Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Samadan :: spotting errors in RG

There is a town in Graubünden called Samedan.

I originally assumed, from the spelling that it would be pronounced /zam@'da:n/, but the German Wikipedia article says that it is pronounced roughly Sameeden, i.e. (I assume) /za'me:d@n/.

When I was travelling to Val Müstair, I heard an announcement, possibly in the station at Zernez or on the train in the lower Engadine valley (I don't remember) calling it /za'ma:den/ instead.

That reminded me of something I had read about the differences between the—otherwise rather similar—Putèr (Upper Engadine) and Vallader (Lower Engadine) idioms of Romansh: that where many other idioms had long /a/, Putèr has long /e/ (which change is also reflected in the spelling), e.g. chasa/chesa for "house". And I wondered whether this was another example, that there was (etymologically?) "underlying" long a in the second syllable of the word word, which turned into long e in Upper Engadine, in the standard name for the town, but that in Vallader, the long a sound was "preserved".

(Though when I glanced at the German Wikipedia article just now, it said that the official name for the town, in German, until 1943 was "Samaden". I'm not sure what that does to my theory.)

I'm amused sometimes when I know enough Rumantsch Grischun to catch mistakes that people writing "officially" in RG make, influenced—no doubt—by their native idioms (since RG is nobody's native variety). (I'm also sure that I'd easily make many more mistakes in my writing.)

Two in particular are dil, which I found a couple of times in the instructional grammar of RG I downloaded at once point, and attributive quai, which I found in a couple of newspaper articles in La Quotidiana.

For the first, both Sursilvan and Rumantsch Grischun contract da il "of the", but S contracts it to dil while RG uses dal.

For the second, I'm not sure which idiom the mistake might come from, but to the best of my knowledge, quai is used only as a remplazzant (literally, "replacer"—"pronoun" in this case, I suppose), as in "I like that", but not as in "I like that book", where it's used as an accumpagnader ("accompanier"—"determiner"?).

There are several forms of pronoms demonstrativs which can be used as both accumpagnader and remplazzant, such as quest, quel, lez, but a couple which can only be one or the other; quai is one of them, which can only be a remplazzant (and also doesn't inflect for gender).

So *quai cudesch "this book" would probably have to be quest cudesch or quel cudesch; *quai gasetta "this newspaper", questa gasetta or quella gasetta.

I wonder what the form in the writer's idiom is that made him pick quai <noun> in his newspaper articles.

Tags: romansh
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