the Ghost of Treppenwitz passé, who suggested:

    He aspired to donutdom, since a Berliner has no perspective. A Berliner has a cavity, filled with cavity-inducing gloop. A donut has the gloop on the outside, and a peephole. A donut is an extroverted Berliner through which you can see forever.

  56. “””Linguist”””? Hmph.

  57. “””Linguist”””? Hmph.

  58. Crullers? Get them at Tim Hortons. Oh, Canada…

  59. My daughter can eat four berliners while she does her homework without any noticeable gain in weight. She’s too young to be running for office yet, but maybe she’s thinking ahead.

  60. As far as I know, Icelandic and Faroese cannot be understood by anyone except each other
    In writing, maybe. Spoken Faroese is so full of unexpected diphthongs that an Icelander without regular exposure to the language surely can’t make heads or tails of it. Written Faroese is consciously modelled on Icelandic, but this should not make you think it sounds even remotely similar. For instancre, the long i – written in both languages as í – is still an [i] sound in Icelandic, but in Faroese it has developed into a diphthong [ui]. And the letter edh is in Faroese just a kind of placeholder, either it is not pronounced at all, or it is a hiatus consonant. Thus, the words “skína” and “tíð” are pronounced as [sci:na] and [ti:ð] in Icelandic, but as [skuina] and [tui] in Faroese, for instance.
    There are other unexpected phonetic developments in Faroese too, such as the diphthongization of orthographical a into [ea] even in older loanwords: “hospitalur” is pronounced [hospitealur].

  61. AJP Crown says:

    Spoken Faroese is so full of unexpected diphthongs that an Icelander … surely can’t make heads or tails of it.
    I’m no linguist, but I’d have thought that the similarities outweigh the diphthong disguises. That’s at least how I as a non-Scandinavian have observed Norwegians, Swedes & Danes understanding each other’s languages, and something like Sci->ski- would be easy to decipher, if I’m reading that correctly. Danish sounds nothing like Norwegian — except to Norwegians.

  62. David Marjanović says:

    And if it comes to that, standard pronunciation has also been stuffed through a Low German filter

    Let’s say, that standard pronunciation which is most prestigious in Germany. Austria’s has been at least much less so — /g/ is what Spanish speakers would recognize as /k/, even though /k/ is what French/Russian/Japanese speakers would recognize as /k/.

    the p -> pf is found only in Bavarian and Alemannic

    Oh, that explains why the rest of Germany substitutes a simple /f/ almost all of the time. <lightbulb above head>

    Fisematenten or Fisematentchen seems to me to be a very widespread colloquial word.

    What? Where???

    I will try to remember never to say anything at all about German dialects, just to be on the safe side.

    Always a good idea.

    Western Germanic should be further divided, possibly at the same level

    There are no levels.

    In short, are there any Wstern Germanic languages are far removed from the others as the others are from Northern Germanic.

    Phenetically or phylogenetically? (The latter: nope. The former: English is much more similar to NG than the others…)

    I’m thinking of Sardinian, which is no longer classified with Italian.

    That’s because it’s the sister-group to the whole fucking rest of Romance together! It retains /k/ before front vowels, the definite article still contains /s/ (from ipse/-a/-um) rather than /l/ (from ille/-a/-ud), and that’s just for starters! If that’s Italian, then French and Romanian are Italian, too.
    And even phenetically, it’s far out there. Retroflex consonants, for one.

    Marjanovic, IIRC, says that the whole NW part of Germany is unintelligible to him (from the SE).

    I don’t say that. I have little problem with various attempts to write such dialects online, and I think I’d get fairly far if I ever had an opportunity to listen to one, though cheating by knowing English, by having a large passive vocabulary of Standard German, and by knowing what a sound shift is clearly helps. Of spoken Flemish I only understand half, though, and that’s including the words I can guess via English and the extra French loans.
    Of spoken Swiss German, and I think that means the dialect(s) of Berne, I also understand about half. Phenetics trumps phylogenetics here hands down.
    If I didn’t know Standard German, however, the whole north of Germany would probably be pretty much incomprehensible to me. But that’s impossible to test.
    And for contrast, I’ll just remind everyone that Czech, Slovak and Polish are mutually intelligible almost all of the time…

  63. David Marjanović says:

    The point about being specific as to Berne is that that’s High but not Highest Alemannic, which has evolved even farther away.

  64. David Marjanović says:

    BTW, IPA [c] is not a kind of fronted [k], several online courses and other authoritative sources notwithstanding. It’s the dorso-palatal plosive, for example Hungarian ty*. A very rare sound in Europe, and not terribly common elsewhere either.
    * And I wonder if that holds for all Hungarian dialects, or whether, say, at least half pronounce their ty as the very similar [tʲ] instead.

  65. Fisematenten or Fisematentchen seems to me to be a very widespread colloquial word.

    What? Where???

    In Kölle, um Kölle herum, und südwestlich bis in die Eifel hinein. Das Volk hat hier das Wort allerdings, nicht die Eierköpp. Düsseldorf grenzt zum Norden hin ab, schätze ich. Außerhalb dieses Gebietes wird man das Wort schon mal hören, aber eher bei einem Eierkopp, der herumalbert, nicht aus dem Volke.

  66. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, so it’s “very widespread” and “colloquial” in places that preserve the dative -e. I see. <smug grin>

  67. <impotent rage. How did that frigging -e get in there??>

  68. <Grum, you were trying to be stately again. Will you ever learn?>

  69. David Marjanović says:

    Oh. So I eat my smug grin (OM NOM NOM NOM) and replace it by Kölle alaaf, not without adding that I have no idea what (if anything) alaaf might mean.

  70. alaaf is quite obviously derived from Tamil alappu-tal “to chatter, to talk nonsense”.

  71. AJP Crown says:

    Alaaf — Cockney. “This whole thread, it’s a bit of alaaf, really.

  72. AJP Crown says:

    My italics are a bit of alaaf.

  73. Alaaf some of whatever he’s having.

  74. AJP Crown says:

    Alaaf alaaf af the bottle’s empty.

  75. If I may weigh in here with some serious research results for youse wiseguys: it says hier that alaaf comes from the “altkölnisch” expression all af. So Kölle alaaf “therefore amounts to saying” Köln before everything else.
    What is “altkölnisch”? If they mean “altkölsch”, why don’t they say so? And if “altkölsch” means “way before your time, sister”, why do they say “therefore”, like as how you could figure it on the basis of the Kölsch you knows? I’ve never heard anybody say “all af” – and I associate with the lower classes, so I shoulddof if they haddof.
    All I hear in “all af” is “alle ab”. A little checking turned up the answer: “alle ab(geschlagen)”, I meantersay “(leaves) all (the other horses) behind”, “knocks everything else into second place”.
    What is the equivalent in that Arsenal I hear everybody talks over there? Youse guys are in England, am I right or what?

  76. AJP Crown says:

    Mabel, you’re not Hungarian, by any chance?
    Stuart, who genuflects facing Highbury every morning while he cleans his teeth, lives on a tiny island off the coast of New Zealand. I, a Chelsea supporter of nearly fifty years standing, live beside a lake in Norway.

  77. Kölsch bei LH. I was on the Kölsch tip over five years ago, yo.

  78. Is Highbury a kind of a mirror? And anyway, if he lives on a small island, why does he bother to clean his teeth? I bet he’s alluz looking into that Highbury because he’s stuck-up on himself.
    Sounds real romantic-like, livin beside a lake. But Lake No Way? Funny name, I have to say, kind of unfriendly. Do folks from there always contradict people from other places?
    I way told one time by my Grandpappy that we go back to Transylvania. People there was very Hungry in the old days, that’s why they were alway givin each other hickies. My Grandpappy also told me I was a hick, so I guess it all figures.

  79. AJP Crown says:

    Friesian names often end in -stra or -(s)ma .
    Didn’t know that was Friesian. I always thought it was just Dutch, or something. So Lennie Dykstra of the ’86 Mets was Friesian, huh? Jim’s girlfriend is Damstra.

  80. David Marjanović says:

    And anyway, if he lives on a small island, why does he bother to clean his teeth?

    Caries. Tooth rot.
    You mean you consider brushing your teeth a cosmetic procedure?!? Surely thou kiddest.

  81. AJP Crown says:

    Do folks from there always contradict people from other places?
    They don’t have time. All day with the snowblower, one foot of snow a day (that would be thirty centimetres to you Hungarians), seven days a week. Norway getting very high white country.

  82. You mean you consider brushing your teeth a cosmetic procedure

    The stuff I have to listen to, as if waiting on tables the whole livelong day wasn’t enough! I hardly get a chance to take the load off, then this wise guy! <drag>
    Of course it’s a cosmetic procedure, dummy! Just like plucking your eyebrows and wearing a girdle so’s you can get that fat butt into the uniform. A gal these days has to take care of herself, and that includes picking the spinach out and using that whitener for all it’s worth <puff>. A decent guy is not innarested in a gal’s tooth rot, for Pete’s sake! If they fall out, then you go across to Juarez and get some new ones.
    Jeez! <puff&gt

  83. Didn’t know that was Friesian.
    Yup. I impressed the hell out of the excellent food writer Robert Sietsema when I met him by saying “Friesian, eh?”

  84. AJP Crown says:

    He really looks like a Friesian in this photo, but that’s because in England a friesian is a black & white cow, normally called a Holstein in the US, if I remember right.

  85. All day with the snowblower
    That’s cheating. All day I’ve been saying if Kron isn’t too old to shovel neither am I…and with a nasty shoulder muscle pull too. I’ve finished the sidewalk, but should probably excavate the car before too long.

  86. So youse guys are finally talking about something I can understand! Take my smokes, for example. <puff> They’re real honest-to-God European cigarettes, I mean Reemtsma brand. This guy I go out with when he passes through town alluz brings me some, from Germany. This Reemstma guy comes from near that place you call Friesia, an’ he’s a philologist. He got a lot of cigarettes from his dad when he died, but he sold them all and got real rich. Then he got kidnapped, but that turned out ok. He started the Arno Schmidt Stiftung, to help that crazy guy Arno Schmidt. I mean, I read that Life of a Faun, it’s crazy stuff – but it was a nice thing to do, anyways. <puff>

  87. Mabel, I keep tellin’ ya, them coffin nails are gonna nail your coffin.

  88. AJP Crown says:

    Nij: It’s no easier on the body blowing snow, it just makes it possible to clear a larger area (e.g., a long driveway). Plus, blowing snow makes your lips blue (joke). Anyway, now I’ve done in my lower back; yesterday’s deposit was wet and heavy.
    Mabel: When I worked in Hamburg we all used to have to smoke a certain brand, made by Reemstma, because my (business) partner’s father had designed the Reemstma HQ. (Similarly, we had to bank at Commerzbank.) When I met the father he turned out to be a very rude man who insisted on having a pointless argument about Tristram Shandy. In retaliation I — I would like to say that I gave up smoking, but at that point I only gave up smoking Reemstma’s foul brand. Quitting came later.

  89. AJP Crown says:

    And, bulbul, in this thread we used 83 moves to get from Berlin Alexanderplatz to Hamburg Othmarschen.

  90. The Viking reeactors used to smoke these Indonesian clove cigarettes ( I love the fractured English on their website). And in Nepal you smoke Surya named for the sun god. In England I think I smoked Players, Canada too. There was a Greek brand I liked but I don’t remember it now.
    Kron, I got some lower back stabilization exercises from a physical therapist years ago and they are miraculous. That’s the only part of my body that doesn’t break any more.
    How to quit smoking at my URL.

  91. I think it’s only muscle strain, nothing chronic.
    I forgot to say I never realised Reemstma was a Friesian name. Shouldn’t Friesian names sound more familiar? Why do they sound so odd to an English speaker? I thought it was our closest language.

  92. I sounds so odd cause you’re reading it wrong, silly! It’s Reemt(s)ma: Reemt for Raimund, and ma is a patronimby, like in Crownovitch. The s makes it easier to spit out.
    Think of “grandma”, for instance.

  93. AJP Crownstra says:

    Thanks, Mabel. You’re a hell of a waitress. What about Dykstra? Is that dyke, as in Holland, or Dick? And Damstra? As in dam? ‘Stra’ is a suffix like son — or dóttir, in Icelandic?

  94. Well, you bet! As to Dykstra, I found this on page 6 here:

    Geschlechtsnamen

    Sehr viele friesische Familiennamen sind von Personennamen abgeleitet worden. …
    Einige Geschlechtsnamen wurden jedoch durch Zufügung
    von einem -a (von) aus Ortsnamen gebildet: Baarda, Holwerda, Ferwerda, usw. Wenn der
    Ortsname auf -um endete, entstanden Namen wie Bieruma, Hallema, und auch Kinguma.
    Viele Familiennamen entstanden durch Zufügung von -ma oder -sma an einen Vornamen aus
    Personennamen: Atema, Eisma, Feikema, Harkema oder Hendriksma, Jansma, Pietersma.
    Das -ma und -sma bedeuten dann etwa: Kinder, Nachkommen von ….

    Auch gibt es viele friesische Familiennamen auf -stra. Das ist abgeleitet
    von „sater„ oder „sitter„ was sich zu satera, sittera entwickelte, mit der Bedeutung
    „Bewohner von„ und später sich abwandelte in -stra: Boonstra (von Boarn, Oldeboorn),
    Groustra, Veenstra, Zwaagstra, usw.

    Maybe somethin’ similar holds for Damstra. As to the difference between dyke and dam – a dyke is a pervert dam, far as I know. But I don’t know German, so maybe that’s not much of a help.
    Should I bring the coffee with the cheesecake, or after?

  95. Not a patronymic, but a toponymic. (Jus’ looked them up).

  96. So this (Mooringer Friesisch, there’s a translation table ) is supposed to be “our closest language”?? “Tamermoon” is not explained there. I found out it means “Zimmermann = carpenter”.

    Maike än Sainke drååwe jam bai e kriimer
    Maike: – Ik ban Maike. Än huum bast dü?
    Sainke: – Ik hiitj Sainke. Ik kam foon Klookris. Weer kamst dü jurt?
    Maike: – Ik kam foon Risem, ouers eentlik ban ik foon e Hiirnekuuch.
    Sainke – Sü kånst dü duch was uk Karsen än Fiien?
    Maike – Jååwas, da kån ik gödj. Fiien as en söster tu man swooger.
    Sainke: – Nåån uk duch, dan swooger! As dåt di rüüdjhäärde?
    Maike: – Jåå, hi as tamermoon än kjart arken däi eefter Sal.
    Sainke: – Åch ham! Ham drååwed ik leest nuch önj Naibel.
    Maike: – Jåå, e wråål as latj, ouers hi heet duch niinj rüüdj häär!

  97. Yeah, that whole “Friesian is so close to English you couldn’t tell them apart in a police lineup” thing is ridiculously exaggerated. Old Friesian is pretty similar to some dialects of Middle English, which is nice if you’re studying the Old Friesian Heliand (as I did once upon a time), but that doesn’t mean you can go off to Friesland and understand the locals. (The standard showpiece for similarity is “Bread, butter, and green cheese is good English and good Fries,” which is Frisian “Brea, bûter, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk.”)

  98. I always thought Frisian was a dead language. I met some guy at a Samhain feast once who had done his masters in communication and had to study a dead language as part of the course requirement. I’m pretty sure he said Frisian, but he had studied Icelandic too.

  99. David Marjanović says:

    If they fall out, then you go across to Juarez and get some new ones.

    Actually, no, to Győr.
    Which brings us right back to Hungary. Interesting how attractors for thread topics exist. What next? Dravidians?

  100. Norddeutsches Platt (“Pladdütsch”) always sounds, to me, like German rolled out into a flat English pancake – geplättetes Deutsch in fact. I used to listen in on the North German television “Talk ob Platt” show, until it was discontinued 3 years ago.
    Friesian dialects are almost unintelligible to me, from both the German and English standpoint. It’s not really the “pronunciation”, more the different words and wordforms. If anything, the layman (me) finds the similarities with German more obvious. What criteria are being summoned from the opium dens of linguists, to justify any kind of claim that Friesian dialects are “like English”?

  101. Talk op Platt.

  102. It’s not linguists so much as laymen who have picked up distorted snippets of information that originated with linguists. Friesian is the form of Low German that’s historically closest to English; this doesn’t mean there’s any current intelligibility.

  103. Frisian is not a form of Low German, though extensive language contact has influenced the development of the Frisian languages. Linguists have good reasons for grouping Frisian with insular West Germanic rather than continental West Germanic, for example the palatalization that gave cheese/tsiis as opposed to kaas/Käse.

  104. Well, that was pretty dumb of me. I might equally well ask, huffing and puffing, from what opium den of biologists came the idea that we are genealogically related to primates, because there’s no current resemblance (in most of us, anyway – im Augenblick komm’ ich mir in der Tat vor wie ein Affe).

  105. AJP Crown says:

    East Anglian speech sounds like the Plattdeutsch spoken around Hamburg and I’ll bet that Friesian is more easily understood by someone from Norfolk or Suffolk in England than by some of us other English speakers. And, as I’ve said before, my German accent improved, when I lived in Hamburg, by speaking it as if with a Yorkshire accent.
    I’ll bet the spelling disguises some of the similarity. What’s this double-å? Awww?

  106. AJP Crown says:

    Never mind. Now I read that Mooringer Friesisch translation table I find åå.
    I can see as many connections to Norwegian as to English. And not just to bokmål via Danish, either. Cf koost and å kose and jåå, which my old unintelligible neighbour uses when he wants to fill awkward pauses.

  107. Grumbly, I imagine the similarities between Old English and modern German would seem clearer to you than the similarities between Old English and modern English.

  108. when he wants to fill awkward pauses

    Luhmann explains that awkward pauses must be filled. Sense has to go on recreating itself, otherwise it dies (a natural death, like an extinct species of animal). Sense appears only when the topic changes, at the seams. It’s impossible to communicate one thing only.

    Sinn zwingt sich selbst zum Wechsel. … Einerseits gibt es schon in neurophysiologischen Systemen (und vielleicht müßte man auch sagen: in Atomen und Sonnen) entsprechende basale Unruhe. Andererseits ist die gesamte Welt der sozialen Kommunikation darauf eingerichtet, daß Monotonie ausgeschlossen ist und man nur kommunizieren kann, indem man Themen und Beiträge wechselt. Wenn nichts zu sagen ist, muß man eben etwas erfinden.

                 Soziale Systeme, stw, p. 98-99

    [Sense forces itself to be variable. ... On the one hand, this fundamental restlessness is present even in neurophysiological systems ( perhaps one should say: in atoms and suns as well). On the other hand, the entire world of social communication is set up on the principle that monotony must be excluded, and that communication is possible only when the topics and the contributions constantly change. When there is nothing to say, something must be made up to say.]

    See also sense thriving on
    disturbances

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