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German language – colorful language
Foreign words in your own language are a nuisance for many people. The German always new words added. For learners of German, this harbors both opportunities and dangers.
Whether "chaise longue", "macho" or "talk show" – if you ask for a term in German that originally comes from a different language, almost every native speaker will immediately think of numerous foreign words. We are aware that Latin, Greek, French have shaped the German language, and we are discussing violently how many Anglicisms the German language can still tolerate.
"Biscuit", "bread roll" and "hammock" – how German is German?
But if you believe scientists like the German studies professors Ulrich Ammon and Heike Wiese, then the actual foreign words have a much smaller meaning for the German language than one might initially assume: “Foreign words are expressions such as wallets that are not are adapted to German pronunciation, spelling and grammar. They certainly make up less than five percent of all German words, ”says Ammon. The vast majority of our words, on the other hand, are so-called hereditary words or are now so naturally part of the German language that we no longer perceive them as “foreign bodies”. Because who is aware, for example, that our "biscuit" comes from the English "cakes" or that the apparently so German word "Semmel" has a Latin origin?
In addition to the large and well-known languages, smaller idioms such as Inuit languages or Haitian Taino, which are more distant from the German-speaking world, have also left their mark on the German language. It is not always easy to understand who influenced whom and how, as Wiese makes clear using the example of the "hammock": "The word originally comes from Taino, the language of the Haitian indigenous population, then went on to colonization into Spanish, into French neighboring language and finally via Dutch into early modern German. There, hundreds of years ago, the Dutch ‘hangmat’ became the German hammock. "
Who brings new words into the language?
There are also examples of words that have been brought into the language community by disadvantaged or even outcast social groups: The term “mess” was introduced by the Jewish population in Germany and is due to a Hebrew origin. And in the Ruhr area, the term "Mottek", which was brought in by Polish immigrants, is also used for a hammer. In Amon’s assessment, it is mostly the more privileged people, as then, who bring the new words into society and are then imitated: “Today, for example, journalists and advertisers bring in English expressions that are then picked up by young people. And in the Middle Ages, the church and science adopted Latin terms that are still used today. ”
Wherever a language is influenced by foreign idioms, there seem to be people who resist it. Efforts to interpret foreign and loanwords have existed for several centuries. "After the founding of the German Reich, for example, they searched for German translations for French terms, such as ‘abstainer’ for ‘abstinent’ or ‘fragrance’ for ‘aroma’," says Ammon. And accordingly there are also efforts today to avoid Anglicisms. An important reason for this is that language is the most immediately perceivable and producible means of expression for national identity: If this national symbol takes on an increasingly foreign form, some will see it as "a kind of symbolic undermining of national autonomy". While in earlier centuries French was primarily criticized as the language of the enemy, today this fits well with the feeling that the United States dominates us in terms of power politics and in other respects.
Everything like back then – only much faster
Unique in history is that today there is a language with English that has an impact on all other idioms worldwide and can spread through the mass media at a rapid pace. Nevertheless, the scientists warn of a dramatization of the Anglicisms: "Of course English words are very present on German television, for example, but they rarely appear in everyday conversations," says emeritus British professor of German studies Martin Durrell. And even if that were the case, one should not regret the development in his eyes: “Language is not a fixed object, it only exists in the mouth of the population. You can’t stop language from changing. "
Of course, traditional expressions can disappear or become less important under the influence of other languages. But is it really a problem that we no longer use a word like "nurse" or that in clothing stores we no longer speak of "shorts" but "shorts"? In any case, the scientists agree that new terms also create new possibilities of differentiation and can thus enrich the German language. Because we don’t buy potatoes when we go shopping and we don’t get mail from the mailbox.
Opportunities and dangers for the learners
For learners of German, the international influences are both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, it can be helpful if they can use their mother tongue or other foreign language skills to understand certain terms. On the other hand, of course, this should not result in you generously replacing unknown vocabulary with English words.
Foreign words are particularly well suited to exploring German grammar in Wiese’s assessment: "Why is ‘computer’ capitalized and why does it get a male article? How do words like ‘google’ or ‘liked’ come about? And why does the originally Turkish Koseword ‘Canım’ get a dot on the ‘ı’ in German? If you understand how such foreign elements are adapted to the German system, you learn a lot about the system of German grammar and writing. "
From “kaffeklatsching” to “wischi-waschi” – when German words go on a trip around the world
We surf the Internet with a secure firewall, say "sorry" instead of "sorry" and are amazed when our children just say "super" instead of "megacool". Ever more Anglicisms are conquering everyday German language. But what many take for granted is lamented by linguists and committed language wardens: does the strong influence of English endanger the German language? Enough whining, she said Society for German Language e.V.. (GfdS) and started a countermovement in 2004. The project Emigrated words was born.
"We wanted to find out which German words are used every day abroad," said Professor Dr. Rudolf Hoberg from the GfdS. Words like "kindergarten", "comfort", "sauerkraut" and "bratwurst" have long been known as German imports. The key questions were: is there more? How far have German words actually traveled? Do they have the same meaning there or a completely different one? "The response to the project’s first call for tenders was tremendous," says Hoberg. So huge that in collaboration with German Language Council the search for the emigrated words was made known internationally: over 6000 words of German origin, which emigrated all over the world and found a new linguistic home there, were sent in. The smorgasbord of the many funny, amazing and astonishing stories, anecdotes and reports can now be read in the accompanying publication of the same name Emigrated words, published by Hueber Verlag in November 2006.
I don’t want to drag!
If you want to go on a boat trip in Poland, go on the "Rejs". A Bulgarian packs his “Kufar” first for the holiday. The English, on the other hand, prefer small hand luggage, because "they don’t want to tow too much around." Since 1913 the Turkish railway started with German help, Turkish train attendants have been calling "fertik" when the train is supposed to start. In Cameroon, thanks to German-Cameroonian cooperation, the train station is still “banop”.
"The words in the German language are much better known abroad than we thought," says Professor Hoberg. Even if the travel destinations of German words extend across the globe: Most of the entries come from Eastern Europe and English. "There are long German traditions in both rooms, so many people speak our language there," explains Dr. Karin Eichhoff-Cyrius and Dr. Lutz Karnisch from the GfdS.
Strawberry smear on bread
If something stops working or is no longer fun in Québec, it is "broken". In Tanzania, anesthesia is actually "nusu broken", which means half broken. It is also very amusing how German words are symbolized in Afrikaans. An impatient German is an “Aberjetze”. A submarine in Afrikaans has the beautiful name "kanitzeen boat". Things whose name we can not think of are what we call dingsbums, in Polish the word "wihaister" is used. A person who always expresses his opinion and thereby presents the ideas of others as silly is a “better servicer” in Finland. If you want to buy jam in Brazil, you should ask for "grease". In 2004, the wording of an American presidential candidate was just as surprising: In his speech, he described his challenger as too "wischi-waschi".
Of cat woe and brotherhood
Some German words just seem to be convincing. This is how a “cat whine” in English describes a desperate, depressed mood. Anyone who does not want to use the religious "bless you" in the USA simply says "health" to the sneezer of the neighbor. In Russia, the word “brotherhood” (the ü is spoken as u) is used to invite you to a glass of wine or a glass of vodka drown out of friendship.
But some words lose their original meaning when strolling around the world. It is hard to explain why the British youth of all people use the German word "uber" (from over) as an increase in "super" or "mega". The most frequently sent word in the tender, the French “vasistas” (skylight, skylight), (still) leaves many questions unanswered. “The project does not offer a linguistic study. Some of the words that have been sent to us can only be a flash in the pan, ”explains Professor Dr. Hoberg.
But one thing is certain: language is rarely as fun as the emigrated words. In the course of globalization, and through books, television and the Internet, the German language is moving inexorably and will certainly continue to blossom. Just like all other languages, because: Languages don’t know any border, they pack their bags and just go. We wish you a safe journey!
The language sold
There is a type of moody, homicidal speech protector that you don’t want to meet in the dark. But there are also reasons to feel concern for the existence of the German language in the bright midday light of enlightened reason. Why is there not a counter for information at train stations, but a service point? What does the English genitive apostrophe have in Susi’s crochet studio to search? What devil drove a German science minister to a campaign with the motto » Brain up «, which makes no sense in German or English?
Flooding with English phrases is only one, probably the smallest part of the problem. The greater part consists of their ignorant appropriation for decorative purposes. There is a lot to be said for seeing the spirit of brash advertising at work. The German railways not only want to modernize themselves technically; it also wants to look modern. That their linguistic modernization fake (to use a good English word), she doesn’t seem to care. The same applies to their inclination, every piece of news à tout prix communicate instead of just telling them.
The expression à tout prix has come from an older era, by the way. However, German survived the import of French expressions from the 18th century. Most of the expressions have disappeared again; the rest have mossed themselves into the roots of German beyond recognition. Even the word formation testifies to the successful transformation: The ending – ming, which was originally used to interpret French verbs (Parlieren), was soon used for new formations with German roots (spin, lose).
In order to separate language protection simplicity from legitimate concern, one has to realize that German has long been a hybrid language that has not only taken in floods of foreign words, but has also been repeatedly reformulated in grammar. It all started with medieval monks, who shaped countless fiefdoms based on the Latin model – a famous example is the new formation conscience after Latin conscientia. The second impetus came from humanism and the Reformation when the syntax was converted to Latin. Compare the simple sentence patterns of Middle High German with Early Modern High German, and even more so with Baroque German, in which the hypotaxes, the participatory constructions and nesting literally explode. The language of a Kleist or Hegel would not be conceivable without this syntactic extraneousness.
Of course, no all-clear for the present follows from this. Because the earlier takeovers have made German more complex, richer, more intellectual, more expressive, more philosophical and more poetic, and also more capable of science. Under the influence of globalized English, however, an almost breathtaking simplification takes place. The English or pseudo-English expressions are not simply added, they do not only replace German words, which in the worst case would be superfluous. Rather, they supplant the natural word formation of German, which would have no difficulty with neologisms, because with its lightness of word composition it can only be compared in ancient Greek.
However, it seems that the idiosyncrasies of German have themselves become a nuisance, perhaps already considered a location risk. The main annoyance is admittedly difficult to deny. With Switzerland, Austria and South Tyrol, there are hardly 100 million speakers of German. English, at least in its globalized, down-to-earth variety, is understood all over the world. It therefore has its logic when the use of German withdraws from science, which relies on global exchange. But does this mean that newly founded universities in Germany have to be forced to use English as the language of instruction? There is some evidence that it is not international competition, but a zeitgeist opportunism at work here that wants to put German as an outdated technology. Because it’s not Americans who force their words on us. It is Germans who, in their admiration for everything American, also bring the terms for it with transatlantic practice – like gifts that have to be wrapped in glitter so that their poor content is respected.
Foreigners change German
"German adolescents are increasingly taking on the pronunciation and sentence formation of foreign adolescents and also often use words from Turkish or Arabic," says Norbert Dittmar, professor of linguistics at the Free University of Berlin. "This is a permanent change because the young people will internalize this language and will also speak as adults." The influence is particularly noticeable in cities with large migrant groups. "But the phenomenon can be observed all over Germany," said Dittmar.
The changes affect different areas of the language, reports the expert on migration linguistics. For example, the overall vocabulary shrinks continuously and words like "I" become "Isch" phonetically. "Besides that frequently omitted the articles and rarely used prepositions. ”Even simple sentence constructions in which subject, predicate and object always followed one another could be observed.
"Instead, foreign words are actually taken over into German," says Dittmar. "Lan", which means "Ey, Mann" in Turkish, is therefore already used by many German children. The Arabic "Yalla" has meanwhile also become a widespread exclamation in the sense of "Go!" Or "Let’s go!".
"This reduced mixed language was previously only spoken between young people with a migration background," says Dittmar. For some years now, however, this “ethnolect” has increasingly found its way into the language of all young people. "This is a development similar to that in the USA, where" black English "from the ghettos has spread widely," explains the linguist.
"In Germany, too, young people learn about these variations of the German language through the media, hip-hop music and well-known characters like" Erkan and Stefan "," explains the linguist. "This is a downright counterculture in which the young people can use language to differentiate themselves from their parents and teachers."
German language drifts into Turkish
The German language is changing more and more due to the influence of migrants. "German adolescents are increasingly taking on the pronunciation and sentence formation of foreign adolescents and also frequently use words from Turkish or Arabic," said Professor of Linguistics at the Free University of Berlin, Norbert Dittmar. "This is a permanent change because the young people will internalize this language and will also speak as adults." The influence is particularly noticeable in cities with large migrant groups. "But the phenomenon can be observed all over Germany," said Dittmar.
The changes affect different areas of language, the expert on migration linguistics reported. For example, the overall vocabulary shrinks continuously and words like "I" become "Isch" phonetically. “In addition, the articles are often omitted and prepositions are rarely used.” Simple sentence constructions, in which subject, predicate and object always follow one another, can also be observed.
"Instead, foreign words are actually taken over into German," said Dittmar. “Lan”, which means “Ey, Mann” in Turkish, is therefore already used by many German children. The Arabic “Yalla” has meanwhile also become a widespread exclamation in the sense of “Go!” Or “Let’s go!”.
"This reduced mixed language has so far only been spoken between young people with a migration background," said Dittmar. For some years now, however, this “ethnolect” has increasingly found its way into the language of all young people. "This is a development similar to that in the United States, where" black English "from the ghettos has spread widely," said the linguist.
"In Germany too, young people learn about these variations of the German language through the media, hip-hop music and well-known characters like" Erkan and Stefan "," explained the linguist. "This is a real counterculture in which the young people can use language to differentiate themselves from their parents and teachers."
“Denglisch” is not a threat to the German language
Linguist Rudolf Hoberg does not consider the linguistic influences from English to be a disadvantage – on the contrary: “These are not bad and have done the German language good in the past. This development has always been an enrichment for the vocabulary. It is bigger than ever before. ”Such processes have always existed, and the rejection of foreign words is also not new. “As early as 1900 the Germans complained about the influence of English on the German language. There was also a struggle against French, ”says Hoberg.
Linguist speaks before Anglicism opponents
The language expert from Berlin is a guest in Bremen at the invitation of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Association for German Language (VDS) – the latter are declared opponents of Anglicisms. They want to receive their mother tongue with the rejection.
But what many people do not know: Anglicisms currently make up only a fraction of the German vocabulary. The Duden puts it at 3.5 percent in the current edition. "There are also 20 percent of other foreign words from Latin, French or Italian, which nobody perceives as such," says Hoberg.
For the first time in history, one language is pushing back the others
Hoberg describes the use of foreign language terms as “the completely normal way”. He is certain: “Goethe would have been happy about the large vocabulary.” The well-known German poet once said: “The violence of a language is not that it rejects the foreign, but that it devours it.”
For the linguist, another problem is more serious: “For the first time in history, English is a very dominant language that is pushing back everyone else. It had never existed before, and you have to take it very seriously. ”For him, this is particularly evident at universities and in banking, where English is becoming increasingly popular.
Globalization cause of development
But this development is also due to globalization, according to the linguist, and is therefore also important in order to be able to communicate worldwide. "It is simply necessary to differentiate between when English makes sense and when the mother tongue", emphasizes Hoberg.
The speech protectionists therefore do not want the proportion of Anglicisms in German to increase further. The association, headquartered in Dortmund, awards a “Sprachpanscher of the Year” every year. Ex-train boss Hartmut Mehdorn received this inglorious award in 2007 for the many “Denglisch” at Deutsche Bahn such as service point instead of information or counter instead of counter. The British Andrew Jennings, CEO of the department store chain Karstadt, made himself unpopular with the Dortmund language advocates with terms like “mid-season sale” and “kidswear”.
You are reprimanded for many Anglicisms
This year, not one person but a book received the negative price: the Duden. The VDS members criticize the editors for increasing the inclusion of Anglicisms in the reference work that are not sufficiently established. Chief editor Werner Scholze-Stubenrecht rejected the criticism. He and his staff would only objectively map the language. If new words appear in texts over a longer period of time, they will be included in the duden – and quasi "extinct" vocabulary will be deleted.
Events such as the financial crisis or the Fukushima catastrophe also affect vocabulary: this is reflected in new words such as “financial transaction tax” and “energy transition”. Terms such as “bush trapper” (a poacher hiding in the bushes), “fusillade” (professional shooting of a soldier) or “borgweise” (on loan) had to give way in the end. Of the 140,000 key words in the Duden, they were hardly or no longer used.
English terms are also very popular
English language influences are also popular in Germany: a jury led by the Berlin linguist Anatol Stefanowitsch has been honoring the “Anglicism of the Year” for three years. The only condition: the terms enrich the language because there is no description for them in German. With the award, the jury wants to create a better understanding of the language change and show the positive contribution of English to the German language. After “leaken” and “Shitstorm” the choice fell in 2012 on “crowdfunding”. This is the raising of capital via the Internet, in German, so to speak, swarm financing.
Language experts see no danger in Anglicisms
English expressions instead of German words: For many people this is a horror. Anglicisms are not the end of the German language, says an expert. Viewed objectively, their share is rather small. Exceptions: The youth and advertising language.
A cool outfit, a hip event or just a boring meeting – for many people, the adoption of English words in the German vocabulary is a nuisance. But it doesn’t have to be, says the chairman of the German Association of Germanists, Prof. Jörg Kilian. "Anglicism use does not have to concern people because their share of German vocabulary is relatively small overall," he said.
Kilian explained this on the occasion of the German Germanist Day, which is held every three years and will be held in Kiel until September 25th. This year, more than 600 international participants will meet at the congress to determine the position of “German Studies for the 21st Century”.
Youth and advertising language as a playground
Only around three percent of the words in the German language are Anglicisms, and they already contain words like cord or biscuit. "So also words that were taken from English, but are no longer a nuisance," said the head of the Germanic seminar at the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel (CAU). In the past, the German language was also influenced by other languages, such as Latin or later French.
There are many Anglicisms, especially in the youth and advertising language. "These are the ways the Anglicisms play," said Kilian. In many other areas, the frequency is much lower, English terms are hardly to be found in the legal language. In the youth language in particular, Anglicisms also served to differentiate themselves from the adult generation.
In the meantime, however, certain new word structures, certain abbreviations, would also come within the scope of the new communication technologies. "Young people are very inventive," said the professor of German. This language behavior usually occurs when the adolescents grow up. "So you can give the all-clear."
Concerns about the deterioration of language are more justified, according to Kilian, when you look at certain advertising strategy uses of Anglicisms. "Companies sometimes choose English to give their own companies an international touch, but they don’t always consider that they will no longer be able to reach customers." For example, because one has the impression that "a rather rumble English is spoken here".
German can still be saved?
Concerned ghosts repeatedly make the suggestion to anchor German as the national language in the constitution. Assuming it came to this: Which German would that be? in the Börsenblatt for the German book trade I recently read the report about a meeting of publishers, which included "the interpersonal workflow", and the headline was: The wind of change is blowing through the industry. It may be – but above all the wind of change blows through the German language. It gets more and more drafty in its old housing, where we had arranged ourselves somewhat comfortably. The strangest words, the most absurd sayings get unwanted access from all sides, and the speech protectors, who were once classified as nerds and troublemakers, are growing in popularity. German academies are worried, language associations are being founded, language critics are discussing in the feature pages, and Guido Westerwelle recently launched a campaign "German – Language of Ideas" .
The complaint about the decline of German is as old as this. She will Wind of change can hardly stop. It is therefore advisable to take a sober look at the situation. It is not determined by the lack of mastery of the subjunctive or the weakening of the genitive and not by the ridiculously ridiculed Denglisch, but quite simply by the fact that German plays a dwindling role in the most important areas of public life, in science, business and politics plays. English takes its place.
The question of whether the associated political and economic gain means a cultural loss, which may even undermine the foundations of our language, is controversial, and the answer naturally depends on the most sensitive feelings. Contemporaries with a low linguistic sensory experience can cope with it more easily than those who use German not only for communication purposes, but as a form of thinking and poetry. Regardless of whether one welcomes or regrets the invasion of English: The change is quiet, but is dramatic.
First, let’s look at science. The linguist Ulrich Ammon, author of the standard work The international position of the German language (1991), in a conversation, quantifies the share of German in scientific publications all over the world: in the natural sciences it is one percent, in the social sciences seven, there are no exact figures for the humanities. As far as our language area is concerned, he estimates that 80 to 85 percent of German scientists publish in English, 50 percent of social scientists and 20 percent of humanities scholars. The following applies to the world: science speaks English. But she is also increasingly anglicizing herself in Germany.
This affects our scientific operations. Firstly, because publishers based in Germany are increasingly only accepting English journal articles and book manuscripts. On the other hand, the dominance of English can be seen in the fact that the standards of the academic are aligned with those of the Anglophone world. You can see this in the painful implantation of the so-called Bologna reform into the body of the German university and the "Bätschelers", which is still unaesthetic in the German tongue; more than that, most of the funding applications must be submitted in English; and finally the fact that there are about 700 English-language courses.
Here too, the process is most advanced in science and medicine, followed by economics and social sciences. The humanities are still fighting back; with some success for the time being German studies, archeology, theology and philosophy as well as some other small subjects in which German still plays a role due to tradition.
Secondly, the economy speaks English as a matter of course. When Thomas Middelhoff, then head of Bertelsmann, encouraged the majority of German employees to speak English to each other, he still got irritations here and there. In the meantime, most German companies with international activities have chosen English as their corporate language. As Ulrich Ammon regrets, this leads to the fact that technicians or scientists from the Third World who learned German in order to become something in Germany must learn from Siemens that they had learned English better.
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