View Full Version : Words only in languages of limited diffusion

10-22-2007, 06:06 PM
Another linguistics list posted a request to learn if there is a word in any language for a parent who has lost a child.
In response was this posting:
A Pennsylvania-Dutch word, zeitlang,that they had found in the paper:
The moderator comments:
The English language has the largest vocabulary of any language but there
are moments when all those hundreds of thousands of words in a dictionary might as well be random scribblings with little meaning. We can't find a single word to describe what tugs at our hearts.
Pennsylvania Dutch is a dialect of German spoken by 17/18th century migrants from south Germany and Switzerland who had settled in Pennsylvania. The word Dutch here is a variant spelling of Deutsch (German language). Zeitlang in German means "while" (from Zeit: time + lang: long). The sense mentioned in the newspaper article is not found in German, but that doesn't mean one can't extend it. After all, that's one of the ways a language grows. And what good is a language if it can't give voice to our deepest sorrows and joys?

10-22-2007, 07:46 PM
Theirs is an interesting language. My wife is from Lancaster, was raised a Mennonite (closely related to the Amish in many ways), and she and her family know many Amish folks. I know some German and can understand a fair amount of their dialect. One thing it faced was a need, as in Icelandic (which is essentially Old Norse), to find ways of naming modern objects that did not exist in the seventeenth century.

The Amish are so inter-related that some surnames are extremely common, one of them being Stolzfuss--one of the families in the article. Being a Lord of the Rings fan, I always wondered if Tolkein knew some Amish folks, since he has a hobbit family named "Proudfoot," which is what Stoltzfuss means in English.

10-22-2007, 07:53 PM
There are a lot of Proudfoots (Proudfeet?) in Scotland as well. I went to school with a large family of them.

I'd heard that the Amish dialect was interesting but I'd forgotten to look further into it until this post.