Why is German so deviant?

trance0

Senior Member
Slovene
In Slovene we use "Nemec" for a person of German nationality. The word "nemec" means literally "a mute person" in Modern Slovene. (nemec -> (nem=mute) +ec = nemec).
 
  • dinji

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Finland
    Sure, Tedesco must be a Germanic cognate in Italian; after all it refers to Germany, although I don’t understand the role of semivowel “w” here. What is PIE root for this cognate?
    PIE *teu-(ta:) where /u/ stands for a semivowel "w".
    There are true cognates in Celtic, Baltic, Hettitic and even in Oscan touto 'citizen'. The Italian word is however not a cognate but a borrowing. It does not display any back or rounded vowel here.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    The explanation that the Slavic word for "German" comes from a Slavic word meaning "mute" is unconvincing. First, it cannot surely be the case that the Slavs thought the German tribes could not speak at all. Secondly, if you are going to call a people after the way they speak then a word meaning "mute" hardly seems applicable. One would expect a word meaning something like "babbler" or "stutterer" to be used.
    "Barbar(ian)" means something like "babbler", "stutterer" - that's correct.

    However, in Slavic languages it is true that the word just means "mute" - German = Nemec (I also think, like Jana, that it is the same in all Slavic languages). This etymology is well-established and widely accepted by the scientific community - it is not a folk-etymology based on coincidental homonymy but an established historic etymology.

    And how to explain that they call Germans "mute"? - Well, surely Slavs knew that that German babbling was a language, but to them it wasn't intelligible and thus falls basically in the same category as "barbarian - babbler". So I don't see a real problem here, to be honest.
     

    89ten

    Member
    german
    Then how comes the Italian word Nemiti and the Czech word Nemetz are similar
    in morphology. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that the cognate was spread along eastern and southern Germanic borders? As one of posters in this thread mentioned,
    the Italian “Nemiti” means enemy in Italian, which, I presume, was borrowed into English, and here it means “enemy.” I wonder if someone can successfully separate the Italian root from the Czech one. Also, is the Czech or the west Slavic “Nemetz” cognate known in Russian, not necessary to describe Germany?
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Barbar(ian)" means something like "babbler", "stutterer" - that's correct.

    However, in Slavic languages it is true that the word just means "mute" - German = Nemec (I also think, like Jana, that it is the same in all Slavic languages). This etymology is well-established and widely accepted by the scientific community - it is not a folk-etymology based on coincidental homonymy but an established historic etymology.

    And how to explain that they call Germans "mute"? - Well, surely Slavs knew that that German babbling was a language, but to them it wasn't intelligible and thus falls basically in the same category as "barbarian - babbler". So I don't see a real problem here, to be honest.

    I can only think that there must have been some semantic shift in the Slavic word that now means "mute". Could it at one one have meant or included the meaning "incapable of coherent speech" or "given to using few words" and not just simply "incapable of speech"? Were any German tribes noted for their taciturnity so that they might have been described as "the silent ones"?

    My Russian teacher said that "nyemyetskiy" came from "nye moy" = "not mine". I am not sure that that is any more plausible.

    Since the derivation of "Polski", a word used by Slavs to describe Slavs, is uncertain, it seems unwise to be too dogmatic about the derivation of a word used by Slavs to describe non-Slavs.
     

    Kanes

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Since the derivation of "Polski", a word used by Slavs to describe Slavs, is uncertain, it seems unwise to be too dogmatic about the derivation of a word used by Slavs to describe non-Slavs.

    Polski on Bulgarian literaly means from a field/flatland. From pole - field. Having in mind Polish geography seems logical too.
     

    trance0

    Senior Member
    Slovene
    Since Slavic languages are more conservative than Romance and Germanic ones, I don't believe a significant semantic shift of "nemec" is very plausible. Especially because the word has basically retained the same meaning in all existing Slavic languages.
     

    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Why is German so deviant?
    We should not wonder. Also, we may wonder why "computer" has various notations in different languages but we should not.

    There are other examples of different names for the same nation/country:

    Greece, Albania, Hungaria, Czech rep., Russia, China, Egypt, Italy, et many others perhaps.

    My Russian teacher said that "nyemyetskiy" came from "nye moy" = "not mine". I am not sure that that is any more plausible.
    This etymology seems unprobable to me.

    The Slavonic word nēmъ means just mute, not stupid.

    Both volks, Germans and Slavs, have lived in neighbourhood long time in the basin of the middle Danube. In that situation, both ethnonyms, slovēne (Slavs) and nēmьцi (Germans), were developed at the same time and, since then, have always stayed in mutual opposition. The former means "people capable to speak" and the latter - "people incapable to speak".

    Please note that, usually, people do not feel the need of an own ethnonym. In many circumstances in the past, most people did not know any ethnonym of their own. Even now, for instance, Bosniac Muslims have not any ethnonym of their own.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Both volks, Germans and Slavs, have lived in neighbourhood long time in the basin of the middle Danube. In that situation, both ethnonyms, slovēne (Slavs) and nēmьцi (Germans), were developed at the same time and, since then, have always stayed in mutual opposition. The former means "people capable to speak" and the latter - "people incapable to speak".

    That begins to make some sense.
     

    Goerzer

    Member
    Italian (North-eastern Italy)
    Then how comes the Italian word Nemiti and the Czech word Nemetz are similar
    in morphology. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that the cognate was spread along eastern and southern Germanic borders? As one of posters in this thread mentioned,
    the Italian “Nemiti” means enemy in Italian, which, I presume, was borrowed into English, and here it means “enemy.” I wonder if someone can successfully separate the Italian root from the Czech one. Also, is the Czech or the west Slavic “Nemetz” cognate known in Russian, not necessary to describe Germany?

    "Nemiti" is not an Italian word. Probably you meant "nemici" (plural of "nemico") which derives from Latin "inimicus" and means "enemies" of course.
     

    trance0

    Senior Member
    Slovene
    Yes, I forgot to mention that nēmьцi (Germans) is basically just an antonym of slovēne (Slavs). It is of course perfectly logical, in fact one of the most logical and primal way of naming the nations based on understanding of their languages.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    My Russian teacher said that "nyemyetskiy" came from "nye moy" = "not mine". I am not sure that that is any more plausible.
    Like Christo Tamarin I wouldn't consider this etymology useful; I'd say that this classifies as folk etymology.

    Christo already explained it very well; to be honest I never seriously doubted the traditional etymology (= "mute") because it always sounded logical to me.

    But here a source - Vasmer's Etymological Dictionary (just a few lines to stay within the 4-lines-rule):
    "ORIGIN:
    Праслав. *němьcь "чужестранец" образовано от němъ (см. немо́й). Ср. диал. говори́ть не́мо, т. е. "невнятно говорить (о ребенке)", вятск. (Васн.), не́мчик "малыш, ребенок, который еще не говорит", смол. (Добровольский), немко́ "немой", арханг. (Подв.), немты́рь, немтура́ "косноязычный, заика", вятск. (Васн.), др.-русск.: Югра же людие есть языкъ нѣмъ, т. е. "чужой, иноязычный (немой) народ" (Лаврентьевск. летоп. под 1096 г.)"

    It's basically what we said above - Nemec = mute, foreigner originally, but also silly/dumb people; in Middle Russian (that's what Cp. seems to stand for) it was also used to denote speaking not very clearly (like kids babbling), and so on: I think that fits perfectly really with everything written above. :)
     

    89ten

    Member
    german
    Could the Slavic etymology have the same root with the Italian word “nemici?”
    I don’t see a problem with calling foreigners mute or anything semantically close to it.
    If the root meant once people incapable of speaking your own language, then those people were foreigners who also might have become your enemies. So, we have one cognate “nem,” which in Slavic means mute and also a German and in Italian enemy.
    This may be a coincidence of course.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's basically what we said above - Nemec = mute, foreigner originally, but also silly/dumb people; in Middle Russian (that's what Cp. seems to stand for) it was also used to denote speaking not very clearly (like kids babbling), and so on: I think that fits perfectly really with everything written above. :)

    That seems to confirm my suspicion that the word did have a wider meaning that simply "incapable of speech".
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I think that must come from the Latin inimicus = in+amicus = "not friend".
    Yes, surely this has to be the correct etymology (unfortunately no entry in etimo.it so I can't check) - there's surely no relation to the Slavic word for Germans.

    Of course, Nemec also was a name for the foreigners and (thus, logically) potential enemies - but the similarity to Italian has to be pure coincidence.
     

    tkan

    New Member
    English - British
    Interestingly the word Nemec seems to relate to Germans in particular. cf Polish Włoch (italy) and Bulgarian влашко (vlashko) (Rumanian) cognate with the English word Welsh?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The Italian word tedesco goes back to Late Latin teutiscu(m), ultimately from Gothic thiuda, “people”. Obviously, the German form deutsch also comes via Latin, and – together with tedesco – it means “popular; vernacular [language]”.
    It is not so "obvious" to me. The words diota (Old High German), þiod/þeod (Anglo-Saxon/Old English) and þioð (Old Norse) meaning people were still in current use in all Germanic languages during the entire first Millennium (cf. e.g. þeodcyninga=of people kings in the first sentence of Beowulf). The words Deutsch/Duits/Dutch may well have developed directly from its Germanic root without Latin help.

     

    dinji

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Finland
    I agree with Berndf but would put the point stronger:

    The words Duits/Dutch, if indeed borrowed from Late Latin teutiscu(m), would most likely begin with Germanic /t/. From the point of view of etymological method it is also arbitrary and uneconomical to assume a borrowing when the Germanic words are perfect genetic cognates among themselves.
     
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    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Hey, I don't speak German at all, but I was wondering if someone could explain to me why German, of all other languages, changes the most between languages.

    For instance... English = German.... Spanish = Alemán.... Italian = Tedesco... German = Deutsche (sp?)...

    Whereas for, let's say, Spanish.... English = Spanish.... Spanish = Español.... Italian = Spagnolo.... French = Espagnole.....

    They are all very similar for other languages, just not German. Anybody know the origin or reason of this?

    You can easily understand the meaning of this deviation helping yourself with the history of Europe. The English word Germany or the Italian one Germania go back to the Latin subdivision of Europe. Latins used to call Germany as Germania that completely survived in the Italian Germania and in the English Germany. The fact that Germany is translated as Alemania in Spanish and as Allemagne in French is maybe due to others historical factors. The fact that in Italian the name of the Germany language is Tedesco (that has no similarities with Germania) is due to the fact that we inherited the name of the Nation from the Latins, and the name we give to the Germany language (Tedesco, that's really similar to Deutsch) is due mostly to the fact that Latins called the Language spoken in Germany at their time as Theodisce, that means people's language (notice the similarity with Deutsch, that Germans inherited from this latin word).
     
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    dinji

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Finland
    .....the fact that Latins called the Language spoken in Germany at their time as Theodisce, that means people's language (notice the similarity with Deutsch, that Germans inherited from this latin word).
    Why on earth would Deutsch be a loan from Late Latin when it is a lautgesätzlich a perfect genetic cognate to the other Germanic words with the same meaning?

    For reference see my postings above as well as Seebold/Klüge: Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache.

    PS. The Late Latin word is a borrowing from an older Germanic language anyway.
     

    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Yes, the Latin word is a form deriving from an an older German, that's true, but the fact that tha Latins classified every region with its language led the to form of the word to survive...
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Yes, the Latin word is a form deriving from an an older German, that's true, but the fact that tha Latins classified every region with its language led the to form of the word to survive...

    That is a bold claim. The are only some modern country names which are derived from Roman names of the province of region:
    France: No
    Deutschland: I say no, you say yes
    England: No
    Britain: Yes
    Wales: No
    Italia: Yes
    Österreich: No
    Schweiz: No
    Magyarország: No
    España: Yes
    România: No (Roman name was Dacia)
    Begië/Belgique/Belgien: Yes
    Holland: No
    Nederland: No
     
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    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    That is a bold claim. The are only some modern country names which are derived from Roman names of the province of region:
    France: No
    Deutschland: I say no, you say yes
    England: No
    Britain: Yes
    Wales: No
    Italia: Yes
    Österreich: No
    Schweiz: No
    Magyarország: No
    España: Yes
    România: No (Roman name was Dacia)
    Begië/Belgique/Belgien: Yes
    Holland: No
    Nederland: No
    There's no need to list all the region that took their name from the Latin one.
    I studied too much Latin history.
    I was talking about the name of the language (Theodisce, remember?) not about the name of the regions.
    And I wrote that the Romans classified every region with its language.
    They subdivided each region on the language spoken...
    I didn't say that every name they gave to each region has survived.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Ok then:

    If diota was still a normal German, þeod a normal English and þioð a normal Nordic word in everyday language long after the collapse of the Roman empire, why does it need Latin to be kept alive?

    Diota is a much more logical source for High German deutsch and Anglo-Saxon þiudisc a much more logical source for Low German düdesch than theodisce (which comes from Gothic) could ever be.
     
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    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Well, okay.
    Let's say this: You can't assume that Latin had a great influence on the great part of the European languages.
    The same fact that there are some words in non neolatin languages demonstrates it.
    I was trying to say that this great influence helped the name of the German language, Teodische, to arrive until the present day.
    It is also true, as you demonstred in the other post, that not all the Latin names of regions and languages survived.
    It is also due to the fact that the Latin literature talked a lot about Germany and its language (see "Germania", Agricola).
    This helped a lot of words to arrive until the present day.
    I hope I've been clearer, now ^_^
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I was trying to say that this great influence helped the name of the German language, Teodische, to arrive until the present day.
    This claim has not been substantiated yet. The word Deutsch (or Duits on Dutch of Dutch in English, etc) has an uninterrupted attested history in Germanic languages itself. It is not at all obvious that Latin had anything whatsoever to do with this. If you say it does, I would like to hear your reasons.
     

    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Hi,

    Can you please substantiate that claim?

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Is there need to substantiate it?
    It is well known that they subdivided names of Regions and populations on their languages and uses.
    As I wrote in the post before, see "Germania", by Agricola, or "De Bello Gallico" by Caesar.
    In both are described uses & costumes, languages, landscapes, ways of making wars etc etc etc...
     

    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    This claim has not been substantiated yet. The word Deutsch (or Duits on Dutch of Dutch in English, etc) has an uninterrupted attested history in Germanic languages itself. It is not at all obvious that Latin had anything whatsoever to do with this. If you say it does, I would like to hear your reasons.
    If we (Italian) call the Germany language "Tedesco" and not "Germanese" it is obviously due to the fact this name has been diffused through Italy thanks to that literature I was talking about.
    Obviously, we call France Francia and not Britannia Minor because France is a much more older nation than Germany, and its own name supplanted the Latin one.
    Regardless the fact that the name of the German language has always been attested through history, we call the German language as Tedesco not because we took it from the modern German "Deutsch" but because we inherited it from the Latins.
     
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    dinji

    Senior Member
    Swedish - Finland
    Regardless the fact that the name of the German language has always been attested through history, we call the German language as Tedesco not because we took it from the modern German "Deutsch" but because we inherited it from the Latins.
    Yes, but the "Late Latins" ("Early Romance"?) speakers had taken it from an ancient Germanic language (Gothic? Langobardic?, Vandal? who knows)
     

    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Yes,they took it from a Germanic language, but the thing I was trying to say is that in my nation it has been diffused by Latins, and it helped the almost original version of the word to survive until the present day in my country.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    If we (Italian) call the Germany language "Tedesco" and not "Germanese" it is obviously due to the fact this name has been diffused through Italy thanks to that literature I was talking about.
    Obviously, we call France Francia and not Britannia Minor because France is a much more older nation than Germany, and its own name supplanted the Latin one.
    Regardless the fact that the name of the German language has always been attested through history, we call the German language as Tedesco not because we took it from the modern German "Deutsch" but because we inherited it from the Latins.
    Ah! Now you are only talking about why the Italians call German tedesco and not why the Germans call it Deutsch. That is completely uncontentious.

    But in your first post in this thread you wrote "notice the similarity with Deutsch, that Germans inherited from this latin word". This is something totally different!
     
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    DigitalepurpureA

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Ah! Now you are only talking about why the Italians call German tedesco and not why the Germans call it Deutsch. That is completely uncontentious.

    But in your first post in this thread you wrote "notice the similarity with Deutsch, that Germans inherited from this latin word". This is something totally different!
    Yes, you're right on that sentence of mine
     

    Orion7

    Member
    Latvian
    Hey, I don't speak German at all, but I was wondering if someone could explain to me why German, of all other languages, changes the most between languages.

    For instance... English = German.... Spanish = Alemán.... Italian = Tedesco... German = Deutsche (sp?)...

    Whereas for, let's say, Spanish.... English = Spanish.... Spanish = Español.... Italian = Spagnolo.... French = Espagnole.....

    They are all very similar for other languages, just not German. Anybody know the origin or reason of this?

    In Latvian Germans are vācieši (Lithuanian vōkiečiai), also totally different word from the above mentioned. It comes from vāk- 'to speak/voice', Skrt. vāk, vāčam, Latin vōx < *vāks 'speach, voice'.
    The fact of being so many names for Germans lies on so many different nations living around them, usually having it's own name for neighbouring nation.
    For example, Latvians use krievi (name from Northeast Baltic tribe kreivaiči (Russ. кривичи/kriviči) former living on the right from Latvia) for Russians, zviedri (from Sverige < *Swēdrīke 'Sweden') for Swedes, somi ['suomi] (Suomi 'Finland' in Finnish) for Finns, leiši (from Curonian leitis/leitji 'Lithuanian(s)') for Lithuanians, igauņi (from Ugaunija, a district in Estonia) for Estonians. As you see no common names, comparing with dāņi 'Danes', itāļi 'italians', spāņi 'Spanes', franči, francūži 'Frenchmen', angļi 'Englishmen, Angles', ungāri, maģāri 'Hungarians, Magyars' etc.
    The Germans' self name Deutsche, as also Dutch' name is cognate to Latvian tauta 'people, nation, folk', where tauta < *tava-tā 'that of yours, thine', Latvian tava 'thine', 'it, that, she' .
    Italian Tedesco, Proto-Germanic *þeudisko are cognate to Latvian tautisks 'national', where tautisks < *tautas-kas 'that of nation', tautas 'of nation', kas 'what', as also the older form Teut(i)sche seems to be direct cognate to Latvian tautieši 'countrymen, compatriots'.
     
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