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Plattdeutsch

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Plattdeutsch

Postby Huny » Sun Dec 28, 2008 9:06 pm

While in South Carolina this weekend, I was introduced to a woman who was obviously, by her accent, German. She had a wonderful sense of humor. As I was listening to her talk, I could hear a slight bit of a southern drawl to her heavily accented but well spoken English. This was indicative of her living in South Carolina for the better part of seventeen years. The more she talked, the more I kept hearing something in her accent that was familiar but I couldn't put my finger on it. So I asked where she was born. She said Germany and I asked what part of Germany as her accent differed from the German I had heard before. She went on to tell me she was from a small Island in the northern part of Germany and that she spoke a German dialect known as Plattdeutsch, a low German dialect. Well that explained it. I had never met someone who actually spoke the language until then. Or at least not that I knew of. The only thing is she spelled it different from that of any way I had seen it. She told me some things were spelled different in German than in English, due in part to their alphabet differing from ours. I had always been under the impression that this is a common language of the Mennonites. But a Mennonite she was not.

What I couldn't put my finger on was the "Dutch" sound in the accent. It reminded me of the accent of an acquaintance of mine who was born and raised in South Africa. It sounds kind of British but not.

While I was off in the right direction with the accent, others came forward to say they thought she was from Louisiana--as in Cajun. She and I were both surprised at that, being as she has never been to Louisiana... bless her heart.
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Postby Huny » Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:10 pm

Oh, I almost forgot this:

Plattdeutsch or Niederdeutsch are the modern High German names for a non-standardised language spoken in nothern Germany (north of the so-called Benrather Linie isogloss) and in the north-east Netherlands. Some varieties are also spoken overseas in North America and Siberia. In the Plattdeutsch of Germany, the language may variously be referred to as Plattdüütsch, Plattdütsch, Plattdietsch and several other forms. In the Netherlands, Dutchmen call it (to distinguish it from their own Low German tongue) Plattduits or Nedersaksisch (the similar Niedersächsisch also occurs in High German) or more precisely, Twents or Groningens. However modern standard Dutch (Nederlands, Hollands) is based upon Franconian, rather than Saxon dialects. In English, the concept is best rendered in the term Low Saxon (to distinguish it from the Saxon dialect of High German). The Low German dialects were largely or totally unaffected by the High German Sound-Shift (althochdeutsche Lautverschiebung) which helped shape the standard Hochdeutsch which now accords them minority status. Speakers of Old Saxon were the predecessors of modern Plattdeutsch speakers. Some of these speakers took part in the Germanic conquest of England in the fifth century AD. While it is not true that English and Plattdeutsch derive completely from the same source, the Old Saxon input into Anglo-Saxon was of primary importance and this linguistic group contributed greatly to the Anglo-Saxon dialects which our English forefathers spoke.
We know that as late as the eighth century, Anglo-Saxon missionaries could make themselves understood in Ealdseaxan ("Old Saxony" as they called it) without difficulty. Some of the old similarities in form and lexis can be seen in a comparison between modern Plattdeutsch and Old English, and some even in the less Low Germanic modern English, despite centuries of cultural and linguistic change and the heavy influence on Plattdeutsch from High German.
Last edited by Huny on Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby sluggo » Thu Jan 01, 2009 6:29 pm

Huny, wonderful can of Würms here. Just noticed it. :D
Sources would be welcome too if you have 'em.

In my remembrance (which is admittedly often creative), the term Plattdeutsch seemed to have been used almost as a catch-all for common or 'street' German, as opposed to Hochdeutsch, the more "official" or "standard" German. But I may have misconstrued, as Perry would say in future conditional, absent a geographical footnote.

The Mennonites if I understand correctly sprang up in the south (Switzerland), far afield from your acquaintance's locale, so a contrast between those two accents would seem to follow. Some years ago I had occasion to visit many Hutterite colonies in the Dakotas and Montana; they have retained their Austro-Bavarian dialect from the same area of central Europe and speak it among themselves, even developing a kind of "Gerlish" hybrid.

At a colony in Montana I approached a four-year-old girl and tried my hoch-school Deutsch on her, asking "Wie heißt du?" Emma (as I soon learned) looked puzzled, until one of the elders came along to translate, pronouncing it ""vee hahst du". So I got to know that dipthong, though little else of the dialect.

Any look at Olde Englisshe with its Germanic inflections serves as a ready reminder of our Teutonic linguistic roots and routes. Fascinating stuff.
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Postby skinem » Thu Jan 01, 2009 10:58 pm

Huny, verrrrry interesting, but, I'm absolutely no help here.

Sluggo, you brought back some memories--a Hutterite settlement bordered my dad's ranch in northeast Washington. Had a lot of good dealings, frequently day to day, with those folks.

Very few of them could understand my 2 years of high school German. But, I'm not sure too many of them spoke anything but English.
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Postby sluggo » Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:18 am

skinem wrote:
Very few of them could understand my 2 years of high school German. But, I'm not sure too many of them spoke anything but English.


Was it only younger children you interacted with? Because every colony I visited- at least a dozen- had what they called an "English (read: Anglophone) teacher" who is hired by agreement with the State to satisfy basic schooling requirements, including English, so that the children can stay with the colony and keep their non-work time to a minimum. Of course it's essential for dealing with the outside world, selling products, buying supplies and land. Even with each other I often heard them (the adults) speaking German peppered with English words and phrases.

The English Teacher is standard equipment and lives on the colony full-time in a provided house. At one particular colony in northern Montana I nearly took the job myself. But German is the first language, so the youngest kids- maybe 10 and down, the ones dressed in the most vivid colours- would not know English yet.
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Postby skinem » Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:37 am

sluggo wrote:
skinem wrote:
Very few of them could understand my 2 years of high school German. But, I'm not sure too many of them spoke anything but English.


Was it only younger children you interacted with?


No, I rarely dealt with any of the younger children. Mostly adults or other teens (when I was one!) working with and around them. Maybe my German was that bad!

We would buy eggs from them nearly every week and at times worked with them during haying, or combining wheat, or roundup time.

They were a colony out of Canada. After I left for college, the colony split and formed another one further west. Good , hard workers and interesting people.
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Postby sluggo » Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:42 pm

skinem wrote:
They were a colony out of Canada. After I left for college, the colony split and formed another one further west. Good , hard workers and interesting people.


Aye, harder workers I've never seen. What took me there was working with a friend who ran a business selling fabric material from trucks we drove from Pennsylvania. Invariably, every time we stopped at another colony we were immediately swarmed upon by kids expecting to pitch in on the work, the way our child cliché descends on candy. And they were visibly the most vibrant kids I'd ever seen, I have no doubt because they live television-free.

When I first heard Hutterite speech I misinterpreted the stark directness of their tone of voice, resembling the angry edge that might be used to scold a child-- soon I could see that that was simply regular speech, reflective I suspect of a personal self-confidence their life gives them. They say with plausibility that in 500 years, their culture has had a total of I think two murders and one suicide.

Interesting how they split into the daughter colony: the entire community buys the new land and builds the whole operation, ready to run. Then the last thing they do is decide who's going one designated night (I think by a kind of lottery); in the morning, off they go and that's it.
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