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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...


German on Low Saxon Substrata

From the 18th to the mid-20th centuries,
Missingsch flourished in lower-class
neighborhoods of North German cities
(like this one in Hamburg).

Language information: The name “Missingsch” is derived from the name of the city of Meissen (Meißen) in the German state of Saxony (which received its inappropriate name because of aristocratic intermarriage with the real Saxony). It denotes German-Low Saxon contact varieties, namely German dialects on Low Saxon substrates. The best known forms of Missingsch are the working-class dialects of Berlin (a city that lost its Low Saxon dialects a long time ago), even though these German dialects are not usually referred to as “Missingsch.” Missingsch dialects tend to be considered inferior and “uneducated.” Most of them are now nearing extinction. However, Missingsch has left more or less noticeable traces in many German dialects of the north, especially in the more “casual” ones. Many of these may even be regarded as being Missingsch-derived, “cleaned up” to varying degrees as a result of increasing exposure to and proficiency in Standard German.
     The case of Missingsch is similar to that of Stadfrys (i.e. Dutch on West Frisian substrata) and Trasianka (i.e. Russian on Belarusian substrata).
     Since Low Saxon, certainly spoken Low Saxon, is largely incomprehensible to people outside Northern Germany and the Netherlands, it is rarely featured in Germany’s national media. Instead, in dialect presentation series from around Germany, the north tends to be represented by Missingsch, and theater groups that usually perform in Low Saxon will perform special Missingsch productions of their plays for nation-wide broadcasting. ALL languages and dialects are beautiful, precious gifts. So cherish yours and others! Share them with the world!However, since this is usually not explained to them, most southern audience members have come to believe that Missingsch is Platt (“Low German,” i.e., Low Saxon), much to the confusion of those who ever have occasion to encounter the real thing.
     These translations are in Missingsch varieties of the northern “Hanseatic” German city states of Bremen and Hamburg as well as in the variety of nearby Wilhelmshaven. Berlin dialects and Ruhr German is not officially considered Missingsch but ought to be classified as such.
     Since Missingsch is not usually written we present it here spelled in two ways, one with less and one with more phonetic information, both spelled using German orthographic conventions. [Click here for more.]
     The author of the Wilhelmshaven dialectversion shares the following information:
      “Wilhelmshaven Missingsch, or the regiolect of Wilhelmshaven, as linguists might call it, is spoken in the town of Wilhelmshaven. I have no idea when it started to exist. Was it already there, when Wilhelmshaven was a part of the Kingdom of Prussia? (I don’t think so), or did it start to develop when Wílhelmshaven was a strong naval base of the German Empire? (I don’t know). I only know, that it existed, in the 1940ies, when I was a little boy. At the beginning of this brief report I stated, that it is spoken in Wilhelmshaven. By now I have got the impression, that it is predominately spoken in urban districts with a high percentage of ‘working class people’ like Voslapp, Fedderwarder Groden, Siebethsburg, Bant and some other districts.”
      “What are the typical features of the Wilhelmshaven Missingsch (perhaps comparing it with the Missingsch of Hamburg and Bremen)? I remember some older playmates in the 1940s saying to me, that we Wilhelmshaven people are very proud of the fact that we don’t pronounce the letters ‘sp- and st’ at the beginning of a word like ‘ssp- and sst’ as many people in Northern Germany would do, but like ‘schp- and scht’. On the other hand there are some Wilhelmshaven people, who ‘overdo the whole matter,’ pronouncing words like Kastanie (chestnut) and Pistole (pistole) like this: Kaschtanieand Pischtole, which we should not do according to Standard German pronunciation (German Stage Language). I also think that it is remarkable how we Wilhelmshaven people pronounce the word endings -er as ‘-or’ with a very ‘deep’ and open ‘o’ like the ‘a’ in English ‘hall’. And that is precisely like the Danes pronounce their -er word endings. So this was a great advantage for me when I was learning Danish. A similar matter is, how we pronounce double ‘t’ in the words like Mutter (mother) and Butter (butter), that is like in American English that is ‘budder’. And finally, a typical feature of Wilhelmshaven Missingsch is the way we call the Standard German word nichts(nothing), that is nüscht instead of nix as it is pronounced in Oldenburg, Bremen etc. But where did this come from? I think it was brought to Wilhelmshaven by all the newcomers who came to Wilhelmshaven to find work, for example in the big shipyard of the Imperial Navy, because at that imperial time and also much later at the time of the Nazi rule in the 1940s Wilhelmshaven was a real ‘melting pot’ for Germans who came from all parts of the German Reich at that time.”

Genealogy: Indo-European > Germanic > West > High German > German > Northern (on Low Saxon substrate)

Historical Lowlands language contacts: Low Saxon

    Click to open the translation: [Bremen] [Hamburg] [Ruhr German] [Wilhelmshaven] Click here for different versions. >

Author: Reinhard F. Hahn

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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