Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yes, we can Freunde sein!

Last night, I saw a colleague with her husband, who had just flown over from Germany. He smiled broadly and handed me a copy of Germany's Bildzeitung, with the headline you see in the picture:
Yes, we can Freunde sein!
That is, 'Yes, we can be friends!', announcing better days for German-American relations. Clearly, they've taken Obama's motto Yes, we can! (very familiar in Germany, where Obama is wildly popular) and tacked on the rest in German.

In the early days of codeswitching research, it was claimed that you couldn't get switches within syntactic constituents, though much work since has dismantled most or all such grammatical constraints. So, having part of the verb phrase in English and part in German (*can sein) should be impossible. In fact, this sentence sounds bad to me, not something I would expect from a bilingual, except as a kind of forced word play. Still, you get what's intended. I just bounced it off a set of people who are proficient in both languages and they seemed to react similarly.

At least as remarkable as the language is the political point: Bild, as it's known, is very rightwing, a little National Enquirer and a lot of Fox News.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

*Ja, wir k├Ânnen be friends.