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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Subject: Different word order in English and German
Question: I am an English translator working in a German-speaking area. I am working with the province right now on giving English names to major landmarks. I am having a hard time explaining to the locals why the word order we are used to in English is ''backwards'' from German word order. I would like to name ''Schloss XYZ'', for example, ''XYZ Castle''. But they feel that ''Castle XYZ'' is correct.

Is there a linguistic explanation that you can give me to help them understand? I have shown them lists and lists of castles in England, Wales and Scotland but I think a technical explanation might help. Thank you!

Reply: Place names are complicated--there's a field of study devoted to them called toponomy, and this question is not a simply linguistic one. While you're right that the XYZ Castle is the usual English form, there are plenty of cases where a Romance order is followed, as in Mt. Fuji vs. Lookout Mountain, or the River Raisin vs. the Huron River, both in SE Michigan. You might want to consider the local setting in deciding which word order to use, since both occur in English. If Castle Gruneberg sounds better to locals, it might also sound better to tourists.
Reply From: Herbert Frederic Stahlke      click here to access email
Date: 19-Nov-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Different word order in English and German    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (19-Nov-2013)
  2. Re: Different word order in English and German    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (20-Nov-2013)
  3. Re: Different word order in English and German    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (26-Nov-2013)

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