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What is the meaning of ,,von sich" in the following sentence?

In der Mitte Deutschlands schrumpft ein Landkreis vor sich hin, der von sich behauptet, über Jahrhunderte „mit Weitsicht“ gewachsen zu sein.

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"der von sich behauptet" = "who claims to be", "who makes claims about himself"

If you move the nested clause, it may be clearer: In der Mitte Deutschlands schrumpft ein Landkreis, der von sich behauptet, über Jahrhunderte "mit Weitsicht" gewachsen zu sein, vor sich hin.

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They're telling about themselves how they have grown up.

While "Sie behaupten von den Amerikanern, sehr nett zu sein." would mean that they're talking about the Americans.

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I'd recommend to @rednaZ to change the example to "They're talking about how they themselves grew up" even if I'm not sure if it is a good example in the first place. Neither is second example, I'm afraid, because you would expect a "dass" after "sie behaupten" if it doesn't relate to those who claim something; thus, "Sie behaupten von sich, sehr nett zu sein" would be the better choice, I think. – Martin Schwehla Feb 22 '15 at 8:34

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