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Kjenn Jie Noch Plautdietsch? Mennonite Low German Dictionary

by Herman Rempel


This second revision of the Low German dictionary is offered to the reader of Plautdietsch, to the writer and student of languages and dialects as an encouragement towards the preservation of a much-loved Mennonite language. This revision contains some 600 additional words and although Plautdietsch is not a language of commerce or technology, the majority of words in this revised version have been in basic use for over two and a half centuries.
The word stock of this dictionary was compiled from oral and written information obtained from a host of sources: Low German writers, speakers, friends and acquaintances met on the street, coffee shops, malls and other sources but still the well from which these words have been drawn has not yet run dry.

With the increased interest in Plautdietsch drama, prose and verse, there is also increased promise of the survival of this language which is so dear to the hearts of many who learned it at their mother's knee.

Since lexical information has been kept to a minimum the user will be required to draw the necessary references for some of the more difficult words on his own.

It is hoped that there will be continued interest in Plautdietsch including its origin, its history and its development.

Although I cannot claim to be an expert in the study of orthography or linguistics, it seems to me only logical that many words find their way from one language to another. In this day of the information highway, air travel, computers and its internets, satellite contributions, many languages exchange and accept terminology from another language; Low German is no exception.

New and strange words find their way into every language and in a relatively short time and with frequent usage they are accepted and become part of the language and Low German is no exception here either.

I want to thank the literally hundreds of contributors to this edition with special acknowledgment to the well-known Low German writer and promoter, Reuben Epp. He has been generous and supportive this project.

Herman Rempel 1995

Herman Rempel's current revision of his 1984 dictionary entitled Kjenn Jie Noch Plautdietsch? is a substantial enlargement on the former, listing some 600 additional words not previously included (Rhymes with plowedbeach) is a dialect of Nether-Saxon Low German spoken in the Americas mainly by Mennonites of netherlandic extraction.
Mennonites fled the the Netherlands in the 1500s to settle in the Vistula River delta between the present-day Polish cities of Gdansk, Malbork and Elbing, where dialects of Prussian Low German (Nether Prussian) were spoken. The netherlandic Nether- Saxon Low German spoken by Mennonites moving into the Vistula Delta subsequently gave way to existing manners of speech to that of local dialect(s), the Mennonites adopted words and pronunciations somewhat new to them but native to Prussia. However, they retained some of their netherlandic vocabulary. Despite having left the Netherlands in the 1500s, the Low German of Mennonites today, wherever it is heard, still contains netherlandic words not usually heard in other dialects. Following are a few examples:

klautre, klautere, klauterern (to climb, clamber)
krakjt, kraikt, krek (exactly, tidy)
ladijch, ladig, ledig (empty)
mausse, massa (in mass, many)
porre(n), porren (to urge, to prod)
tachentijch, tachentig, tachtig (eighty)
tüss, t'hüs, thuis (at home)

Among Nether Prussian words adopted into Mennonite Low German from their neighbors of the Vistula are the following:
Eatschocke, Eadschocke, Erdschocke (potatoes)
Kodda, Kodder (rag)
Kjlemp, Klemp (cow)
Klopps (meatballs, patties)
Schrug, Scharrugge (old horse)
Ssoagel, Tsoagel, Zoagel (tail)

In 1789 Mennonites from the Vistula began migrating to New Russia on invitatin of Catherine the Great. In two major migrations out of Prussia during a period of some 15 to 20 years they established settlements and villages in territories newly conquered by Russia later to become part of the Ukraine. The mix of peoples of Frisian, Flemish, Dutch and Lower Saxon in Mennonite settlements in Russia, plus more than two centuries of immersion in various dialects of Nether Prussian, resulted in variations in manner of speech among them, especially in differences between the older Chortitz colony and the newer Molotschna colony.
Inevitably, as Mennonites came into contact with their new Russian and Ukrainian neighbors, they picked up and adopted a number of their terms and expressions. Then, in the 1870s one third of the Mennonites in Russia left for the United States and Canada after somee 70 to 85 years of exposure to the Russian language. Others are still leaving there after 200 years. As might be expected, those whose forefathers remained longest in Russia now use more Russian and Ukrainian words and expressions in their daily speech. The following are examples of words adopted in Russia:

Arbüs, Rebus, Herbus russ. arbüs (watermelon)
Bockelschan, Bockelzhonn russ. bakalzan (tomato)
Borscht, Borsch, Borschtsch russ. borsc (beet soup)
Lauftje, Laufkje russ. lavka (a store)
Schemmedaun russ. cemodan (large suitecase)
Schissnikj, Schissnik russ/ukr. cesnok (garlic)

Despite such word adoptions,the overall stability of Plautdietsch is such that Mennonites who still speak it in the Americas, descendants of those who settled here in the 1870s, cam readily converse with arrivals from Russia inn the 1990s.
Fortunately for Rempel's readers, the author lives in an area where there are speakers of Plautdietsch representing various groups of early and late immigrants to Canada from the Chortitzer and Molotschna colonies and their later daughter colonies. Their speech variations consist not only of differences in pronunciation but also in vocabulary and sentence construction. Rempel's diligence in pursuing words and their meanings through interviews with these various speakers has enabled him to update and expand the contents of his newly- revised dictionary for the benefit of its readers.

Variations in spoken Plautdietsch inhibit consistency in representing all pronunciational nuances in written form. On the other hand, it is not so important to spell out the articulation of each word as it is to present it in a familiar configuration. Once recognized, the word is spoken by its reader in his/her accustomed manner, with scant regard to how it happens to be spelled.

Although Rempel's writing system differs from others, it embodies a number of improvements over those of most. Perhaps it is time for writers of Plautdietsch to strive towards greater harmony betweem written Plautdietsch and Low German as written among more than seven million speakers of other dialects. Understandably, there are differences between dialects as spoken and as written. On the other hand it seems logical and desirable to stress similarities between our mother tongue and the sister dialects rather than their differences. Active recognition of their resemblances would augment harmony in their written form. Rempel takes encouraging steps in that direction when he writes Kjinja, Kjnee, Kjoakj and Kjäakjsche rather than Tjinja, Tjnee, Tjoatj and Täatsche. Widely accepted forms of these words in other Low German dialects are: Kinner, Knee, Kark and Kööksch.

Rempel's Kjenn Jie Noch Plautdietsch of 1984 has proven to be a mine of information for lay people and scholars interested in Plautdietsch. The Plautdietsch-English/English-Plautdietsch dictionary is repeatedly quoted in Preussisches Wörterbuch currently being compiled at the University of Kiel, Germany, which includes Mennonite Plautdietsch (Mennonitisch Niederdeutsch). Rempel's new and expanded revision of 1995, the culmination of eleven additional years of diligent research and writing in his mother tongue, promises to extend the accumulated additional information to readers in an understandable and easy-to-read written form.

Reuben Epp
Kelowna, BC

All nouns in Plautdietsch are capitalized. The apostrophe indicates that the syllable following it is accented. The absence of the apostrophe leaves the accent on the first syllable. The apostrophe also indicates a contraction as in met'm = met däm. Words, letters or parts of words in parenthesis can be used optionally. All nouns and pronouns in Plautdietsch have a grammatical gender: masculine, feminine, neuter. Many nouns are derived from verbs and are so indicated by capitalizing and changing the ending from e to a. Examples are: malkje to Malkja; brauntsate to Brauntsata.
Diminutives are formed by the addition of the suffix kje and are always neuter.If the noun ends in t or k then the diminutive is formed by adding the suffix je. Examples are: Schwienkje, Me'jalkje, Kautje, Krietje, Büakje.

A married woman is disignated by adding the suffix sche to the married surname. Examples are: Pannasche, Wiebsche.

Most adjectives have three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative. The comparative is formed by adding a to the positive word and the superlative is formed by adding ste to the postive word; Examples are: heet, heeta, heetste.

dee Grope es heet
dee Grope es heeta
dee Grope es aum heetste

Following are example of changes that occur in comparing adjectives in the different genders:
Masculine Feminine neuter

en schmock a Jung ne schmocke Me'jal en schmocket Bilt
en schmockra Jung ne schmockre Me'jal en schmockret Bilt
en schmocksta Jung ne schmockste Me'jal en schmockstet Bilt

Personal pronouns and their related possessive adjectives:
ekj mien
dü dien
hee sien
see äa
wie ons
jie jün
see (M) äa

Ordinal numbers designate the rank of an item in a series; fractions are used as adjectives or nouns:
cardinal ordinal fractions

eent easchta
twee tweeda haulf (de halft)
dree dredda en dreddel
fea feada en feadel
fiew (fief) fefta en feftel
sass sassta en sasstel
säwen säwenda en säwendel
acht achta en achtel
näajen näajenda en näajendel
tian tianda en tiendel

The ordinals listed are masculine; substituting an e for the last a changes these ordinals to the feminine; substituting et for the last a makes them neuter. The cardinal numbers are all feminine.
pers. pron. = personal pronoun.
poss. adj. = possessive adjective.
pl. = plural.
m= masculine.
f= feminine.
n= neuter.
M= Molotschna dialect variant.
prep.= preposition.
conj. = conjunction.
pref. = prefix.
suff. = suffix.
sep. = separable.
insep. = inseparable
lit. = literally.
vulg. = vulgar.
adv. = adverb
comp. = comparative.
sup. = superlative.
refl. = reflexive.
coll. = colloquial.
letters in brackets () can be used optionally.

Key to the pronunciation
Words in this Plautdietscha dictionary are based on phonetic spelling as closely as possible. A relationship with the High German is maintaned by capitalizing the nouns as well as in the use of sch in words like Schoo, School etc. In words where the s precedes a p or a t the sch is heard but not written. Examples are: Stock, späle. The c is used only in conjunction with the h in words such as noch, nijch, Boajch etc. The j following k and the g and precedig the ch softens or flattens those consonants. Examples are: Lijcht, ekj, trigj. These sounds have been somewhat controversial in that Old the Colony Mennonites 'hear' some sounds a little differently from the way the Molotschna Mennonites 'hear' them and consequently see a different symbol. Following is a list of some words that fall into this category:
As pronounced and heard As pronounced and heard
by the Old Colony Mennonites by the Molotschna Mennonites

Winkjla Winkler Wintjla
Kjoasch cherry Tjoasch
Kjikjel chick(s) Tjitjel
kjnette to knit tjnette
Migj mosquito Midj
trigj back tridj
Pligj (shoe) tack Plidj
Frü wife, woman Fru
Lüss louse Luss
jün your jun
je'neiw fussy, particular je'nau
Meiw sleeve Mau
moake* to make moake*
foake* often foake*
Loake* (bed) sheet Loake*
Ssoll inch Tsoll
Ssoagel* tail Tsoagel*
ssettre tremble tsettre
ssinjre vibrate tsinjre
Sselt tent Tselt

* The pronunciation of the diphthong oa is quite different between the Old Colony Mennnites and the Molotschna Mennonites. This difference in the pronunciation is extremely difficult to explain and practically impossible to put into type. It must be heard to get the full significance of this difference. It is close to the diphthong in the English word roar or boar when pronounced by the Molotschna Mennnites. The Old Colony Mennonites bring the tongue forward in the mouth when they pronounce this diphthong. Another somewhat controversial consonant is the hard s. The Old Colony Mennonites pronounced a number of words beginning with the hard s such as Ssoagel, Ssoll, while the same words are pronounced as Tsoagel, Tsoll by the Molotschna Mennonites. This dictionary will use the ss where words begin with the hard s. Examples: As pronounced by the Old Colony Molotschna Mennonites:
Ssoll inch Tsoll
Ssoagel tail Tsoagel
ssettre tremble tsettre
ssinjre vibrate tsinjre
Sselt tent tselt

Vowels are mostly short when followed by a double consonant and long when they are followed by a single consonant of the same kind.
short i is like i in it e.g. Schilt
ie is like ie in field e.g. hiele, Biel
long i is like i in machine e.g. Tia
short e is like e in met e.g. Dell, stell
long ee is like ey in they e.g. hee, breet
long a is like a in father e.g. Fater, hab
ä is like a in gate e.g. bäde, fäl
äa is like ai in air e.g. äajde, mäajlijch
au is like ow in gown e.g. Faut, Launt
short o is like o in top e.g. Spott, bott
long o is like o in open e.g. op, Rot
oo is like ou in out e.g. Hoot, Foot
short u is like u in put e.g. mucht, Luck
ü is like u in Yule e.g. Tün, jün*

* The ü, as shown in the above example, relates to the Molotschna pronunciation. The Old Colony Mennonites push their tongue forward when pronouncing this vowel.
b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, t are used as they are used in English;
c is used in conjunction with the h to form ch
ch pronounced like the ch in the Scottish word loch. Examples are: Loch, Dach. It is also used preceding the k after a short vowel as in Bock.
jch here the ch is flattened of softened when preceded by j Examples are: Lijcht, fleijcht.
g pronounced as in English except
gj here the g is flattened or softened when followed by the j Examples: Pligj, Migj, trigj.
k is pronounced as in English except
kj here the k is flattened or softened when followed by the j Examples are Kjoakj, Kjäakj. ( Note: the Molotschna Mennonites
substitute a T for the K in words like Kjoakj, Kjäakj (Tjoatj, Tjäatj)
The w is pronounced like the English v.
zh pronounced as the z in azure Examples are: buzhrijch, uzhent.
q, v, x and y are not used in this Plautdietsch orthography.
In some Mennonite communities verbs and nouns that end in e are closed with a final n. In general terms the Old Colony Mennonites, on which style this dictionary is based, do not use the n after these words. Examples are: scheete(n), rane(n), Woage(n). Letters in brackets can be used optionally.

en is a masculine and neuter article: en Maun, en Kjint
ne is a femnine article: ne Frü
det is a neuter article means the: det Kjint
et is another article in Low German which has the English equivelant of it or the. Examples are: Es et aul däjch; is it dry already? Es et Kjint aul je'sunt; is the child well already? Care must be taken to distinguish det from dit and daut
The following words belong in a class of their own because they do not conform to the general rules that apply to the o and the s: Bos, Hos, Blos are examples where we have the long o like in pole. The s remains soft.
Drosel, Schosel, tose, Kos, Fos are examples where we have a short o like in pot; the s remains soft.
Fros, Os, Oshacka, Osodla, Nätklos are examples where we have the long o like in pole but here we have the hard s like the s in boss.

In Low German a number of contractions have evolved that may look strange but have nevertheless become an idiomatic part of the language.

Here are some examples:
regular expression English contraction
woat daut will it woat't
kaun ekj can I kaun'kj
met däm with the met'm
woa ekj will I woa'kj

There are many others and it may take some time before writers in LG accept the above in written form. The duplication of information contained in parts of this section is deliberate.
Author: Herman Rempel
Herman Rempel has deep roots in the Mennonite Plautdietsch language and culture. A third generation Canadian, he was born in 1915, Altona, Manitoba, in the West Reserve granted by the Canadian government to the Mennonites in southern Manitoba in 1875. He grew up on the family farm two miles east of Gretna, Manitoba, and is a product of the Mennonite educational traditions of the 1920s and 1930s. He attended Edenburg School, the Mennonite Collegiate Institute, the Winnipeg Normal School and the University of Manitoba. He taught school from 1937 to 1943.
A federal public servant from 1946 until his retirement in 1979, Mr. Rempel has in the past several years done extensive reference work in Plautdietsch and its vocabulary, pronunciation and orthography. The first edition of his dictionary in Plautdietsch appeared in 1979.

© Herman Rempel 1984,1995, and Mennonite Literary Society 1984,1995, and 1998-2006, and Eugene Reimer 2006. Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.