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I am asking this question since I noticed something while doing EN/DE Duolingo. I am a German native myself.

I would like to get a confirmation or geographical specification on this observation for which I could not find any proper sources via Google or this Stack Exchange.

  1. I have a feeling that in the German which I know (Bavarian, around Munich) the demonstrative pronouns and articles der/die/das as well as dieser/diese/dieses (dies)* are synonymous.
  2. dies is "too long" (i.e. I feel that way and suspect that the others not using it anymore where previously necessary feel the same) and is instead replaced by der/die/das.
  3. Jener/jene/jenes feels old and I can only remember its usage in written, but not spoken German. Instead, one uses an analytical construction via das or dies and an adverb or adjective to encode the distance aspect.
  4. Das and dieses are sometimes used instead of dieses and jenes.

I observed this to be a particular issue when translating Duolingo sentences like "Ich habe das [Ereignis] nicht gesehen." Both "I have not seen {this|that}" feel like valid translations even though English is supposed to differentiate between the two.

Examples

  • For (1) and (2): "Old" German: "Dieses Heft ist meines und jenes ist seines." German (Munich): "Das Heft hier ist meines und das Heft dort drüben ist seines."
  • For (3) and (4): "Old" German: "Ich möchte nicht diesen Kuchen, sondern jenen." German (Munich): Ich möchte nicht den Kuchen, sondern diesen.
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2  
Just a hint: "In jenen Tagen", "In jener Zeit", "In jener Nacht" is still frequently used. –  hellcode Aug 5 at 20:08
    
Ngram für jener, jenes, jene, –  user unknown Aug 6 at 3:42
    
und für dieser, dieses, diese –  user unknown Aug 6 at 3:44
3  
Was heißt unter 2. "zu lang"? Zu lang für was? Twitter? –  user unknown Aug 6 at 3:45
    
I totally know what you mean. I often translate "this" and "that" automatically to der/die/das/dem because it "feels" right. –  Emanuel Aug 6 at 9:23

4 Answers 4

So, your questions is about confirmation and geographical specification. Well, that's easy:

  1. Yes, that's true.
  2. (Almost) Everywhere.1

Jenes is indeed less commonly used. Wortschatz-Portal lists ~4830 entries. Dieses, in comparison, has more than 186k entries.

Some people consider jenes as 'archaic' or at least 'too formal'. It's definitely rare in colloquial (in comparison to das and dieses).
However, its purpose of differentiating objects that are near or far away, respectively, is a valid use case. It would be interesting to know why people circumvent using jenes with phrases like dort drüben, dort hinten or the like. Can't tell anything about that, unfortunately.


1 I'm pretty sure this statement is true for 'everywhere' but there's always a small community that disagrees on such a statement.

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Both "dieser/diese/dieses" and "jener/jene/jenes" are demonstrative pronouns. "Demonstrare" is Latin for "to show/indicate". Der/die/das does not always and cannot always show/indicate (and help distinguish things in the process).

They certainly have a lot in common with der/die/das. I will try to point out their differences.

Between das and dieses

Dieses Heft ist meines und jenes ist seines.

Is a perfectly healthy, normal, modern German sentence.

Das Heft hier ist meines und das Heft dort drüben ist seines.

Is a perfectly healthy, normal, modern German sentence, too. Children and beginners will probably tend to use the latter construction. I would recommend using "dieses" and "jenes" because it is more concise.

When talking to someone, you can even say

Das Heft ist meines, das dort ist seines.

and people will understand what you mean (given that there are two clearly distinguishable notebooks). So in this case "das" and "dieses" are synonymous indeed, but that is not true for all contexts.

Der Sieg ist mein!

Means that someone has won in general, whereas

Dieser Sieg ist mein!

could also mean that someone has won only this one battle (e.g. out of a set).

About jener/jene/jenes

Surely jener/jene/jenes is not used as often in spoken language, but not because it's deprecated, it's because you don't need it that often. In written language, not using jener/jene/jenes at all is poor style.

In written language, jener/jene/jenes adds more emphasis than der/die/das:

An jenem Ort / An dem Ort (pointing somewhere far away)

In my opinion, the variant with "jenem" is better suited as an answer to the question

Wo habt ihr euch kennengelernt?

Analogously, if you're standing right there, "an diesem Ort" would be my choice.

Other examples where they are not interchangeable:

Der Tag ist gekommen!

Diesen Sommer fahren wir nach Fehmarn.

Jenes Abends. (!)

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Dieses Heft ist meines und jenes ist seines. Is a perfectly healthy, normal, modern German sentence.” It’s strongly marked as formal or literal. It’s more likely to hear something like Dies Heft ist meins und das ist seins. or Das (hier) ist mein Heft und das da ist seins. –  Crissov Aug 6 at 15:57

Near Frankfurt, my personal impression:

  1. No, dieser/e/es are stronger than der/die/das (when used as demonstrative pronoun). They cannot be exchanged without changing the nuance.
  2. No, again it depends on strength.
  3. Yes.
  4. No, I can't remember having seen this. When using der/die/das, it's usually by intonation or additional words: Ich möchte nicht den Kuchen, sondern den da.
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To add to the other answers:

Der, die das are by origin demonstrative articles and though the change happened long ago, there still might be some demonstrative potential in them.
There is also a semantic overlap between a demonstrative article and a definite one.

Der Kuchen schmeckt gut.

The use of the definite article suggests that the tasty cake is known to the listener. For example Maria's birthday cake. Referencing that very cake is definitely demonstrative by default, as we single out one cake from all possible cakes.
So we could think of der/die/das/dem... as weak pointers whereas dies- and jen- are strong pointers. The strong ones can be used for emphasis:

Maria hat einen Kuchen DIESER Kuchen war extrem lecker.

it can be used if we need to unambiguously distinguish between two alternatives:

Nein, dieser Kuchen (hier) ist lecker... nicht der da.

or it can be used simply for style. One example where we often use dies- is Woche. Die alone would be just not specific enough considering all those weeks we're surrounded by.

As for dies- vs. jen-... dies expresses that something is close, jen- creates distance. That can reflect the real world situation or it can be used stylistically.

Maria hatte einen Kuchen und jener Kuchen war sehr lecker.

It definitely makes the Kuchen sound more remote, more "history" than dieser would.

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