Reads Like German

In German, infinitives and participles are sometimes pushed to the end of a sentence/phrase, as follows:
The wolf would like to eat Little Red Riding hood tomorrow.
would come out at
Der Wolf möchte Rotkäppchen morgen fressen.
literally translated as
The wolf would-like Little Red Riding Hood tomorrow to-eat.

When subordinate clauses are added to the mix, the result is a set of nested verbal structures that can be as difficult to decipher as nested control structures in programming.

This can get really hairy:
The wolf would like to know whether he can eat Little Red Riding Hood tomorrow.
comes out as:
Der Wolf möchte wissen, ob er Rotkäppchen morgen fressen können wird.
literally translated:
The wolf would like to know, if he Little Red Riding Hood tomorrow eat be able to will.


If this construction is overused it is called 'Schachtelsatz' and you can make quite some fun out of it. I once got a postcard from a friend with only one sentence, that ended in about 20 consecutive verbs. An example I learned in school is:

 Derjenige, der den,
   der die Hinweistafel,
     die an dem Weg,
       der durch die Wiesen,
         die zu dem Schloß gehören,
       führt,
     steht,
   angemalt hat,
 anzeigt, erhält eine Belohnung.
Please note the occurrences of "der, die, den" at the beginning, that actually help the reader to anticipate the structure.

Here is a near-literal translation:

 The person,
  who the person,
   who the sign,
    which at the path,
     which through the meadows,
      which to the castle,
      belong,
     leads
    stands
   painted
  denounces
 deserves a reward.

And here is a translation as nested English clauses:

 The person who
   denounces the person who
     painted the sign which
       stands at the path which
         leads thru the meadows which
           belong to the castle
 receives a reward.
Please note how the verbs move to the end of the sentences in the original (like closing braces). -- GunnarZarncke

See also http://www.kultur-netz.de/literat/prosa/homue/schachtl.htm

So, English is basically German with TailCallElimination.


ClassicalGreek has some similarities in its word ordering

Will nested control structures become known eventually as ClassicalGeek?, then?


Also remember that Der, Das, & Die can all mean the. Words which use der are considered masculine, words that take on die are femimine, & words that take on das are neuter.

                          Sehr Gut!
No, not so gut. 'Der' is used for the feminine depending on the case and number, and 'die' can indicate the plural of any gender. 'Das' is used only for neuter, though.


I felt I had finally grokked German when this type of word order no longer felt foreign to me. Nevertheless, compounding such clauses can lead to prose less understandable even by native speakers. Moderation is the key.


In JapaneseLanguage, the predicate of the sentence or clause is always at the end. Subordinate clauses precede the noun, exactly like adjectives. Someone who knows the language better could illustrate this by translating the above German example.


While German grammar may seem strange to native English speakers; it's perfectly natural to a German or a Dutch speaker. Or an Austrian or a Swiss, or anyone else whose native tongue is either German or Dutch.

To everyone, everyone else talks funny.
All this logical perfectly to me seems. -- a ForthLanguage programmer :)
If the subject and object you switch, LikeYodaItReads?. Oddly, almost natural in English it seems.
It might also be funny to take some English sentences and translate them literally into German, even if this is just funny for the German speakers here:

When subordinate clauses are added to the mix, the result is a set of nested verbal structures that can be as difficult to decipher as nested control structures in programming.

Literally translated: Wenn untergeordnet Sätze sind hinzugefügt zu die Mischung, das Ergebnis ist eine Reihe von verschachtelt wörtlich Strukturen das kann sein wie schwierig zu entziffern wie verschachtelt Kontrolle Strukturen in Programmieren.

Also, Germans are able to add many words together to make a long substantive, for example:

Rheinschifffahrtsdampfschiffkapitän

Translated into English:

Rhine shipping steamship Captain

But literally it is:

Rhineshippingsteamshipcaptain

Funny. I have a collegue from London who is trying hard to speak German well and has aquired a large vocabulary, but the above literal translation strongly reminds me of his sentences. Sorry. -- GunnarZarncke

Did you know that German is still the language into which most translations are done?

That doesn't surprise me. While other people, for example in Scandinavia, Serbia, Croatia etc. tend to watch films in English (sometimes with subtitles), Germans, Austrians and Swiss people like to watch movies in their native language. Also, there are more than 120 million native German speakers, while other language groups aren't that big.


CategoryGerman CategoryNaturalLanguage

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