Estonian: German loan words

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hargh

New Member
Latvian
Recently I read is wikipedia that the Estonian language has borrowed nearly a third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, mainly from German. Is this really true? Does knowledge of German can be very helpful in studying Estonian vocabulary?
 
  • ger4

    Senior Member
    German
    I am not sure about the percentage of German loanwords in Estonian, but for a German speaker it is surprising to find quite a lot of familiar words in an otherwise unrelated language such as Estonian. In many cases, though, I don't know whether a particular word is of (Low-)German or of Swedish origin - as Low German and Swedish have many words in common ("kitchen": "Köök" in Estonian, "kök" in Swedish and Low German, "Küche" in modern Standard German)

    A few more examples (Estonian - English - German):

    apelsin - orange - Apfelsine (this is probably a borrowing in German as well)
    arst - doctor - Arzt
    härra - mister, sir - Herr
    jaa - yes - ja
    kahvel - fork - Gabel (in many loanwords Estonian k- corresponds to German g-, Estonian -hv- corresponds to (Low)German -f- and Standard German -b-)
    kartul - potato - Kartoffel
    kast - box, case - Kasten
    kirik - church - Kirche, Low German Kark, Swedish kyrka
    kirs - cherry - Kirsche
    kleit - skirt - Kleid
    korsten - chimney - Schornstein (even closer to Swedish skorsten)
    köök - kitchen - Küche (Low German köken, Swedish kök)
    korv - basket - Korb
    loss - palace - Schloss (Estonian tends to simplify consonant clusters word-initially)
    nojaa - well, yes, okay - nun ja (similar to Latvian "nu jā")
    pall - ball - Ball (this might be related to English as well, of course)
    pank - bench - Bank (Estonian p- often corresponds to German b-)
    pilt - picture - Bild
    proovima - to try - probieren (-ma is one of the two infinitive endings in Estonian)
    proua - lady, Mrs. - Frau (Estonian didn't have the letter f originally and replaced it with p in many cases)
    püksid - trousers - Low German Büchsen, Swedish byxor (-d is the nominative plural in Estonian)
    tass - cup -Tasse
    tellima - to order - bestellen (this doesn't look similar but very often be- disappeared in Low German, st- became t- in Estonian and -ma again is the infinitive)
    torn - tower - Low German Torn
    tund - hour -Stunde
    tuba - room - Stube
    tükk - piece - Stück
    vein - wine - Wein
    üür - rent (for an apartment) - Low German Hüer

    ... and of course this one: politsei - police - Polizei

    As I'm not a linguist I can't tell you anything more detailled about the etymology of these words.

    Editing this list, I noticed Andras has given even more examples - these lists are getting longer and longer :)
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Well, "nearly a third" might be an exaggeration, but there is certainly a large number of Low German loanwords in Estonian (and in Latvian, too). Many of these words may not be immediately recognizable due to the phonetic changes (devoicing, loss of consonants in word-initial clusters) and the features of the Low (Northern) German dialect.
    I'll add a few more to Holger's list:

    pruut - bride
    peegel - mirror
    lukk - lock
    klaas - glass
    müts - cap
    praad - roast
    saag - saw (tool)
    pilt - picture
    kapp - cupboard, wardrobe
    pall - ball
    traat - wire (~ English 'thread')
     

    ger4

    Senior Member
    German
    Maybe I should add that even though a certain part of Estonian vocabulary might be of German origin, the basic language, if you can call it that way, and the structure of the language are probably not at all influenced by German. If you look at the 200+ words listed in the Estonian Swadesh List on www.wiktionary.org and compare them to the respective German list, there are hardly any similarities there. Some words in Estonian seem to be very similar to Latvian: mets=forest=mežs, maja=house=māja, sild=bridge=tilts, and so on (possibly Estonian/Livonian influence on the Latvian language? Or Latvian influence on Estonian?)

    By the way, one feature I find helpful in learning Estonian is not so much a certain similarity with German in parts of its vocabulary, but rather the regularity and the logic of its grammar - there is no grammatical gender, no future tense, and most of the case endings are the same in the plural as in the singular - you just add them to the plural stem of nouns (and adjectives - adjectives normally add the same case endings as nouns). - The German language should have borrowed this regularity from Estonian ;)
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    "Some words in Estonian seem to be very similar to Latvian"

    The similarities could perhaps be grouped into three categories: old Baltic loans in Finnish and Estonian (Lith. kirvis - Est. kirves - axe), some Finnic (Fin., Est., Liv.) loans in Latvian (Lat. puika - Finnish poika - boy) and some common German loans (Est. klaas - Lat. gl
    āze - glass).
     

    ger4

    Senior Member
    German
    Interestingly, Estonian sometimes seems to create its own words in cases where other languages tend to borrow from English (or French):

    tarkvara (tark = clever, intelligent) = software = German: Software
    arvuti (arvama = to think, to speculate etc) = computer = German: Computer
    raamatukogu ("book collection") = library (many languages have borrowed "biblioteque" from French)

    On the other hand, one similarity with Gerrman seems to be the word order. I don't know if that's a German influence or just coincidence:

    "I go to the library twice a week" - in German and Estonian the word order here is:
    "I - go - two - times - in the week - in the library":
    "Ma - käin - kaks - korda - nädalas - raamatukogus"
    "Ich - gehe - zwei - Mal - in der Woche - in die Bücherei/Bibliothek"

    Of course, the example above shows similarities with Latvian as well (in terms of vocabulary).
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    ...due to the phonetic changes (devoicing, loss of consonants in word-initial clusters)
    Loss of inital clusters is a phonetic change. But devoicing did not occur. German doesn't have voiced plosives the could possibly be devoiced (except inter-vocalic in Low German and maybe some other dialects). The plosives represented by the letters "b", "d" and "g" correspond to the sounds represented by "p", "t" and "k" in Baltic languages, i.e. unvoiced and unaspirated.
     
    I would also say that a third is exaggerated, but the number of German loans is definitely significant. According to an article from 2013 (Eesti kirjakeele tüvevara päritolu arvudes by Metsmägi, Sedrik & Soosaar), word stems of Low German origin form the largest group among all loan stems (476–659). High German comes second with 356–506 stems. Then there is a smaller number of loans from Proto-Germanic, Old Scandinavian, Old Swedish, Swedish, Estonian/Finland Swedish and Baltic German. Altogether, stems of any Germanic origin may account for about 30 % of all word stems in Estonian.

    Estonian also has the V2 word order (verb has the second place in a sentence), which is very likely German influence.
     

    hargh

    New Member
    Latvian
    Thanks for the answers. I was also thinking that one third could be exaggerated, that's why I made this topic.
    Many of German loan words mentioned above are also found in Latvian language. One Latvian scientist (Jānis Zēvers) has actually published work where he has gathered German loan words in Latvian language and the total number of them was 2750 I am not sure, how many word stems could it be.

    So actually Latvian and Estonian languages may be more similar (in terms of vocabulary) than its usually thought.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Interestingly, Estonian sometimes seems to create its own words in cases where other languages tend to borrow from English (or French):

    tarkvara (tark = clever, intelligent) = software = German: Software
    arvuti (arvama = to think, to speculate etc) = computer = German: Computer
    raamatukogu ("book collection") = library (many languages have borrowed "biblioteque" from French)
    It is true that for 'library', most European languages use 'biblioteca', but apart from Estonian, derivations of the native word 'book' are used in Finnish, Icelandic, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian and Welsh.
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Grammatically, German most probably has been involved in the emerging and shaping of the system of separable prefixes in Estonian — a trait that doesn't exist in other Baltic-Finnic languages. Interestingly, the only other Uralic language that has developed a comparable system is Hungarian, most probably for the same reasons.

    Update. The literature tells that separable prefixes exist also in Obic languages (West Siberian relatives of Hungarian), so Hungarian must have inherited at least the basic ability to form prefixes, and German could only shape this system.
     
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    Angelo di fuoco

    Senior Member
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    A few more examples (Estonian - English - German):

    apelsin - orange - Apfelsine (this is probably a borrowing in German as well)
    It's Dutch (appelsien, synonymous to sinaasappel: Chinese apple), in Estonian most probably via Russian (апельсин).

    It is true that for 'library', most European languages use 'biblioteca', but apart from Estonian, derivations of the native word 'book' are used in Finnish, Icelandic, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian and Welsh.
    German also has the less frequent Bücherei as a synonym to Bibliothek.
    In Romance languages, words derived from the Latin liber (book) like libreria, librería and librairie mostly mean book store.
    Russian has книгохранилище (store room for books, which is only a part of a library or a book store; so it's only a partial synonym) and читальня (building or place where you read books).
     
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    ger4

    Senior Member
    German
    German also has the less frequent Bücherei as a synonym to Bibliothek.
    In Romance languages, words derived from the Latin liber (book) like libreria, librería and librairie mostly mean book store.
    Russian has книгохранилище (store room for books, which is only a part of a library or a book store; so it's only a partial synonym) and читальня (building or place where you read books).
    ... and apart from that, "raamat" is a borrowing from Greek via Russian "грамота/gramota" (gr- > r-), so "raamatukogu" wasn't the best example for a "home-grown" Estonian term, I agree.

    One example I find quite interesting is that many languages use a borrowing for "nature", despite being such a basic concept - Estonian, by contrast, has "loodus", Latvian has "daba" (and of course Russian has "природа/priroda")
     
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    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    German also has the less frequent Bücherei as a synonym to Bibliothek.
    In Romance languages, words derived from the Latin liber (book) like libreria, librería and librairie mostly mean book store.
    Russian has книгохранилище (store room for books, which is only a part of a library or a book store; so it's only a partial synonym) and читальня (building or place where you read books).
    Russian has an ancient Romance borrowing либерея/libereya for a library (more precisely, for the library of Ivan IV).
     
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    Nellija Eva

    New Member
    Latvian
    A few more examples (Estonian - English - German):[...]
    Oh my goodness, I could understand almost all of those, most of those words are loaned in latvian as well. I added latvian version at the end.

    apelsin - orange - Apfelsine - apelsīns
    arst - doctor - Arzt - ārsts
    jaa - yes - ja -
    kartul - potato - Kartoffel - kartupelis
    kast - box, case - Kasten - kaste
    kirs - cherry - Kirsche - ķirsis
    kleit - skirt - Kleid - kleita
    korsten - chimney - Schornstein (even closer to Swedish skorsten) - skurstenis
    köök - kitchen - Küche (Low German köken, Swedish kök) - ķēķis
    loss - palace - Schloss (Estonian tends to simplify consonant clusters word-initially) - pils (more similar to english though)
    pall - ball - Ball - balle
    pank - bench - Bank (Estonian p- often corresponds to German b-) - beņķis
    pilt - picture - Bild - bilde
    proovima - to try - probieren (-ma is one of the two infinitive endings in Estonian) - provēt
    proua - lady, Mrs. - Frau (Estonian didn't have the letter f originally and replaced it with p in many cases) - preilene/freilene
    püksid - trousers - Low German Büchsen, Swedish byxor (-d is the nominative plural in Estonian) - bikses
    tass - cup -Tasse - tase
    torn - tower - Low German Torn - tornis
    tund - hour -Stunde - stunda
    tuba - room - Stube - istaba
    vein - wine - Wein - vīns
    üür - rent (for an apartment) - Low German Hüer - īre
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Nellija Eva, thanks for adding the Latvian list. It's interesting to see how these German words create a 'bridge' of some sort between the two unrelated languages. A small correction, if you don't mind: Latvian 'pils' doesn't come from German 'Schloss' or English 'palace', it's part of the original Baltic vocabulary (Lithuanian 'pilis').
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    On the other hand, one similarity with Gerrman seems to be the word order. I don't know if that's a German influence or just coincidence:

    "I go to the library twice a week" - in German and Estonian the word order here is:
    "I - go - two - times - in the week - in the library":
    "Ma - käin - kaks - korda - nädalas - raamatukogus"
    "Ich - gehe - zwei - Mal - in der Woche - in die Bücherei/Bibliothek"

    Of course, the example above shows similarities with Latvian as well (in terms of vocabulary).
    I'd say, it takes more than that to prove direct influence. Show me how many variations of syntax you can make with a subject, an object, a verb, and an adverbial. It is so limited that they would all have to fit with hundreds of languages.
     

    ger4

    Senior Member
    German
    I agree. It just strikes me that Estonian word order often differs from closely related Finnish and other neighbouring languages and that there seem to be similarities with German (and Latvian) sentence structures especially if you look at the position of the infinitive verb.

    Some more examples (they aren't meant to 'prove' anything, of course :)):

    ---
    http://www.unilang.org/ulrview.php?res=192,183

    'Could you please repeat that?'
    Swedish: Kan du säga om det? [ can | you | say (inf)| again | that ]
    Finnish: Voisitko toistaa tuon? [ could you + question particle | repeat (inf) | that ]
    Estonian: Palun, kas sa võiksid seda korrata? [ please | question marker | you | could | that | repeat (inf) ]
    Latvian: Lūdzu, vai jūs to varētu atkārtot? [ please | question marker | you | that | could | repeat (inf) ]
    German: Könntest du das bitte wiederholen? [ could | you | that | please | repeat (inf) ]

    'Can I print something?'
    Swedish: Kan jag skriva ut någonting? [ can | I | write (inf) | out | something ]
    Finnish: Voinko tulostaa jotakin? [ can I + question marking suffix | print (inf) | something ]
    Estonian: Kas ma saan midagi printida? [ question marker | I | am allowed | something | to print (inf) ]
    Latvian: Vai es varu kaut ko izdrukāt? [ question marker | I | can | some | what | print out (inf) ]
    German: Kann ich etwas ausdrucken? [ can | I | something ('somewhat') | print out (inf) ]

    ---
    http://www.balticsealibrary.info/ (Tranströmer - Östersjöar/ Baltics)

    'How much did they come to know one another?'
    Swedish: Hur mycket lärde de känna varann? [ how | much | learned | they | to know (inf) | each other ]
    Finnish: Minka verran he tutustuivat toisiinsa? [ ~ to what extent (?) ~ | they | got to know | each other ]
    Estonian: Kui palju õppisid nad üksteist tundma? [ how | much | learned | they | each other | to know (inf) ]
    Latvian: Cik tuvu viņi paspēja sapazīties? [ how | close | they | managed | to know (reflexive [recipr.] infinitive) ]
    German: Wie gut lernten sie einander kennen? [ how | good | learned | they | each other | to know (inf) ]

    ---
    http://203.250.148.79/upload/word/7-03-Martin%20E
    [...]

    Further evidence is provided by the sentences with verbal complexes: the auxiliary verb is in the second position and the non-finite part at the end of the sentence
    as in (11):

    (11) X O V
    a. Lapse-d on täna suppi söönud.
    child-PL have today soup.PART eaten <-- compare: die Kinder haben heute Suppe gegessen
    b. ???Lapsed on söönud suppi täna.
    children have eaten soup today
    The alternative sentence ???Lapsed on söönud suppi täna is very unusual and it is hard to imagine the context where this sentence might sound acceptable. The same regularities hold for verbal particles.

    In (12) the verbal particle üle is at the final position in the sentence while the finite verb is in the second position:

    (12) X O V
    Lapse-d värvi-vadi täna maja üle.
    child-PL paint-3PL today house.GEN over <-- compare: die Kinder streichen heute das Haus über
    ‘The children will overpaint the house today.’
    It is reasonable to assume that üle värvima ‘to overpaint’ is a single lexical unit which is located at the V node. Thus, when the verb is moved to the second position, the particle is left behind. That the verb is moved, not the particle is confirmed by changing the tense from present to perfect as in (13). The alternative *Lapsed on
    üle värvinud maja täna is ungrammatical, not just unusual.

    (13) Lapse-d on täna maja üle värvinud.
    child-PL have today house.GEN over painted <-- compare: die Kinder haben heute das Haus übergestrichen
    ‘The children have overpainted the house today.’

    [...]
     
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    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Actually, in all three examples the standard Russian word order agrees in the final position of the Infinitive with the German-Estonian-Latvian one (Не мог бы ты это повторить? / Могу я кое-что напечатать? / Насколько они успели познакомиться?). I wonder whether the Teutons have managed to influence the Russian usage as well.
     

    ger4

    Senior Member
    German
    How about sentences (11), (12) and (13)? I think Russian word order would (normally) differ from the Estonian (and the German) one here, wouldn't it?
    (11)
    Lapse-d | on | täna | suppi | söönud.
    [ child-PL | have | today | soup.PART | eaten ]
    Die Kinder | haben | heute | Suppe | gegessen.
    The children | have | eaten | soup | today.

    (12)
    Lapse-d | värvi-vadi | täna | maja | üle.
    [ child-PL | paint-3PL | today | house.GEN | over ]
    Die Kinder | streichen | heute | das Haus | über.
    The children | will | overpaint | the house | today.

    (13)
    Lapse-d | on | täna | maja |
    üle | värvinud.
    [ child-PL | have | today | house.GEN | overpainted ]
    Die Kinder | haben | heute | das Haus | übergestrichen.
    The children | have | painted | over | the house | today.
    Similarities don't prove influences, of course.
     
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    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Russian doesn't have separable prefixes or compound Past anymore, so literal translations are useless. The final position of the verb in these sentences is possible if the speaker emphasizes the verb.

    Дети суп сегодня съели (i. e. have eaten instead of having refused to do so as usual).

    Дети сегодня дом покрасят (i. e. they are going to finally do this).

    Дети сегодня дом покрасили (i. e. either "they have finally done this" or "what a horror, the children have painted the house!").

    I can reformulate the sentences into the Perfective Passive to separate the auxiliary verb and the participle, but again the participle placed in the end of the sentence will emphasize the verb:

    Детьми был вчера суп съеден
    etc.

    Though I agree, in these cases the standard German-Estonian (but not Latvian as far as I can judge) construction differs from the Russian one.
     

    rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    Recently I read is wikipedia that the Estonian language has borrowed nearly a third of its vocabulary from Germanic languages, mainly from German. Is this really true? Does knowledge of German can be very helpful in studying Estonian vocabulary?
    Modern Estonian have many Russian words too, for example:
    jaam (bus-station) compare Russian ямщик [jamschik]
    lusikas (teaspoon) ложка [lozhka]
    pilet (ticket) билет
    turg (market) торговать [torgovat]
    meri (sea) море [more]
    mõtlema, mõte (to think) мыслить, мысль [myslit]

    yet more and more
     

    rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    That's generally true, but meri is a Germanic (or Baltic, or Indo-European?) borrowing, whereas mõtlema is casually similar to the Russian word: it is a Baltic-Finnic derivative from a Germanic loanword (http://www.eki.ee/dict/ety/index.cgi?Q=mõtlema&F=M&C06=et). Otherwise, the thread is about German borrowings ,-)
    http://www.eki.ee - funny "office" :) because of politics they feel themselves more comfortable to investigate their language roots in German instead of obvious common with Russian, ha-ha..
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member

    rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    tlema is the ma-Infinitive form, the da-Infinitive is telda (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mõtlema#Conjugation). That there is no vowel between t and l in the first form, is the Estonian peculiarity: in Finnish, which preserves unstressed vowels much better, this will correspond to ajattelemaan — ajatella (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ajatella#Conjugation). The Estonian root is actually mõt-, whereas -el/l- is the suffix, found in many verbs.
    Выше я так и сказал, что корень - это эст. слово "mõte" т.е. "мысль". (Ссылаться на Википедию или на русофобскую контору типа "института" эст.языка - это странно)
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    Выше я так и сказал, что корень - это эст. слово "mõte" т.е. "мысль". (Ссылаться на Википедию или на русофобскую контору типа "института" эст.языка - это странно)
    В википедии даны парадигмы (должны раскрываться по ссылке: если нет, там справа нужно нажать на треугольнички): они не меняются в зависимости от степени русофобскости ресурса. Из мысли mõte не получится, а к тому же там есть и другие производные. Если хотите ущучить эстонцев, напомните им лучше, что слово vaba «свободный» заимствовано из дописьменного древнерусского.
     
    According to Suomen sanojen alkuperä ("The Origin of Finnish words"), the most up-to-date etymological dictionary of Finnish, mõtlema (which itself is derived from mõõt 'measure', the -le- part is a derivational suffix) is probably of German origin (SSA: "< Germ *mēt- : Old Norse mát ’measure, evaluation’, Old Swedish mat ’measure’), but it may have been influenced by Russian, not by мысль but the verb метить.
     

    rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    According to Suomen sanojen alkuperä ("The Origin of Finnish words"), the most up-to-date etymological dictionary of Finnish, mõtlema (which itself is derived from mõõt 'measure', the -le- part is a derivational suffix) is probably of German origin (SSA: "< Germ *mēt- : Old Norse mát ’measure, evaluation’, Old Swedish mat ’measure’), but it may have been influenced by Russian, not by мысль but the verb метить.
    I don't see any logic in your assumption.
    There are two different words in Estonian: mõtlema and mõõtma.
    If a verb mõtlema would be derived from the root mõõt, why here are two verbs together now, mõtlema and mõõtma?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    If a verb mõtlema would be derived from the root mõõt, why here are two verbs together now, mõtlema and mõõtma?
    Why not? Multiple imports of from the same ultimate root are not uncommon, e.g. chase and catch from Latin captiare through different French dialects.
     
    I don't see any logic in your assumption.
    There are two different words in Estonian: mõtlema and mõõtma.
    If a verb mõtlema would be derived from the root mõõt, why here are two verbs together now, mõtlema and mõõtma?
    You mean it would be logical if there were only one derived word per root stem? That makes no sense. Besides, the words have different meanings: mõõtma 'measure', mõtlema 'think'. Estonian has a rather rich derivational system, which means you can derive a lot of words from one stem using different means, e.g. suffixes.
     
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