Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A person I would have liked to meet ...

There are days when you realize that history repeats ... that the way people do things repeat.

Some weeks ago Anneliese Hübner mentioned a book to me "Die Coburger Mundart" (The Dialect of Coburg) by Eduard Hermann. The history of that book is as unique as its author ... something I did not expect in a first place. I mean Eduard Hermann is well known as a linguist and what I expected from this book is just a study of the dialect of the region I come from, but then I found it by chance in a shop which sells antique books in Coburg and so I ordered it. It arrived this morning and up to now I had a short overview and I read some 40 pages of it.

There are quite some very particular parts in it. The writer of the book died in 1950 and his book was published with the help of a protestant priest in 1957. A good part of the author's life is in that book. Like me Eduard Hermann wanted to do something for his language, but was not able to speak and write it himself, so he did what his job was, he studied his own language. With one difference: while in his job he did great work, in this very particular one you read his feelings between the lines. I tried to translate a paragraph to Italian today, and I had to note that all the feelings drop away, because those fine differences you have in sentence construction are not possible in Italian, at least not the same way, not without completely re-writing the paragraph.

There is one sentence I will never forget: "Und darum darf die MA (Mundart) auch nicht aussterben: nicht die Schriftsprache ist der lebendige Quell der Sprache, sondern die dem Volke fest verbundene Mundart, der noch der kräftige Erdgeruch enströmt."

I am trying to translate: "And therefore the dialect may not dye for it is not the high language which is the living source of the language, but the dialect which is closely attached to the people and which still exhales the strong aroma of the earth."

I could go on and on with quotes and translations ... Eduard Hermann did a really great job and I would have very much liked to meet him, talk to him and learn from him. Well: now there's only the written word left ...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Having a really old resource at hand ... DIWA and Itzgründisch

Well yes, I am working on a Windows computer right now and it feels really strange. But there is that project called DIWA at the university of Marburg. That is the digitalization of the Wenker sentences which were translated into all German local dialects/languages/variations. Now the sentences are from over 100 years ago. The latest and definitive version of the 40 sentences is from 1880. The firefox plugin does not work properly (well all is Windows based on the website as it seems) and so I pulled out this veeery (well relatively) old computer and I am on Windows. Above is a screenshot of a first part of the Wenker sentences in one variation of Itzgründisch. As you might note the script used to write in these days is very different, but well: like so often coincidence (?) helps me. I learnt to read that script when I was a little girl, because my grandma wrote that way and just some weeks ago I took it up again trying to write some short notes. Now the good news is: I can read that stuff. It is for now quite tiring, because it is a different handwriting than the one I am used to and it is written in Itzgründisch, that is one very local variety. But getting all those 40 sentences in all its variations of Itzgründisch will help to find proper terminology. For who is interested in that stuff: I am going to publish it bit by bit on the I-iter for Mainfränkisch in the books section.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Neapolitan and Itzgründisch ... what a difference ...

I am known for my working with Neapolitan, writing articles, even newspaper articles, translating stories ... something I would have never expected when I came to the region where I live approximately 20 years ago (actually in April 1988). I then was somewhat forced to learn to talk in Neapolitan, because I lived up in the mountains in a very, very small place – so small that there was not even a shop and the next bus station was quite some walk. I learnt that language and at a certain point it happened to me that I got translations from "Italian to German" where the text turned out to be Neapolitan (Pulcinella and various songs and theatre plays). From that moment on Neapolitan became part of my job and I found it fun that I was one of the very few to be able to translate from Neapolitan to German being a German mother tongue. During the last four years I started to write, from articles about Maiori, music groups to actual news like Batman who was on holiday in Ravello and about the Italian parliament complaining that they could not get any ice cream after lunch to news about computer games which were localised into less resourced languages. Neapolitan is a language, it has no real standard, because there is no law that defines it, but there is somewhat a standard with some variations and once you know that, in most part of Southern Italy you will be able to write what you say using exactly these words.

Growing up (no, I am still not grown up even if I should be :-) several quite strong changes happened to my life and I started to become interested in my own language around the beginning of this year, just having had some look at it. I found a writer in Sonneberg, Karl-Heinz Großman who writes Itzgründisch, the variation of Sonneberg and when I read it, it is very familiar to me, because my grandparents were from Sonneberg, so that is what I heard from then when I was at home. After some time I found other texts written by people from Coburg and surroundings and Neustadt, one text from Rodach. All of them, except Neustadt which has stronger vowel differences, are familiar and all of them are written in a different spelling ... uhmmmmm ...

When I was a little girl I was not allowed to speak my mother tongue and my grandparents and parents only spoke German with me, but among themselves they spoke their language. This means that Itzgründisch is well present in my head, but I am not able to express me in that language, that is that door is still closed. It is starting to open a bit, but still not enough, I feel.

In June I was in Bamberg and came back home with quite some literature in regional languages – from Itzgründisch (Coburg) to the Mainfränkisch of Bamberg to some Bavarian. So I started to read and create terminology lists ... and hell ... I found that the same words are written in a different way by writes which are even of the same town.

That made me come into mind my first talk with Karl-Heinz Grossman, who then told me that the writers in their association decided to write everybody as he/she likes, just like they perceive the language. No spelling rules. Well the same seems to be true for the region around Coburg.

Now: how can one learn to write if there is no real standard? My father sent me a dictionary which includes terminology from Rodach – and yes, you imagine correctly ... comparing it with the books I bought in Bamberg: it is different again.

I asked Anneliese Hübner, one of the writers I seem to read easily, because it is a kind of the language that is near to what I heard when I was a little girl. She told me about a dictionary by Eduard Hermann which strictly deals with the version of Coburg. I ordered it through a shop which sells old books and it should arrive during the next days. But anyway ... just these are so many variations ...

The next thought of mine was: hell, I need some means to learn the language and something that can correct my grammar and spelling, and so I contacted Kevin Scannell, passed him all the texts I have in an electronic format and gave him some links. After some days he sent me his files with word lists which now need cleaning. All these texts refer to the centres of Itzgründisch only, so no border regions, no small villages ... only the bigger ones. When I received these files it was like Christmas and birthday in one for me ... I could start to work on my own language and get things done and hopefully help to have the whole culture of that region survive. I mean: language is only part of the culture and culture cannot be kept alive without language.

During the last days I was also working each day a bit on my own word list, extracting terminology from the books I bought in Bamberg ... then I opened the file and then ... there was one word "bloß" it had 4 variations


I looked at my list and there I had further variations:


Uhmmmmm 7 ... that was a real shock, I mean 7 variations out of 4 places which are all along a line of 40 kms. (btw. this is just one example of many)

Then I went and looked at the texts ... when I see all these variations in their position in the sentence, I don't note the difference, but I note it when I have that list there ... so why don't they try to use one way of writing one word at least in that restricted area so that at least one who wants to learn the language can REALLY learn how to read and maybe write?

Even if young people wanted to create for example some fun theatre play for the party you normally have around Christmas or at the end of the school year, how can they ever try to write a text, even just a few lines?

I spoke to some linguists ... the funny situation with Itzgründisch is that it seems nobody has studied the whole region of it "as one", because after World War II it was split – one part went to East Germany and one to West Germany. I remember one remark by Karl-Heinz Großmann, who, after the opening of East Germany in 1989 went to Neustadt with his pupils which were really astonished to find that people in that city in West Germany talked "like them". So the part speaking Itzgründisch in Turinga was studied in Turinga and the part speaking Itzgründisch in Bavaria was studied in Bavaria ... now you have different studies, but nobody is connecting them (as it seems, well I will go ahead searching, maybe someone did it or is doing it right now). Why do political borders have to influence on a language? In such a strong way? I mean: all want to maintain the culture, the beauty of the region, the way to do things like once upon a time: well that is ONLY possible when you also care about the language.

When you talk to authors (various) some work with universities, others completely refuse them, each one writes like he/she finds best ... but if they want to maintain their culture and by writing in their language, they show me that they want to do exactly that, why don't they put all misunderstandings apart, sit at a table and start to find a way on how to unify the way of writing? That is standardise it as much as possible? Not all will be possible, some specific expressions are of some very specific places, but 95% of what is written could be standardised.

You believe not? Well whatever language you speak: look at it and the various places where people speak it. Have them read the same text and then compare: the big languages do that all the time.

Now the next question is: but how to do it without giving too much weight to one variation, well we have examples about that: one of it is Occitan – they use an old way of writing which is pronounced in each part of the region a bit different. But now anyone, even a foreigner, can learn that language, can learn how to read it and the culture which is connected to it can survive. Piedmontese underwent a similar process in the 1920s already: today it is alive and people use it every day. Even I am able to learn it (yes, some sentences I can write).

Now when I compare this to my culture and mother tongue it makes me really sad. The more you cut a language down in pieces the easier you can delete it from the landscape of cultures and languages ... and that is happening with Itzgründisch.

When I started to work with Neapolitan and there were all those stupid political fights among people from the actual regions of the South of Italy if they wanted to belong to Neapolitan or not (sic) I thought I was standing in front of some of the highest mountains of the Alps and I knew that in one or the other way I could get up there.

But this ... Itzgründisch ... takes me to a very different place ... in the deepest valley, just before you can start to go up the Kilimanjaro ... and if I look at myself I understand in so many ways that MANY things have to change to make it possible to reach the top.

Like I so often say: it is only a matter of time to reach things if you really want ... and this here will take loads of time and patience.

If you are from the region where Itzgründisch is spoken, if you love your culture and want to maintain it for the future, please consider very much every pace you make ... and then choose the one that goes into the right direction: doing things together, finding ways together ... not everybody as he/she wishes ...

If you are a linguist and you are interested in this very particular language which has been divided by a war and still remained the same, even if people could not talk to each other, then you can help by doing the "inventory" from where we all together can help to get it done.

I am really sad about this situation ... no, more than sad, but as long as there are people left who write and speak the language, as long as the recipes and the food remains the same, as long as you want the beauty of the landscape to survive: there is a chance ... because having all that is closely connected to "language".

Let me close with a quote by David Crystal, Florence Devouard used in her speech for our conference in Cherasco:

"The world is a mosaic of visions and each vision is encapsulated by a language. Every time a language is lost one vision of the world disappears."

p.s I will translate this into Itzgründisch just in the way I perceive my language, Itzgründisch ... just to show that it will be different again and anyway: who cares, right? It's just another version ... it will take some time ...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Streets in Venice ...

I was just talking with my son Marco about Venice ... tanks to St. Marcus, the patron of Venice, and so we looked a many pictures and I explained about about gondolas, ships etc. and that there are no streets with cars. For him who loves cars, motor sports, formula 1, 2 etc. and whatever deals with that, having a city without streets and cars ... well no ... so he asked "But why don't they build roads" and for simplicity reasons "I said they cannot do this because of the sea". The he: "No mommy, that's not true, they can put these long colums in the sea and then simply build the streets on it and then they would have streets - and cars - ". Well ... what could I say to that logic? :-D

Btw. the picture is public domain and taken from Wikimedia Commons.

We could not deliver your mail because it contains a Virus

... that was the answer when I tried to send a message to - I was really wondering ... I work with Ubuntu, use a antivirus ... well ... it meant I had to scan my computer, so I did - no result, everything fine.

Then I tried to send the message with the web interface: same result, I was told I had a virus. That sounded really weird ...

Then I looked at my message, the subject was "Photos" because I wanted to thank people for sending me photos. And I thought ... let me send a test message. So I sent a message to the group using "Test" as subject. That one went through without any complaints.

Therefore the yahoo server considered my first e-mail(s) to have a virus because in the subject line I only used the word "Photo". Weird, right? ... So don't do what I did :-D

Sunday, August 10, 2008

When google docs crashes and you loose your data

Well, most people probably think: this will not happen ... it happened to me today. Over 300 terms in Itzgründisch together with their German translation ... all of a sudden I got:

Wir bitten um Verzeihung.

Ein Serverfehler ist aufgetreten. Warten Sie einen Moment und versuchen Sie es dann erneut.

Weitere Informationen finden Sie in der Hilfe zu Google Text & Tabellen.

That is: they are sorry, there is a server error and please wait a moment and then retry. You will find further info under Goolge Text & Tables ...

Well that moment now has been some hours ago. The funny thing is, just a few moments before I thought: well let me download the file. Like so often I feel things before they happen, but if I had not done that ... what then?

So this is to tell you: keep copies of your google documents somewhere ... data loss is always just around the corner.

Willy Brandt about languages

If I am selling to you, I speak your language, if I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen. (Willy Brandt) (dann müssen Sie Deutsch...