Plautdietsch Verb Conjugation

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Oct 17 16:58:40 UTC 2006

Forwarded from LINGUIST List 17.3034, Mon Oct 16 2006

Author: Eldo Neufeld
Title: Plautdietsch Verb Conjugation
Series Title: LINCOM Studies in Germanic Linguistics 16
Publication Year: 2000
Publisher: Lincom GmbH

Author: Eldo Neufeld
Title: A Dictionary of Plautdietsch Rhyming Words
Series Title: LINCOM Studies in Germanic Linguistics 16
Publication Year: 2003
Publisher: Lincom GmbH

Author: Eldo Neufeld
Title: Dictionary of Plautdietsch Synonyms and Antonyms
Series Title: LINCOM Studies in Germanic Linguistics 16
Publication Year: 2003
Publisher: Lincom GmbH

Oliver Streiter, Department of Western Languages and Literature, National
University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Plautdietsch, a language known also as Mennonite German, belongs to the
language group of Low Saxon. A number of Middle Dutch languages gradually
merged into Plautdietsch during the stay of the Mennonites in the Vistula
Delta in Northern Poland under the influence of, among others, High German
and Prussian (cf. de Graaf & Nieuweboer 1993). The language was later
influenced by the languages spoken wherever the Mennonites moved: from
Prussia to Russia in 1789, later to Canada, USA, Mexico and other Latin
American countries.

Although speakers still number in the hundreds of thousands around the
world, without a uniform writing standard and low prestige outside
Mennonite communities, Plautdietsch is considered to be seriously
threatened. Recently, however, as a consequence of Germany's repatriation
policy of ethnic Germans of Russia, the world's largest number of speakers
of Plautdietsch (about 200,000) has settled in Germany (cf. Holzhausen,
2006), where Internet portals, electronic dictionaries, the Journal
''Plautdietsch FRIND'' and the ''Institute for Low-German Language''
vigorously promote Plautdietsch in spoken and written form.

German-speaking Mennonites arrived in Canada from Pennsylvania during the
American War of Independence and later from Russia in 1870, then during
the Russian Revolution and from Eastern Europe during World War II. The
new settlers frequently preferred individual homesteads over traditional
Mennonite villages (cf. Suderman 1998). As a consequence, the language
lost its protective environment, and there was substantial shift away from
Plautdietsch. But a revival of Plautdietsch is now underway, partially
facilitated through the Internet, as well as through the publication of
dictionaries (Rempel 1995, Thiessen 1999) and spelling guidelines (Epp
1996). The New Testament was translated in (Neufeld 1987), and the
complete Bible in 2003 (De Bibel 2003).

Eldo Neufeld, the author of the books under review, was born into one of
the Plautdietsch speaking families of Canada and spoke Plautdietsch in his
childhood and adolescence. Like many others, he shifted to English in his
professional life. After retirement he started a project on Plautdietsch
which resulted in the publication of dictionaries, a grammar and
collections of poems and stories, all published by LINCOM GmbH, Muenchen:

* Plautdietsch Verb Conjugation 2000
* Plautdietsch Grammar 2000
* Collected Plautdietsch Poems (Jesaumelde Plautdietsche Jedichte) and
	selected Plautdietsch Stories (Uutjewlte Plautdietsche Jeschichte) 2003
* A Dictionary of Plautdietsch Rhyming Words 2003
* Dictionary of Plautdietsch Synonyms and Antonyms 2003
* Plautdietsch - English - Englisch - Plaudietsch. for the Learner of
	Plautdietsch or Anyone Interested in Netterlandic - Mennonite Plautdietsch

All these books are written in a uniform orthography, the so-called Epp
Guidelines, which seems to now be an accepted standard. Having a uniform
orthography is extremely valuable for a minority language. It avoids the
problem of users and language learners being frustrated by the
co-existence of different standards, which might make it more likely that
they would shift to the majority language when writing.


The first book under review is the ''Plautdietsch Verb Conjugation'' which
lists 501 Plautdietsch conjugated verbs in 2 Volumes. Developing such a
verb dictionary is a unique achievement for a language with a threatened
status--such dictionaries normally only exist for languages with large
numbers of speakers and second language learners.

Showing one verb entry per page, the form of the dictionary is similar to
that of 'Le Becherelle, L'art de conjuguer'' (Le Nouveau Bescherelle 1987)
or similar inflection dictionaries: The entry starts with a header
presenting the citation form of a verb, its English and German
translations, the 3 (!) forms of imperative and the four principle parts
of a verb--the infinitive, 3rd person singular past tense, 3rd person
singular present tense and past participle.

The body of the entry shows verbal phrases (personal pronouns, auxiliaries
and the main verb) in a Mood x Tense table. The forms of the subjunctive
are included in the entry, although they are analytic and completely
regular. In addition, the dictionary does not try to reduce verbs with one
inflection pattern to one prototypical entry. The verb BETUTTRE (to
soothe/lindern) and the verb FOODRE (to feed/fuettern), for example, are
listed in detail in separated entries although they share the same
inflection pattern. Even prefixed verbs are assigned a proper entry,
although they inflect like the corresponding unprefixed verb, e.g.
BRAEAKJE (to break, brechen), AUFBRAEAKJE (to break off, abbrechen) and
DOLBRAEAKJE (to break down, abbrechen). The size of the volumes could thus
be drastically reduced while increasing the coverage by simply referring
in the index from the prefixed verb to the simple verb (e.g. to break
down, AUFBRAEAKJE -> BRAEAKJE). The dictionary could thus try to reveal
irregularities instead of repeating regularities.

The spelling of the High German verb translation is sometimes inaccurate,
no matter which German spelling rules you apply. This might be easily
corrected in a future edition. The page layout is unattractive and should
at least highlight irregular forms in some way (e.g. boldface). Also, no
page-numbering is provided. Page-numbering seems to be indispensable if
the dictionary is to follow more advanced schemes of grouping and
indexing. A short explanation on how the different tenses, moods and
imperatives are used in Plautdietsch in comparison to English, High German
and Dutch also seems necessary to me, especially if the book is to be
useful to non-native speakers.

The second book under review is the ''Dictionary of Plautdietsch Synonyms
and Antonyms'' published in 2003. This dictionary lists 286 pages of
common Plautdietsch words and phrases. Each keyword is given a part of
speech, an English translation, and is then followed by an alphabetically
ordered list of synonyms and a list of antonyms. A word listed as synonym
or antonym might be listed as a keyword elsewhere in the dictionary with a
different list of antonyms and synonyms. Focusing mainly on words with a
great number of meanings, this dictionary is not only interesting for
language users and learners, but also for linguists who want to explore
the meaning of Mennonite words in comparison to other Germanic languages.

The third book under review is ''A Dictionary of Plautdietsch Rhyming
Words'' published in 2002. This dictionary lists 67 pages of rhyming words
in three sections, one for words stressed on the last syllable, one for
words stressed on the penultimate syllable and one for words stressed on
the antepenultimate syllable. The head words of the entries are not words
but word endings in a quasi-phonetic writing, e.g. 'Aute' for rhyming
words like FRAUTE, GLAUTE etc. By providing information on the stress
pattern and vowel length of hundreds of Plautdietsch words, this book will
be a valuable resource to any linguist who is interested in these patterns
in Germanic languages.


Eldo Neufeld succeeded in creating dictionaries for Plautdietsch to
support language learners and native speakers in their writing activities,
giving a solid base to the rising number of publications in Plautdietsch
on the Web.  By providing an English and German index in the Dictionary of
verb conjugation, an attempt is made to create a unique tool for the
language communities in Canada, the USA and Germany. Bringing these
language communities together seems to be a wise measure towards making
the language attractive to the next generation.

Although these three dictionaries cannot deny the private context in which
they have been produced, they certainly comply with the linguistic
standards set by equivalent commercial products for major languages. It
remains to be hoped that these dictionaries will be followed by other
milestones in the promotion of Plautdietsch.


De Bibel. 2003. Winnipeg/Kansas. Kindred Productions.

Epp, Reuben. 1996. The Spelling of Low German & Plautdietsch. Reader's

Epp, Reuben. 1996. The Story of Low German & Plautdietsch. Reader's Press.

de Graaf, Tjeerd & Nieuweboer, Rogier. 1993. De taal der Mennonieten in
Siberie en hun relatie met Nederland. Accessed online at:

Holzhausen, Andreas. 2006. Die Bibel auf Plautdietsch. Accessed online at:

Krahn, Cornelius and Al Reimer. 1989. ''Dialect Literature and Speech, Low
German.'' Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Accessed online
(through Google Cache):

Neufeld J. J. (translator). 1987. Daut Niehe Testament. Winnipeg/Kansas:
Kindred Productions.

Le Nouveau Bescherelle. 1987. 1. L'art de conjuger. Dictionnaire de 12000
verbes. Hatier.

Suderman, Derek. 1998. Who are the Mennonites? Accessed online at:

Rempel, Herman. 1995. Kjenn Jie Noch Plautdietsch? A Mennonite Low German
Dictionary. Prairie View Press.

Thiessen, Jack. 2003. Mennonite Low German Dictionary /
Mennonitisch-Plattdeutsches Woerterbuch. University of Wisconsin Press.

RELATED WEBSITES (Plautdietsch Dictionary) (Basic Language Facts) (online Plautdietsch-English Dictionary) (experimental
online Plautdietsch Spelling Checker) (a small
online Plautdietsch Corpus)

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Oliver Streiter teaches computational linguistics and
corpus linguistics at the National University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. His
current research focuses on the compilation and annotation of linguistic
resources for low density languages.


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