TITSIAN.

Alan Shaw sent me a link to this interview by Rebecca Gould with descendants of Titsian Tabidze, the great Georgian poet who fell victim to Stalin’s purges when he was only 42. That Wikipedia article and Gould’s introduction will give you a basic idea of the man’s life and fate; for a look at him in his prime, I’ll quote from Chukovsky’s Diary, 1901-1969, the entry for 27 August, 1933 (Chukovsky is visiting Yalta):

Tabidze, the tamada [toastmaster], sat at the head of the table; corpulent and lethargic, he was a born tamada. He immediately toasted Marya Borisovna [C's wife] and me (and even mentioned my Shevchenko article and my book From Chekhov to Our Times).[...]
The tamada‘s toasts were very lofty in style: “Beauty has its obligations.” “Beauty will save the world.” “The holy family of Boris Pasternak, Boris Pilnyak, and Boris Bugaev” [the real name of Andrey Bely] (three writers who had visited Georgia).[...] Tabidze drank continually, and the toasts went on for three and a half hours. [. . .] Tabidze recited Blok, and the poems seemed to gain in beauty from his Georgian accent. Tabidze is a former symbolist in the Russo-Gallic vein, a vestige of that great poetic period, and his drunken poetic wails evoked the spirit of 1908-10. His face resembles Oscar Wilde’s when swollen with absinthe. For ten years now he’s been collecting material for a novel about Shamil.

My niggling linguistic question: why is his name ტიციან [titsian] in Georgian, and not ტიციანი [titsiani]? I thought final -i was pretty much de rigueur; the painter Titian is ტიციანი [titsiani], for example.

Comments

  1. I speak Georgian but I’ve never formally studied Georgian grammar, so I’m not sure what the exact reason is. As far as I can tell, a name standing on its own (and ends in a consonant) like Titian (Titsiani) needs to have an -i added to the end so it can follow the noun declensions the same way as other nouns. It’s the same with the Georgian Queen Tamar, for example. In her wikipedia entry she is presented as “Tamari” or “Tamar Mepe” (Queen [technically King] Tamar).
    Titsian Tabidze’s given name is “Titsian” but since it ends in a consonant it has an implied -i for when it has to be declined. His name can also be written Titsiani Tabidze. But Titsian on its own in a sentence will be “titsiani” in the nominative case and declined accordingly; “titsianma” in the ergative, etc.
    I hope someone who understands Georgian grammar better will be able to clarify this, though.

  2. Alan Shaw says:

    (Another Alan Shaw!) I couldn’t help laughing at the line “He was a born tamada.” 他媽的!

  3. But Titsian on its own in a sentence will be “titsiani” in the nominative case and declined accordingly
    There’s something slightly similar that occurs in colloquial German (at least in the Rhineland, pace tanti viri David M.), in that a proper name in a sentence gets a bit of grammar added on. Part of the reason for this, I think, it that it enables explicit syntactical marking where you would otherwise have to rely on “positional syntax”. For instance, although Ralf habe ich die Meinung gesagt [I gave Ralf a piece of my mind] is perfectly OK, the colloquial form is Dem Ralf habe ich die Meinung gesagt. The speaker assumes that the hearers are familiar in some way with the particular Ralf meant, but not necessarily that they know him personally. Dem Ralf Walther habe ich … would be used when the speaker thinks the hearers might be less familiar with this particular Ralf, or when there are several Ralfs in the immediate communication context. A writer such as Thilo Sarrazin (author of the currently notorious Deutschland schafft sich ab [Germany is eliminating itself]) would be referred to as Der Sarrazin.

  4. I wrote Der Sarrazin, which may seem to imply that the article should be capitalized when this propernomical (!?) expression occurs in a sentence, but that is not the case. When I quoted the German sentences I capitalized the initial words, and I originally intended to give a complete sentence starting with Der Sarrazin ….

  5. Trond Engen says:

    Stu: What you see is similar, but it’s rather the fix applied when the former system is no longer available to (all) names. A “name article” is also traditionally present in Scandinavian (IIRC, north of a line going roughly east to west not far north of Stockholm and Oslo, then turning southwest and hitting the North Sea somewhere between Kristiansand and Stavanger). Here it’s the personal pronoun that’s used:
    han Kåre “he/him Kåre”
    butikken hass Kåre* “the shop his Kåre” = “Kåre’s shop”
    ho mor “she/her(obj.) mother” = “(my) mother”
    gryta hennar mor* “the pan her mother” = “(my) mother’s pan”.
    I’m fairly convinced that it originated as a case carrier during the High Medieval when the influx of foreign names was high but the case information was still obligatory.
    * Both genitives are from well-known song lines

  6. As far as I can tell, a name standing on its own (and ends in a consonant) like Titian (Titsiani) needs to have an -i added to the end so it can follow the noun declensions the same way as other nouns.
    Yes, that’s how I understood it. Seeing a Georgian name ending in a bare consonant was like seeing a prerevolutionary Russian word ending in a consonant without a hard or soft sign: very weird. I’m glad a Georgian speaker agrees with me; I’m still curious as to why he is universally referred to without the -i—if you google “ტიციანი ტაბიძე” you get essentially no hits.

  7. Trond, I’m not sure what you mean by “Scandinavian” – is that an imaginary “greatest common divisor” of Swedish and Norwegian ? In any case, your example appears to be more like a different colloquial construct in certain (at least Rheinland) dialects, where the article is used as a redundant possessive pronoun:
    Hänsel: Hab’ gehört, dem sein Vater ist arbeitslos geworden. [I heard his father got laid off]
    Gretel: Nee, das war dem sein Onkel. [Nope, it was his uncle]

  8. @Stu: “Scandinavian languages” is a widely-used moniker for the descendents of Old Norse. And, although my Norwegian is next-to-nil, I can attest to the same phenomenon happening in colloquial Norrland Swedish, so I don think Trond has it wrong, at least for the continental languages. I couldn’t say whether this is inherited from ON or an areal phenomenon, though.

  9. Trond Engen says:

    Stu: No, that’s different.
    The Northern Scandinavian declension of personal names:
    Vocative: Ola!, mor!
    Nom./acc./dat.: han Ola, ho mor
    Genitive: hans Ola, hennar mor
    Some conservative dialects may still have some version of
    (Acc./)dat.: honom Ola, henna mor
    (with huge variations in the actual pronominal forms)
    I use “Scandinavian” for the North Germanic dialect continuum. Sometimes, when it’s a point, I may specify “Contintental Scandinavian” (but I didn’t do it here because the name article is said to be present in Icelandic and Faroese too — with some special features that I don’t remember so I wanted too be vague about it). Traditional dialect features are often distributed according to patterns that don’t coincide with the national borders. My ideas of the pattern on Swedish and Danish ground are very rough, though.
    Alan: It’s not from really old Old Norse, anyway. I imagine that the southern dialects lost the case system before the northern, so that the name article became obsolete (or didn’t develop at all).

  10. so I don’t think Trond has it wrong, at least for the continental languages
    Trond, Alon: I didn’t say Trond was wrong. What I said is that what he describes seems different from the Rheinland dialect construction I originally cited (der Ralf), in a way I think is significant but perhaps a linguist would not.
    As far as I understand Trond’s examples, the “obj.” (accusative ?) form of a personal pronoun is functioning in them as a possessive pronoun – him, her – though I’m not sure what the English “he/him Kåre” means in the first example. In the second (very untutored) Rheinland construction I cited (dem sein Vater), the article der/die 1) is in the dative, and 2) is not functioning as a possessive pronoun (in that sein is already a possessive pronoun), but rather as an apparently redundant “intensifier” of the possessive pronoun – DEM sein Vater, not EINEM ANDEREN sein Vater. It just occurs to me that this construction resembles contrastive reduplication.

  11. It sounds to me that in Georgian (though I speak out of ignorance, not knowledge) when a full name is given, the first name need not be declined, and therefore doesn’t have to carry a vowel ending.
    When Titian was painting rose madder,
    With his model on top of a ladder,
         Her position, to Titian,
         Suggested coition,
    So he climbed up the ladder and had her.

  12. The situation is the same with his cousin, Galaktion (a book of whose poetry I happened upon used in Boston), isn’t it? The disambiguation page for გალაკტიონი between the poet and the so-named literary journal is made rather more confusing by the latter not having its own page, but being within his.
    Google Books only offers a hint, as usual.

  13. when a full name is given, the first name need not be declined, and therefore doesn’t have to carry a vowel ending.
    Ah, that must be it. Looks like I’ll have to relearn Georgian again…

  14. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t think I explain myself too well. The Scandinavian name article works much like the German definite article on a noun. Here’s a new set of examples:
    Kvar er han Ola? “Where is he Ola?”
    Han er hjå ho (/henne) Kari “He is with herACC Kari”
    Er ikkje ho kjærasten hans Per “Is not she the-girlfriend his Per?”

  15. Yeah, it is the same with Galaktion Tabidze. But by the first name on its own he is always Galaktioni.
    I think John Cowan is right, in the case where somebody’s name is Otar Mchedlishvili, he is declined as Otar Mchedlishvilma, Otar Mchedlishvils, and so on. Otar alone on a sentence is Otari in the nominative.
    But for some reason, the first name with a last, not given in a sentence, can be written both ways. I know people with their names written as Tinatin _______ and Tinatini _________ on their Facebooks, for example. Not sure why.

  16. @Stu: in dem sein Vater, dem is stressed and is therefore a demonstrative pronoun, not an article, so the situation is not strictly parallel. You can see this more clearly in the plural, where the demonstrative and the article forms differ. Their father would be denen ihr Vater.
    Dem sein Vater is the same construction as in Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod. The genitive is replaced by a possessive adjective and the actual possessor is a noun (or in this case a demonstrative pronoun)in the dative case which is somehow dependent on the possessive adjective. I always thought that this construction is more widespread in German dialects and not limited to the Rhineland.

  17. chemiazrit says:

    I’m still curious as to why he is universally referred to without the -i—if you google “ტიციანი ტაბიძე” you get essentially no hits.
    Because it’s only when a given name ending in a consonant is used in isolation that the -i nominative suffix becomes required. If the surname is also used and it has a normal Georgian ending, then the -i isn’t affixed. (I have personal experience of this from my years in Georgia: when my given name alone was used I was inevitably “ჯონი”; when my full name was used I became ჯონ mylastnameendinginaconsonant-i.)

  18. Kvar er han Ola? “Where is he Ola?”
    Han er hjå ho (/henne) Kari “He is with herACC Kari”
    Er ikkje ho kjærasten hans Per “Is not she the-girlfriend his Per?”

    Trond, I appreciate your efforts, unfortunately I don’t understand your examples because they are in a kind of linguist-speak intermediate between two languages. I would have to know both languages, but I know only one of them.
    Suppose I were a baker specializing in wedding-cakes in the shape of large frogs with green icing, but had myself never actually encountered a frog. Suppose you were a frog biologist, and wanted to make a frog wedding cake for me as a token of your appreciation. Now, if you cut up a bunch of frogs and pressed them together to look like a large frog, you might think that was a nice frog wedding cake present. I suppose it would be for a frog biologist, but not for a baker.
    So let me try to figure out the English X that completes the Scandinavian<->linguist-speak<->X triad. It seems that Ola and Per are the names of guys, Kari is the name of a girl. The conversation would be:
    “Where is Ola?”
    “He is with Kari”
    “Isn’t she Per’s girlfriend ?”

    Is that right ?

  19. Apparently I have a Georgian font installed …

  20. Trond Engen says:

    Stu: Yes. I should have offered a full translation, not only word-by-word. (I usually do that, I hope, but this time my wife shouted that Monty Python’s Flying Circus was on TV!)

  21. @Gary: in dem sein Vater, dem is stressed and is therefore a demonstrative pronoun, not an article, so the situation is not strictly parallel.
    I agree partially with you, but not with the implicit claim that dem is *always* stressed in dem sein Vater. It *can* be stressed when the speaker wants to distinguish “this Ralf” from “some other Ralf” . That’s why I spoke of an “intensifier” function and noted the resemblance to contrastive reduplication, which also tries to distinguish the first element of the reduplication by stressing it. But in and around Cologne, and elsewhere in the Rheinland, you hear this construction used frequently by a certain class of folks without any stressing of the dem, der or denen – it’s just the way they talk, without emphasis unless desired.
    I originally considered writing that the dem in dem sein Vater functions as a demonstrative pronoun. But I then thought: if I did that, someone would be sure to pipe up with “you’re wrong, dieser, jener are the demonstrative pronouns in German”. At least you and David Marjanovic are in a position to know what I’m talking about when I comment on features of “German”, even if we might not always agree on the points at issue. Also, I am very weak on the technical vocabulary of grammar, because I find that grammatical analysis offers little insight into the actual use of language.
    I always thought that this construction is more widespread in German dialects and not limited to the Rhineland.
    Could well be. At this site I have learned to exercise a degree of caution when making pronouncements about features of “German”. Not surprisingly, it turns out that I have often generalized from my own experience without having sufficient evidence – indeed without its even having occurred to me that I should have packed more than pluck and luck in my overnight argument bag.

  22. Not surprisingly, it turns out that I have often generalized from my own experience without having sufficient evidence
    This is one of the main things I have learned from this blog.

  23. @hat: This is one of the main things I have learned from this blog
    And your commenariat gets the same benefit without ever having to run a blog of their own.
    @Stu: My intuition just doesn’t see dem in dem sein Vater as an article. There are degrees of stress, and your comment assumes the kind that means “this one not that one”. There’s also the kind analogous to stressed and unstressed “some” in English. Unstressed some in English is a sort of indefinite article, stressed some is a sort of definite article.
    But of course your other point is true: I certainly enjoy generalizing from my own experience without having sufficient evidence.

  24. rootlesscosmo says:

    According to Otto Friedrich’s book about Weimar-era Germany, “Before the Deluge,” right-wingers used to sing
    Knallt ab den Walther Rathenau
    die gottverfluchte Judensau

    The young men who actually assassinated him were Prussians, as I recall; whether the “den” is a regional variation or just thrown in for the sake of scansion, I can’t say.

  25. The speaker assumes that the hearers are familiar in some way with the particular Ralf meant, but not necessarily that they know him personally. Dem Ralf Walther habe ich … would be used when the speaker thinks the hearers might be less familiar with this particular Ralf, or when there are several Ralfs in the immediate communication context.
    Sorry, Grumbly, to be looking for trouble with things I know very little of (please assume near-zero knowledge of German on my part when reading this), but don’t we mix two different things here? The original discussion of Georgian name endings was, as it quickly transpired, about declentions and related endings of nouns and names, unless I missed a turn. You, if I understand correctly, are talking about a phenomenon whereby an article is used with a personal name to denote the relation to the speaker or particularity of the person thus named. Is it that in German the articles and declentions are linked?
    The use with personal names of articles or other constructs that would normally apply to a noun appears pretty wide-spread and logical; e.g. in Flaubert: “Dussardier a pour maîtresse la Vatnaz, qui veut se marier avec lui.”, or the way we use plural with personal names in Russian (or in many other languages for that matter): the so-and-sos, meaning the likes of So-and-So? But the Georgian phenomenon under discussion seems to be something different, doesn’t it?

  26. Trond Engen says:

    Stu’s German name article does more than the la of your French example. By carrying case it allows a name to convey the same syntactic (or prosodic, or whatever) information as (other) nouns. In the example in his original reply,
    Dem Ralf habe ich die Meinung gesagt,
    the article identifies the dative object. The dative object is fronted for emphasis here. I don’t know if that’s significant for whether or not the name article is applied, but I imagine it might be.

  27. Is it that in German the articles and declentions are linked?
    maxim, I merely wrote “slightly similar” to the Georgian -i:

    There’s something slightly similar that occurs in colloquial German (at least in the Rhineland, pace tanti viri David M.), in that a proper name in a sentence gets a bit of grammar added on. Part of the reason for this, I think, it that it enables explicit syntactical marking where you would otherwise have to rely on “positional syntax”.

    To put it technically, almost all German articles, pronouns, adjectives and nouns are subject to declension. The declensional changes in nouns are restricted to at most the genitive and the plural cases, whereas articles and adjectives change in every grammatical case (most of the variety is in the singular). You could say that declensional changes drain off from nouns and adjectives into articles when these are present (vide “strong/weak declensions” of adjectives). Articles provide the greatest variety of syntactical markings that you can use to make yourself more easily understood.
    Gary wrote “My intuition just doesn’t see dem in dem sein Vater as an article”. My intuition is exactly the same, but what can you do when grammarians insist that “der/die/das are articles” ? That’s why I also wrote “I am very weak on the technical vocabulary of grammar, because I find that grammatical analysis offers little insight into the actual use of language.”. When you want to understand and/or speak a language, you have to learn it – grammatical classification is more of a hindrance than a help after a certain point. Arguments as to whether dem in dem sein Vater is an article or a demonstrative pronoun are useless to the end of grasping the construction.
    My two examples
    1)
    Hänsel: Hab’ gehört, dem sein Vater ist arbeitslos geworden. [I heard his father got laid off]
    Gretel: Nee, das war dem sein Onkel. [Nope, it was his uncle]
    2)
    Dem Ralf habe ich die Meinung gesagt
    are examples of two different phenomena. 1) shows a non-emphatic use of der/die, the one that Gary and I have the same intuition about – it ain’t “an article”, no matter what the grammar books say
    2) shows the casemark-bearing article used to signal up-front that Ralf is in the dative (no positional emphasis intended in my example, Trond, without context one has no clue about that). How Ralf is functioning will become clear within a second anyway, as the speaker continues, but the dem is a bit of advance help. As soon as habe ich turns up, it is clear at least that Ralf is not the subject of the sentence, but rather ich. This is followed immediately by die Meinung gesagt, making clear that Ralf is in the dative, because of the locution [dative of person] die Meinung sagen.
    Of course I am not claiming that this process is something any hearer of the sentence in fact goes through in his mind. Rather, I am suggesting how you can imagine what happens. When you assimilate the spirit of the suggestion and so forget about the suggestion, you are well on the road to learning German. It’s exactly like learning to play baseball – somebody shows you how to hold the bat, watch the pitcher’s moves, keep your eye on the ball and on the outfield etc. But you will never play ball until you have stopped thinking analytically about all the detail.
    You always have a choice of exclusive alternatives: either you analyze, or you understand. You can’t do both at the same time, and doing one does not necessarily equip you to do the other.

  28. Thanks, Grumbly, for the detailed explanation. I will take some time to analyze it :-)

  29. Dem Ralf habe ich die Meinung gesagt,
    the article identifies the dative object. The dative object is fronted for emphasis here. I don’t know if that’s significant for whether or not the name article is applied, but I imagine it might be.

    I think I understand about the dative, but would we achieve something similar in French with the same dative sense conveyed by “preposition+definite article” construct:
    “…Au pont Mirabeau
    Pour un coup d’ chapeau
    À l’Apollinaire”
    , or do I miss something again, or do I misunderstand the French, too?

  30. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: Gary wrote “My intuition just doesn’t see dem in dem sein Vater as an article”. My intuition is exactly the same, but what can you do when grammarians insist that “der/die/das are articles” ? That’s why I also wrote “I am very weak on the technical vocabulary of grammar, because I find that grammatical analysis offers little insight into the actual use of language.”. When you want to understand and/or speak a language, you have to learn it – grammatical classification is more of a hindrance than a help after a certain point. Arguments as to whether dem in dem sein Vater is an article or a demonstrative pronoun are useless to the end of grasping the construction.
    In technical terms, German der/die/das are considered forms of the definite article. But defining this set of forms as corresponding to the traditionally accepted technical use of the term “definite article” does not preclude using the article with demonstrative force, as in the examples given. Grammatical categories are usually defined as to their most salient usage, even if the technical term can apply to a different usage. For instance, in English the “present” form can be used to indicate the “future”: I’m coming tomorrow, or When I grow up …. Such uses do not justify calling the present form a future form, just for those cases. (Many modern linguists would use “timeless” instead of “present”, for those reasons).
    Many languages do not have articles at all: Russian is a well-known example, and Latin did not have articles either. In the majority of cases, articles derive historically from demonstratives (eg Spanish or French la from Latin illa), so it is not surprising that they might keep a part of their original function. They became “articles” through overuse, so that their original meaning became weakened or “bleached”. Third-person pronouns also typically derive from demonstratives (eg Spanish el, French il, from Latin ille). Such phenomena are well-known in historical linguistics, and are attested to have occurred in a wide variety of languages.

  31. marie-lucie, I have come to feel that what you do – historical linguistics, if I’ve understood it correctly – is where it’s at, as far as I’m concerned. The claims and clamors of many other kinds of linguistics (transformational grammar, frinstance) just make me irritable. Maybe it’s your clarity that calms the nerves. Pardon my French, but I think of you as marie-lucide.

  32. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, Grumbly, but I prefer my own name.
    Yes, historical (or rather “panchronic”) linguistics should be where it’s at. Most synchronic theoreticians are not people who actually like to learn languages, or who even enjoy the variety that is in their own languages (dialects, registers, etc). Instead they are trying for the most abstract possible formulations. This attitude makes me think of a person who might claim to be a cat lover, but was only interested in cat skeletons or cat physiology.
    There are several factors to consider in studying the history of a language, some are internal and call for a technical approach (changes in structure and sounds) and some are external (the history of the speakers and their contacts with other languages). Not to forget that “history” is not restricted to a more or less nebulous past but is still going on! To me, this mix is what makes historical linguistics interesting.

  33. In the majority of cases, articles derive historically from demonstratives … so it is not surprising that they might keep a part of their original function.
    I remember hearing “auf der seite” with emphasis on der, where the meaning was clearly demonstrative (implying contrast with “jener seite”).
    Hab’ gehört, dem sein Vater ist arbeitslos geworden.
    I wasn’t familiar with this. What’s the import of the dative there?

  34. marie-lucie says:

    maxim: in Flaubert: “Dussardier a pour maîtresse la Vatnaz, qui veut se marier avec lui.”
    I recognize the name “Dussardier” from L’Education sentimentale, but I have forgotten the details and the Vatnaz character.
    The use of the article, as in la Vatnaz, is at least slightly derogatory. Flaubert implies that the woman is fairly well-known (at least within some circles) but not for high position or admirable qualities. If she was considered respectable, therefore a potential marriage partner to the bourgeois Dussardier (in which case she would not be known as his mistress), she would be referred to as Mademoiselle Vatnaz (or Madame Vatnaz if she were a widow). The sentence implies that Dussardier is something of a wimp being led by the nose by “that Vatnaz woman”.
    In lower-class colloquial speech, for instance among the Vatnaz entourage (and aspecially in Southern France), Dussardier could have been referred to as le Dussardier (“that Dussardier guy”), but not in the circles that Flaubert describes in the novel.
    I don’t mean that la X always implies that the woman is of “ill-repute”, but it is never fully complimentary. There are instances of famous women being known as la X, for instance la Sand, la Pavlova, and a few others, but those women, even if admired for their work, were considered as socially deviant (writer, actress, singer, dancer, etc)(of course, I am not talking about present-day mores). I think that in Italian the article in La Duse, La Tebaldi, La Callas, etc, like Il Dante, is more complimentary, and those women can be referred to in the same way in French (but no one would say “le Dante”).

  35. What’s the import of the dative there?
    Let me first stress that it’s just the way some Germans speak, so in that sense it has no import. Looking from a distance, I once had the thought that for these people it’s as if sein were too vague in its meaning of “his”, so they add an intensifier that has the effect on an outsider of “his his”. But, as I wrote above, this construction by itself does not imply any kind of emphasis. Stressing the word can provide emphasis, of course. “His own” is a similar kind of “redundancy” in English.
    Each German case has a “feel” to it. The dative is like a hole into which things go and whence they emerge, and where related things live (as in our example) as well as contrafactual ones: Dem ist nicht so [that is not the case]. The accusative is a hindrance that you knock up against, and a place where things endure action on them. The genitive suggests vicinity, association, ownership and quantity. In the nominative, things act and are.

  36. The dative and genitive are the most interesting aspects of German. When you can deploy them without prepositional crutches, you are almost fit for polite society. Remains your lexical prowess.

  37. Thank you very much, Marie-Lucie! I knew I could count on your patient explanations :-).
    The use of the article, as in la Vatnaz, is at least slightly derogatory.
    M-lle de Vatnatz is indeed being repeatedly called “la Vatnaz”, “that Vatnaz”, because she is somewhat out of ordinary and of dubious social status (an émancipée of sorts).
    There are instances of famous women being known as la X, for instance la Sand, la Pavlova, and a few others,
    I happen to know at least one literary example: that of George Brassense with “un coup de chapeau à l’Apollinaire” (when passing by Pont Mirabeau), although I suspect this is something subtly different: Brassense is ever deflationary, and the definite article is to be understood as “certain Appolinaire”, not as “the great Apollinaire”, while he really means “great”, of course.
    What I was curious to know is if this is indeed comparable with the German usage that Grumbly was referring to: “to that Ralph”(?).

  38. What I was curious to know is if this is indeed comparable with the German usage that Grumbly was referring to: “to that Ralph”(?).
    maxim, *not* “that Ralf” in my example dem Ralf die Meinung sagen, but merely “Ralf”: “give Ralf a piece of my mind”, more generally “give him/her a piece of my mind”.
    Der/die X in German can be used just like le/la X in French to express a somewhat derogatory estimation of a well-known person: die Merkel, der Grass, and farther back in time die Bernhardt (la Bernhardt). But, possibly in slight contrast to what marie-lucie writes about the French usage:

    I don’t mean that la X always implies that the woman is of “ill-repute”, but it is never fully complimentary.

    the German usage can also be neutral, i.e. neither derogatory nor complimentary. Two things are significant here: the use of last names, and the fact that the persons are well-known (and thus subject to the familiar gamut of adulation and scorn by ordinary folks).
    However, in the German variants I have been giving examples from, der/die X is used also with first names, and implies by itself absolutely no valuation of the person referred to. Whatever the origin of this usage, der/die X has the useful side-effect in speech of allowing hearers instantly to recognize the grammatical role of X in sentences, because der/die carry casemarkings. Otherwise you may have to wait for a few more words to come before you can sort out what is being said. This is why I originally said there seems to be a slight similarity to the Georgian -i on names. There is no counterpart to this in French or English, since there is hardly any declension in these languages and so one has to rely primarily on word order to understand what is being said.
    As a reminder, this kind of der/die X is colloquial (although possibly not confined to the Rheinland, to which I cautiously restricted my attestation), and in the Kölsch dialects of Cologne and environs it is a standard part of the dialect, not just colloquial. All of this is nothing anyone has to concern himself/herself with when learning to speak standard German. One should merely be aware of the phenomenon when reading and listening.

  39. @maxim: Let’s wait for marie-lucie to give a definite answer, but to me “un coup de chapeau à l’Apollinaire” means “à la manière d’Apollinaire”, just like “à la française”.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    minus, maxim:
    “…Au pont Mirabeau
    Pour un coup d’ chapeau
    À l’Apollinaire”
    L’Apollinaire sounds a bit odd here, but it is relevant that Brassens was from the South (Sète, on the Mediterranean), where the use of the article with a first name is more widespread than in the Northern half of the country, and this use is familiar rather than derogatory.
    In the song, Brassens goes to the Pont Mirabeau (that Apollinaire mentioned in a famous poem) for a “hat tip” to “the Apollinaire we all know”, almost “our Apollinaire”.
    “A la manière d’Apollinaire” (which does not make sense in the context of the song) would be shortened as à la Apollinaire, keeping the la intact since it applies to the feminine word manière, not to the masculine Apollinaire.

  41. Stu:
    Der/die X in German can be used just like le/la X in French to express a somewhat derogatory estimation of a well-known person: die Merkel, der Grass …
    … the German usage can also be neutral, i.e. neither derogatory nor complimentary…
    Can’t it also, in reference to a person merely well known to you and the person you’re addressing, be mildly affectionate (or maybe affectionate-ironic)?

  42. marie-lucie says:

    Der/die X in German can be used just like le/la X in French …
    In Standard (Northern) French, only la seems to be used in this way.

  43. Bertie Wooster, with a whiff of misogyny, will at times refer to a female acquaintance as La Craye or the Bassett.

  44. Alan: Can’t it also, in reference to a person merely well known to you and the person you’re addressing, be mildly affectionate (or maybe affectionate-ironic)?
    You can arrange, by additional intonation, to convey mild affection, affectionate irony, ironic affectation, loving exasperation etc. But “it”, the dialect use of der/die to indicate casemarkings, does not do this by itself.
    In standard German, where der/die is not used in that way, it can be used one-off in a particular setting to show ironic affection. Example: Ralf is married to Danni, and neither of them speaks that kind of dialect. Danni and some friends are waiting for Ralf to come home from work. When he finally does and enters the room, Danni says Ach, der Ralfi ! with an arch intonation, meaning “well well, look who’s finally turned up”. That may be the kind of thing you mean.

  45. Stu:
    Yes, something like that, though I was thinking more of the use of the article with last names.
    For instance, Renate Bronnen, in the transcript of an interview I found online, refers to Brecht, her husband Arnolt Bronnen, Ernst Busch, and various other well-known figures, invariably using the article plus last name. It seems to indicate, not affection, necessarily (she didn’t care for some of them), but simple familiarity, as if to say “these were all people I knew well, I didn’t just read about them somewhere.”
    What I was thinking of earlier, though, was a case where the people in question weren’t necessarily prominent.

  46. Christopher Stone says:

    For reference’s sake, I’m currently a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Georgia.
    I was wondering about Lule’s initial comment and went ahead and checked out the Georgian wikipedia article on Titian to see the different noun declensions we get:
    ტიციანის
    ტიციანმა
    It should be noted that in that article we get both “ტიციან” AND “ტიციანი”, but we only get “ტიციანი” when his last name is not included–all the times we see it without the final -i the last name is included, because you don’t need the nominative -i if the word ends with a vowel.
    This gels with the way my own name is written for official documents and the way Georgians typically use it; if just my first name is being used, it comes out as “კრისტოფერი”, but if it’s my FULL name, then it’s “კრისტოფერ სტოუნი”, with the -i moving to the end of my last name.

  47. @Alan: simple familiarity, as if to say “these were all people I knew well, I didn’t just read about them somewhere.”
    Yes, that’s a version of name-dropping used by many Germans, and not just educated ones. Depending on your intonation, it can sound either dismissive or insider-like. But I myself consider all that to be infra dig.
    You won’t catch me saying die Merkel, for instance, but just Merkel. Not out of respect, but because I prefer straightforward sarcasm over insinuation and sniggery. I say this not because I think I’m so hot, but just to point out to potential learners of German that they have leeway here as to how far they should imitate native speakers.

  48. Thanks very much, Christopher!

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