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Language and culture are deeply tied together. Thus, looking at a language tells us much about the culture of its speakers. In this piece, we take a superficial look at two aspects of German grammar; yet this superficial look will already expose many disturbing aspects of German culture.
Devious, secretive and glorified vocabulary
One of the things about the German language for which one hears much praise is it's supposed "logicalness". However, German is far from a logical language. To put it succintly, German is complex, and unoriginal where not arcane.
Just ask yourself: what kind of rational justification can there be for the Germans to base anything but their very basic vocabulary (as opposed to technical vocabulary) on germanic words, instead of doing like the rest of the world and basing it on Latin and Ancient Greek? And why do they go on inventing mile-long compound words for concepts other European languages use either short figurative words or classical borrowings for?
Contrary to what they may tell you, Germans simply don't have any sort of superior ideas on how to create words. Countless words in German are just vile calques from classical words; for instance Flußpferd: Fluß = "river", which in ancient Greek is thamus; Pferd = "horse", which is Greek hippus. Flußpferd is thus nothing but a pretentious germanic-root ripoff of the Greek word hippopotamus. Whichever purpose they have in forming words like that must be devious-- they could as well have used "Hippopotamus" as other european languages do, and let us know what they mean!
However, anybody who has learned German from scratch can see just what the purpose is to all this nonsense, with just a little thought. The primary operative principle of German vocabulary is to hide meaning from non-Germans, not to communicate ideas.
Let's look at a very typical situation for learners of German as a final example. Say you are reading a document in German, and you come across one of German's abundant 5 stem words. Then you have to look up each of the five stems in the dictionary. So you look up stem 1, then stem 2, ... stem 5, and by that time you've forgotten the first 2 stems. So you look them up again, and realize you forgot stem 3. Well, you write them all down with their meanings in order to avoid that. What now? According to the Germans since German is "logical", and of course, by knowing what each part means, there is no way you can fail to understand the whole.
Let's assume you somehow manage to split the stems up right in the first place. Let's further assume that you find the right bracketing for the stems (the number of which rises exponentially as you add stems). You know which words go together to form a unit that goes with another unit. Even then, the claimed "logicalness" fails for 2 stem words. If I told you the English equivalent of Ich habe ein Flußpferd gesehen, "I have seen a riverhorse", how could you guess it's a hippo unless you already knew that the combination meant that? Hell, if you tried to make a logical guess, you'd guess that it was a kind of horse, thus you'd get the very first thing wrong, just because you were trying to be logical!
Verb final ordering: the syntactic reflex of authoritarian cultureGerman is famously known for having verb final order in its sentences. While the basic order for a main clause in most European languages (e.g. English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Finnish, Greek, etc.) is Subject-Auxiliary-Verb-Object (also known as SVO order, or verb-medial), the basic schema for a German main clause is Subject-Auxiliary-Object-Verb ("I have a foreigner killed" instead of I have killed a foreigner). Technically speaking, the German pattern is known as an SOV order prepositional language with second position auxiliaries. Practically speaking, it is fascist culture incarnate.
It's impossible to make sense of a sentence until you've heard all the core participants (the subject and the objects) and the event being described (the verb). With SVO order, the core participants and the event come very early in the sentence, so it's possible to tell early on what the main message of the sentence is:
Compare this to the German counterparts:
While in English, each further elaboration added a syntactic completion point, in German, no matter how much we elaborate, we get only one syntactic completion point, after gesehen "seen".
This is self-evidently a sign of the authoritarian nature of German culture. From birth, children are brought up listening to the commands of their parents attentively, not missing a single of their words, knowing that they have to patiently wait while all the modifiers and elaborations of the central sense go by, in order to get the crucial information about what the event being described is, which only arrives at the very end, with the verb.
The SVO syntax of other European languages frees the speakers from having to attend to every single word in the sentence, and thus leaves them with time to question the truthfulness, sanity and moral character of what's being communicated by his interlocutor, which is essential if freedom and democracy are to flourish. But this is not so for German. Verb-final syntax requires unfettering attention to the speaker for as long as he may choose to drag on with a single sentence; the hearer is too busy anticipating the syntactic completion point, and can't contemplate the bigger implications of what is being said: "Is the speaker trying to build a better world for all of us, or just trying to spread evil? No time to tell, gotta wait for that verb."
The most valued speech style in German is one that piles modifier upon modifier on extra-long sentences, which hearers battle to make sense of while awaiting the crucial ending moment, when the verb arrives and puts it all together. Thus the imagic model of Germanic sentential syntax is an authoritarian one; the speaker almost literally holds his audience captive, under great interpretive pain, giving them only ocassional relief whenever he feels like it. By virtue of being socialized in such an environment, the German soon comes to crave power, both in this verbal form and in the physical form. One need only witness recent German history to grasp this.
As a further argument, consider the makeup of the two sides in World War II. On the Allied side were Britain, France, the USSR and the US as the major players-- all countries which speak SVO languages. In the Axis side the only other major player apart from the Germans were the Japanese-- and their language, unsurprisingly enough, has an even stronger tendency for head-final order than German (while German has prepositions and articles which come before nouns, Japanese has postpositions and articles which follow nouns-- everthing goes at the end!). This was a crucial yet little apreciated front on which WWII was fought: the linguistic front, verb final culture vs. verb medial culture. Mediality, along with its associated democratic values, came out on front. Do we really want to sacrifice this important victory by allowing the Germans to go on speaking their language, telling each other things that (as seen in the first section above) they take great pains to hide from us?
ConclusionGerman grammar is organized in such a way as to hide meaning from outsiders, and to support authoritarian inclinations. We need to start a massive reliteracy program for Germans; otherwise, they will rise again like they have done in the past, since deceptiveness and authoritarianism is deeply embedded in their culture, as can be witnessed in their language. I, of course, recommend that this reliteracy program be implemented with Tok Pisin, the ideal language for the 21st century.