Language Barriers between Ossies and Wessies? Or just DDR-rooted vocab?

< Previous | Next >

Poffertje

New Member
English, Great Britain
Hey, I'm studying German at the moment. Some things i've been pondering...

To what extent is the difference in common vocabulary between East and West Germany?

To what extent is the german language split, in this regard? Is it ever enough to cause problems in understanding?

Can a Wessi spot an Ossi from his everyday language? Or is it only specific historical terminology that is sometimes unintelligible to a Wessi?

If it reaches beyond just DDR-related and -borne terms, to what extent is this divided word-creation still happening? Are there new Ossi-only words being created? If so, is that just a geographical thing, or is it the original social divide that still causes the linguistic divide?

Is there a tendency of one particular group (ossies or wessies) to adopt English/foreign words? And is there a tendency of one or the other to frown upon such disloyalty to the language?

Looking forward to some views on this. I can't find anything on it online.

If anyone can answer even one of these questions it would be appreciated.
 
  • Fez

    Member
    English, Australia
    Alright, I'll get the ball rolling for the natives to come along and help. I've lived in Germany, and I've thought of a couple of things that may be helpful to you:

    (1) There are vast differences in the German spoken between regions all over Germany (East and West). These regional dialects (such as Schwäbisch, Pfälzisch, Bayrisch, Sächsisch) contain much vocabulary and slang which isn't understood elsewhere. However, most Germans speak Hochdeutsch anyway which takes away most of the problems with interregional communication. In reply to your question, most Germans can recognize a dialect and pinpoint the region it's from so yes, you'd be able to tell someone is from East Germany by their dialect.

    (2) There exists what I've heard referred to as "Ostdeutsch", which is the use of East German Socialist-era words and terms, e.g. "Broiler". These terms are understood by West Germans today and I'm not sure if there's many new Ossi-only words being created. I haven't heard any. Hopefully a native can answer that one.

    (3) It's hard to say whether more East Germans than West Germans use foreign words, because it depends on the person. A lot of older Germans frown on using English-borrowed words, and a lot of younger Germans think it's cool to slip English words into their German. It depends on your age, background, whether you're a linguistic purist or not, etc...

    Hope this opens up more discussion. Interesting topic.

    Fez.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    In some cases, a word had different meanings between east and west. For example: "grundsätzlich" was used as "immer" in the East. Many where astonished that it means "in principle, but there may be a lot of exceptions."

    "Arbeitsberatung": I understood the word as describing a meeting, where the attending persons spoke about their work and what to do or improve next. I attended special training after the unification and they said "Arbeitsberatung" is a meeting where the boss tells what to do next.

    In many cases there are different emotions connected to words. This may be important, too. For example: the sentence "Das macht Sinn" causes negative emotions for some older people (for me, too), because the sentence should be "das hat Sinn". Lots of anglicisms came new. But it is comprehensible.

    In many cases regionalisms seem to be different between east and west.

    In the mean time, the language developped further and there is almoust no difference anymore.

    There may be two kinds of barriers:

    - barriers in understanding the words - there are almost no such barriers (if you do not consider the area of laws. They have a special language, nobody can really understand, if not studying laws.)

    - barriers in a social sense - because of different accent (caused by regional differences) when speaking the standard language, you almost immediately find out whether somebody comes from the east or west. It is hard to come into a group and to get the feeling to belong to.

    ---

    see also
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDR-Sprachgebrauch
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westdeutsche_Sprache
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    To what extent is the difference in common vocabulary between East and West Germany?
    There are only minor differences, the majority of vocabulary is identical.

    Is it ever enough to cause problems in understanding?
    Yes, in quite rare cases it does cause some slight problems. There are three categories that give rise to non-comprehension:

    a) Abbreviations -- East Germany, enforced or promoted by the political system, used very many abbreviations which are unknown to West German speakers. If such abbreviations are used, Western German people usually have to ask.

    b) Vocabulary -- There are only very few words that really distinguish Western from Eastern German. Examples are Broiler (Brathähnchen), Elaste und Plaste (Kunststoff), Grilletta (Hamburger). See Wikipedia.

    c) Political vocabulary that directly relates to the DDR system and does not make any sense nowadays or in Western society. Such words are only of historical interest today and are of no importance in everyday speech. However, if Eastern Germans talk about old times, Western people often do not understand completely what is being discussed.

    Can a Wessi spot an Ossi from his everyday language? Or is it only specific historical terminology that is sometimes unintelligible to a Wessi?
    Nowadays usually not by his vocabulary, but often by Eastern German accents (Sächsisch, Thüringisch). Yes, the historical terminology is sometimes unintelligible, but it is rarely used today.

    Is there a tendency of one particular group (ossies or wessies) to adopt English/foreign words? And is there a tendency of one or the other to frown upon such disloyalty to the language?
    There is a general tendency to adapt English words, but I do not know whether there are differences between East and West.

    Kajjo
     

    Poffertje

    New Member
    English, Great Britain
    Thank you, Fez, Huttschi and Kajjo! This is all extremely interesting and helpful. If anyone has anything more to add, please continue.





    Another question:

    Have any of you heard of the expression "Kiwi", to mean "Kirsch Whisky" (and not the animal, or the fruit, in English)?

    It's supposed to be an East German slang term. Please post to say "no" if you haven't!
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    By the way, we have lost a lot of words, or almost lost them.

    Letscho, (Tomaten und Paprika zusammen eingekocht)
    Schaschlik, (Fleischspieß)

    ---

    Different meaning:
    Jägerschnitzel: Ost: Panierte Jagdwurst,
    West: unpaniertes Schweineschnitzel mit Pilzsoße mit Pilzen,
    klassisch (original): Kalbsschnitzel mit Pilzsoße
     

    Henryk

    Senior Member
    Germany, German
    In the GDR, the today's "Arbeitnehmer" was the "Arbeitgeber" and vice versa as far as I know.
     

    Paskovich

    Senior Member
    Germany - German
    Poffertje said:
    Is there a tendency of one particular group (ossies or wessies) to adopt English/foreign words? And is there a tendency of one or the other to frown upon such disloyalty to the language?
    I don´t think so. It just depends on the person.

    Poffertje said:
    To what extent is the difference in common vocabulary between East and West Germany?

    To what extent is the german language split, in this regard? Is it ever enough to cause problems in understanding?
    It´s not necessarily the vocabulary, but rather the dialect that can cause problems in understanding.

    Once I was in some kind of bar in Dresden (Sachsen - East Germany and I (being from Brandenburg - East Germany, too) was sitting there with 4 of my friends playing cards.

    The waitress asked as 3 times whether we would like to drink something.
    Not that anyone of us had understood a single word of what she was saying.
    So we just ignored her hoping that she wasn´t talking to us. ;)

    Only after the 4th time when she actually spoke "Hochdeutsch" we finally got her. :eek:

    It was actually quite an awkward situation.

    So, you see, it´s not really a matter of being from West Germany or East Germany, but a problem of different dialects in general.


    EDIT:

    Something else that people from West Germany don´t seem to understand is our "East German Time".

    When it is 10:15, we say (at least here in Brandenburg) "Es ist viertel Elf" - "It is a quarter of eleven".
    At 10:45 we say "Es ist dreiviertel Elf" - "It is three quarters of eleven".

    At least no one of the "Wessies" I have met so far could understand me if I was giving the time this way, since they are used to say it like this:

    10:15 - viertel nach Zehn - (a) quarter past ten
    10:45 - viertel vor Zehn - (a) quarter to ten

    So they say it pretty much like in English.

    We in East Germany understand the "Western Time". However, they cannot understand ours right away, apparently.

    I had to explain it to my "Wessie" friends first. :D
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    In the GDR, the today's "Arbeitnehmer" was the "Arbeitgeber" and vice versa as far as I know.
    This is not quite correct. This was used just to declare the words after the unification. Until than, the words were not used or just used to critisize them in this way. Context was: The nouns in the west are misused. In reality, the "Arbeitgeber" takes the work (the results of the work) and the "Arbeitnehmer" gives the work, because he works and gives the results.

    The words in the GDR were: "Arbeiter" or, more generally: "Werktätige" for Arbeitnehmer. The idea was, that the people owned the ground and the factories. So there was no special general word for "Arbeitgeber".
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Schaschlik kennt man auch im Westen. Schon in meiner Kindheit (und wohl auch schon viel früher) wurden diese Fleischspieße in Sauce gerne verzehrt.

    Kajjo
    Im Osten wurde nach der Vereinigung das Wort weitgehend durch "Fleischspieß" ersetzt und die Rezeptur verändert. Speck, Leber und und Gurke sind nur noch sehr selten dabei. Im Osten gab es keine Sauce, sondern meist Senf, später auch Ketchup dazu.

    Naja, die Fleischspieße sind ja eigentlich auch keine Schaschliks.

    I agree: There are much more Differences between dialects than differences between the east- and west languages in Germany generally.
     

    Poffertje

    New Member
    English, Great Britain
    Very interesting.

    Another question on the same topic... Is it true that, in the DDR, they referred to Arbeitslosen as Arbeitssuchende - to reflect the socialist mentality?

    I mean to reflect the idea that so long as you don't have a job, then you are looking for one. Not just "without" one.

    And are both words in use today? And do they mean the same thing now?
     

    huelin

    Member
    German / Germany
    Something else that people from West Germany don´t seem to understand is our "East German Time".

    When it is 10:15, we say (at least here in Brandenburg) "Es ist viertel Elf" - "It is a quarter of eleven".
    At 10:45 we say "Es ist dreiviertel Elf" - "It is three quarters of eleven".

    At least no one of the "Wessies" I have met so far could understand me if I was giving the time this way, since they are used to say it like this:

    10:15 - viertel nach Zehn - (a) quarter past ten
    10:45 - viertel vor Zehn - (a) quarter to ten
    In spite of your personal experience, this difference is not "exclusive" between East and West. It is true that in many parts of the east they say the time like you described - by the way, also in West Berlin - , but you can hear "viertel elf" or "dreiviertel elf" also in Baden-Württemberg and other parts of the South, which belonged to the former Western Germany.
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Very interesting.

    Another question on the same topic... Is it true that, in the DDR, they referred to Arbeitslosen as Arbeitssuchende - to reflect the socialist mentality?

    I mean to reflect the idea that so long as you don't have a job, then you are looking for one. Not just "without" one.

    And are both words in use today? And do they mean the same thing now?
    No. I do not think so. The GDR did not have the concept of "Arbeitslosigkeit" (at least, after the fifties, I do not know much about the erarlier periods.)There were some people not working, different reasons. But everybody who wanted to work could get a job. May be, not the one he or she liked most. So "Arbeitslose" refered to the west and was used to describe the situation in the west.

    "Arbeitssuchende" could have work or could just have studied or did not work, it just said, they were searching for a new job, as far as I know. In the 1980ths, in many towns an Arbeitsamt (employment office) was founded, but not to pay for "Arbeitslosigkeit" but to organize jobs.

    I do not know, however, whether there was a small amount of real "Arbeitslosigkeit".

    Another question is the phenomenon of "innere Arbeitslosigkeit" - if there was no work for some times within an office or plant, the people were not fired.

    "Arbeitslose" are not people without work, but people who are searching for work and do not find. In other definitions now, they must also not have enough money for living and they must be registered in the employment office which was renamed sometimes.

    Both words are used today. They have different meaning.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top