It's only about one week now to the PLATT-Land-Fluss festival in Bremen, which I may have already mentioned a few times in this journal. So I reckon it is time for a new entry dedicated to Plattdütsch, the minority language we're trying to keep alive.
But first things first:
PLATT-Land-Fluss is a free public festival dedicated to the Low German (Plattdütsch) language and will take place on 26 September 2014. I had the honour of doing the drawings for the placards and leaflets, and because this great project needs every support it can get, I put the above banner on all of my internet appearances these days.
If you happen to be near the St Ansgarii churchyard in Bremen that day, where most of the programme will take place, you should really pay it a visit. You'll get a first-rate glimpse of the original language of Gundula un de Stuventiger, known to the anglophone parts of the world as Master the Tiger, there will be live music, show acts, readings, and much else. It's free and open to everyone, too. While having some Plattdütsch skills would of course come in handy, they are not always a prerequisite. More info can be found on the official website: www.plattlandfluss.org as well as on Facebook: www.facebook.com/PLATTLandFlus…
As some of you may know, I normally have a strong aversion against Facebook and suchlike, but if you've got an account the initiators of the festival and I would be obliged if you could "like" it, as I think it's called.
Since I've kept advertising it for some time now, and hopefully got the one or the other a bit curious, I think this is a good opportunity to tell you a bit about Platt itself.
Plattdütsch, aka Low German, Low Saxon, or simply Platt (which, incidentally, means "Flat German") is still spoken by a relative minority all over Northern Germany. I am told that there are also Platt-speaking communities in North America (somewhere in the Midwest, I think)* and Argentina. If anyone reading is has ever met a or is member of them, I'd really like to get to know them to have a good chat.
Platt was erroneously held to be nothing more than a praticularly incomprehensible dialect for some time, but it is in fact a language in its own right. Platt has its own grammar and its own distinct vocabulary (which a true dialect, like e.g. Bavarian, wouldn't have), so linguists had to accept it, albeit grudgingly. Nowadays it has the full status of a protected minority language within the EU, which also made the PLATT-Land-Fluss festival possible in the first place.
Platt's history goes back a long way, right to the old Anglo-Saxons - some tribes of which would settle in post-Roman England and lay the foundations of the English language. Platt speakers like me are in a way the descendants of those Anglo-Saxons who stuck their hand out of the window, and concluded that, since it was raining again, they might well leave all this invasion business for tomorrow, did the same on the next day and the day after and so on, and eventually forgot about it altogether (a merit of this theory being that it'd sort of explain why I never quite seem to get my comic pages done in time), Platt and English really are close cousins, and you can actually hear it to this day. (Fun fact: I use the similarities of the language all the time in the two versions of my comics, e.g. when it comes to sound effects, as I often don't need to change more than one or two letters or can even use the same for both.)
In the course of the Middle Ages English became, well, English under the influence of Latin, French and Viking languages, while my stay-at-home ancestors more or less went on the way they'd always done. Northern Germany just didn't have any resources worth conquering, you see (unless you count turnips and a bit of amber), so they were left in peace for the most part. Christianisation eventually brought some German into the language. Another, weaker, influence may have come from Flemish engineers who were invited into the country to help draining all the wet areas.
At the end of the Middle Ages, just about all major towns at the continental North Sea shores, the Southern coast of the Baltic Sea, and most of the inland behind them were connected by a trade network called the Hansa, and its lingua franca was - yes, it's really true - Platt. The archives in Bremen are full of documents written in Platt to prove it.
This golden age didn't last of course - they never do - and in the 18th and 19th century, what with Germany vainly trying to become some kind of nation at last, being conquered by Napoleon (which again brought a notable French influence into Platt), and being re-ordered over and over, Platt become more and more marginalised as a language of peasants and the lower classes. This is also the time when it was branded as just another inferior dialect, which the classes that called themselves "educated" would have liked to see done away with.
Nevertheless, Platt has always managed to survive, somehow. This is certainly to some part thanks to authors taking to writing in Platt from the 19th century on (with Romanticism and the rise of the novel it suddenly became fashionable to write in the "vernacular" so's to sound more "natural").
Well, today, we Platt speakers continue to try and save our language from oblivion. The old prejudices of two centuries ago are still hard to overcome, which is why it still isn't too popular with mainstream media and highbrow academics (but at least there is news programme in Platt on Radio Bremen 1 every day at 10:30, and there is a Plattdütsch Wikipedia; the latter is full of mistakes, but it's a start). Platt isn't just for old people, and it's a great source for regional identity - something that people more and more long for in this age of globalisation - and that's the message we want to get across, for example, with PLATT-Land-Fluss.
Now you also know why I keep posting comics in Platt in addition to the English version. There are enough print comics in Platt to fill a small shelf, but there is only one online comic - mine: www.theduckwebcomics.com/Gundu… . If I ever see anyone else follow my example, I'll be very happy indeed.
Here, in Great Britain, I have now seen first hand how much the Welsh achieved with their Cymric, which I believe must have been pretty close to extinction at some point as well - and I imagine it must have been much more difficult to revive since it's so totally different from the surrounding English. I do hope there will be a time when we get there too. Iechyd da!
This said, please note, that this has nothing to do with any kind of independence movements and stuff! I'm all for a strong regional identity and self-government, but there's better ways to achieve them than tearing a nation apart that has been together for centuries and truly deserves the "great" in Great Britain. (I'm just saying that as a humble outside observer from those dark faraway lands known as "the Continent", mind you, but I've lived in Britain for a while now.) It just occurred to me that I'd better make that plain, since the posting date of this entry coincides with the Scottish referendum and there's always some twit who may take a blog about minority languages the wrong way, i.e. the one that suits him.
* Please note that Platt is not to be confused with Pennsylvanian Dutch, which may sound somewhat similar at times, but is yet another language in its own right, just like Frisian and Sater-Frisian (spoken in the East of Northern Germany, close to the coast, and sometimes mistaken for Platt (and vice versa), as is Missingsch, which is a German dialect influenced by Platt.
Now, for those who are still reading on and curious, and to get those who may be close to Bremen in two weeks into the swing of things, I present to you...
A Bumper Guide to Platt
I picked a few essential phrases and popular sayings in Platt and transcribed them into something like an English phonetic spelling.
Like most Plattdütsch authors I base my usual spelling on a German template (Platt has no fixed spelling system), so German speakers won't have much trouble with the pronunciation, but with proper guidance I doubt it'll be too much trouble for English speakers either. Platt's inventory of sounds is still pretty close to English, with only a few exceptions.
I used SMALL CAPITAL LETTERS to mark some sounds for clarity. Please see the notes below for them.
English: Hi / Hello / Good morning / Good afternoon
Platt: Moin Pronunciation: moin
E: How are you? P: Wo geit't? Prn: voe gite?
P: Atschüss Prn: AtchYss (stress on the Y (derived from French "Adieu!")
E: Thank you P: Dank ok Prn: dunk oak
E: You're welcome
P: Dor nich för Prn: doah niH fØah
E: Please (literally: Would you be so kind?; to be attached to the end of a sentence)
P: Wees so good? Prn: veys zo goat?
E: Sorry P: Deit mi leed Prn: dite mee laid
E: Yes P: Jou Prn: yoe
E: No P: Nee Prn: nay
E: Low German P: Plattdütsch Prn: platt-dYtch (but just Platt will do)
E: What's your name? P: Wo heetst du? Prn: voe heytst doo?
E: Where's the bathroom, please? / I need to wash my hands for a moment. (literally: "I've got to get onto the pot quickly.")
P: Woneem is'n de Lokus? / Ik mutt gau mal op'n Pott.
Prn: voe-name isn dey loe-kUs / ick mUtt gAU mawl awpen pot.
(Although it would sound a bit crude to English speakers, to say the least, saying this is perfectly acceptable in Platt, hence the considerably more polite English translation. It's a cultural thing that also applies to German to some degree. If you were to try and translate the appropriate English expressions directly you're likely just to cause confusion that costs valuable seconds. Many language guides avoid this topic for its awkwardness, whereas I think that including it is on the whole still much preferable to wet underpants.)
E: What's the time? (literally: "What does the clock say?")
P: Wat seggt de Klock? Prn: vat seHt de clock?
E: It's ... o'clock
P: Dat is Klock ... Prn: dat is (or dat's) clock ...
E: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
P: een, twee, dree, veer, fief, söss, söven, acht, negen, tein, ölben, twölf
Prn: eyn, tvey, dRey, fair, feef, zØss, zØven, AĦt, neygen, tine, Ølben, tvØlf
E: half past ... (please note: in Platt, as in German, you always state the upcoming hour, so it's actually "half before ..."
P: halbig ... Prn: hAlbiH ...
E: quarter to ... / quarter past ...
P: Viddel vör ... / Viddel na ... Prn: fiddle fØr ... / fiddle naw ...
E: take a break (literally "to make fifteen [minutes]")
P: Fofftein maken Prn: foff-tine mawken
E: I could do with a (preferably alcoholic) drink
(literally: "My, it's so dusty in here." (accompanied by a theatralical gesture). It's a slightly humorous way of saying that, but acceptable among friends. It's customary to offer a drink to visiting friends.)
P: Dat stuuvt hier woller so... Prn: dat stoovt here vollah zo
E: Cheers! (as a toast) P: Prost! Prn: pRoest
E: beer P: Beer Prn: beyuh, or bear (depending on the town or village you're in)
E: miscellaneous booze P: Sluck Prn.: slUck
E: coffee, tea, water, wine
P: Koffie, Tee, Water, Wien
Prn: coffee, tay, vawter, veen
E: Korn (a clear, vodka-like liquor made from grains)
P: Köm Prn: kØym (but you can also call it Sluck as well)
E: Do you speak English?
P: Kannst ok Engelsch snacken?
Prn: kAnnst oak Engelsh snacken?
E: Taste cannot be disputed. (literally: "The one's owl is the other one's nightingale")
P: Den een sien Uul is den annern sien Nachtigall
Prn: deyn eyn zeen ool is deyn annern zeen naĦ-tea-gull (stress on the first syllable)
E: Whatever you do, do it properly! (literally: "Half drunk is wasted money!"; humorous expression)
P: Half besapen is rutsmeten Geld!
Prn: Half bEzawpen (stress on "zaw") is Root-smeyten gellt
E: Life is never quite fair. (literally: An egg is an egg, says the farmer, and takes the goose egg for himself.)
P: Ei is ei, seggt de Buur, un nümmt sik dat Goosei.
Prn: aye is aye zeHt de boor, Un nYmmt zick dat goes-aye (stress on "goes")
E: Do you notice what's going on? / Do you get my drift? (literally: "Do you notice the mice?")
P: Markst de Müüs? Prn: markst de mYs?
E: usually ironic: Don't worry about the cost, it's worth it. (literally: "Let it cost a cow - we've got none anyhow.")
P: Laat dat'n Koh kosten - wi hebbt ja keen!
Prn: lawt dat'n koe costen - vee heft jaw kayn (stress on "kayn")
E: You don't need to be too perfectionist. (literally: God likes it to be a bit crooked.)
P: 'N beten scheev hett Gott leev.
Prn: (n)** betten shafe hett got lafe
(** this n may remain silent)
E: Get real! (in the sense of: It's pointless to ponder about what might have been, because it hasn't.) Also an ironic way of saying that you consider something a pretty weak excuse. (literally: "If only the dog hadn't shit, it might have caught the hare." Often, people only quote the first half of this sentence.)
P: Wenn de Hund nich schieten harr, harr he den Hasen woll kregen.
Prn: venn de hUnt niH sheeten har***, har hay dayn hawzen voll kRaygen.
(*** as in "hark!")
E: Shit! (note that this word is not as taboo as in English and has more uses than just swearing. This, however, is how it's used as a swearword.)
P: (So'n) Schiet! Prn: (zone) sheet
E: Never change running systems! (literally: "Don't touch a thing, if it happens to work.")
P: Blots nix antappen, wenn't man lööpt!
Prn: bloats nix antappen, vent mann lØypt
E: Master the Tiger (my webcomic)
P: Gundula un de Stuventiger Prn: gUndUla
Un de Stooventeegah
("Stuventiger" literally means "living-room tiger". Usually, this is a humorous term for a cat, but in this special case it is also a pun)
The pronunciations are of course approximations, but I can tell you from experience that they'll be pretty close. If you get the SMALL CAPITALS right, that is, and here they are (don't worry, only two or three are actually hard):
A: open "a", as in "bat", "fat", "rat" etc.. The very same sound, actually; I didn't mark it where I think it's clear anyway.
AU: the diphthong in "out", "stout", "cow"
E: e as in "bet", get", "set". Unmarked where obvious.
g: always like the g in "get", "goose", "beggar"
H: This one's notoriously difficult for English speakers; those who speak German would know it as the ch in "ich". It's something like trying to pronounce h and k at the same time. Here's the good news, though: unlike German speakers, Platt speakers don't seem to like this sound very much either, which is why it is pretty rare, and can be omitted most of the time, or rather replaced by just breathing out loud. If you can't produce this sound, this is what I'd suggest; It won't always work in German, but in Platt it'll sound very natural.
Ħ: This sound in Scottish "loch" or Irish "lough" that sounds like a throat disease. Fortunately not too frequent in Platt.
j: (unlike German) almost always like j in e.g. "jet", "joy"
Ø say "eh", as in "well", but round your lips as if pronouncing an "o" as in "rot"; the outcome should be more or less the same sound as in French "peur" or sœur". If you think you can't get it right, the vowel in "hurt", "bird", or "word" will do. May become an "oi" in some dialects, e.g around Hamburg, but it's easy to overdo and therefore not generally a good idea.
R always a thrilled "R". Think Scottish BRRRogue.
r: an r at the end of a syllable is always silent, as in British (Queen's or BBC) English, i.e. it becomes something like ah or uh.
s: always a sharp s as in English, (unlike German) also before p or t
U u as in "bush", "push", "pull"
Y This is the other difficult one, and rather frequent in Platt at that - no way around it, I'm afraid. Try saying "ee" while rounding your lips as if saying "oo". It should come out like the u in French "tu", "mur", "nature" etc.. Failing that, I'd say an "ee" as in "ear" will still be closer than an "u" most of the time.
This journal entry cannot pretend to be a complete language and pronunciation guide, but I hope I could give you a small impression of what Platt is like. Anyway I'll stop now while it's still fun, but you're very welcome to ask me about anything, providing I can connect to the internet somewhere.
There is a German version of this journal entry, too: / Diesen Blogeintrag gibt es hier auch auf Deutsch: fav.me/d7zlnwo
And here's the link to the PLATT Land Fluss homepage again: www.plattlandfluss.org