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In Austrian and Bavarian speech it's common to use ma instead of wir, and what in Standard German would be gehen wir is often realized as gemma. Does this sort of contraction happen with any other verbs? For example, could one say semma for sehen wir, or emma for essen wir? Are there any rules governing which verbs can or can't be contracted with -ma in this way?

  • samma = san mia = sind wir comes to my mind, but also hömma (=hör' mal) in Ruhrgebiet. – Hagen von Eitzen Mar 20 '15 at 14:34
  • Yes, lots of verbs can contract like this. There are also variants in other dialects, e.g. "mer" for "mir" in Hessia. I guess there are phonetical rules; the h in "gehen" and "sehen" merges quite well, the "ss" in "essen" doesn't. Other words also merge, e.g. "sag mal" -> "sachma". – dirkt Mar 20 '15 at 15:20
  • Perhaps also interesting, the hast du -> "haste" type of contractions. – Milchgesicht Mar 20 '15 at 16:44
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As described here there is not just one Austrian or Bavarian dialect. So what I say here is true for the east of Austria. I am not sure if it is true for the Tyrol or Vorarlberg too. (I have no idea about the Dialect spoken in Vorarlberg)

The words »semma« and »emma« do not exist. But there are other, similar words for »sehen wir« and »essen wir«:

sehen wir

The standard-german word »sehen« is in this special case not used in the dialects of eastern parts of austria. Here we use the word »schauen«, which has almost the same meaning as »sehen«. (The differences between sehen and schauen in standard-german compared with bavarian dialects is worth its own question. This here is not the place to discuss it)

The e in schauen is quiet, so you speak: [schaun] in standard-german as well as in bavarian dialects. Together with the »ma« (dialect for »wir«) it melts to:

schau ma = schauen wir

the n at the end of schaun gets lost because of the simmilar m at the begining of the next word. When spoken, you might not hear the short break between the two words, so you might hear:

schauma

essen wir

What works with »schauen wir« also works with »essen wir«.

In our Dialect, the second e in essen is quiet, so we say: [essn]. Together with the next word that starts with m you get:

ess ma

which might sound like

essma

gehen wir

I also want to analyse gemma:

»Gehen« is spoken as [gen] (h and second e are quiet). When followed by »ma« also the ending n becomes quiet, so you say:

ge ma

And you might hear:

gema

Since there are no orthographic rules for writing dialects, you can also write this with double-m as »gemma«. The double-m signals, that the e in this word is spoken shortly.

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In Austrobavarian

Adding on to what Hubert said, this is generally true for the entire Austrobavarian dialect continuum.

Most of these contractions are formed without the loss of any letters (compared to when one of the individual words is said without the other being close), save the assimilation of similar vowels (nm -> mm). It's really hard to say if these are true contractions or just slurry speech.

It can happen to almost any verb and with most persons (2nd singular being the most notable exception because it's hard to add something onto a st). E.g:

Samma (san mir; we are)
Homma (hom mir; we have)
Seng'S (seng Sie; you (formal) see, see as in notice)
Hobi (hob i; I have)
Dean's (dean sie; they do)
Isa (is ea; he is; the former semi-stressed vowel e reduced to a shwa)
Hädi (hät i; (if) I had (subjunctive))

Note that this generally only works for present tense, the simple past of sein and wollen and the subjunctive II, because the Austrobavarian dialects generally do not use other finite forms of verbs (the perfect form is used almost exclusively for past tense except with sein and wollen; future tense is ignored).

While usually the personal pronoun is then included in the verb and can't be found in the rest of the sentence, there are examples where it prevails:

Bayern, des samma mia (Bavaria, that is us)

(The example is taken from a song by Haindling, and puts extra stress on the us)

In other dialects

The Swabian, Vorarlberg and Swiss dialects (the Alemannian group) have different forms, so they don't correspond perfectly. One of the most closely related contractions with their Bavarian counterpart is probably gema or gemr (with a vocalic r) for gehen wir. However, I'm not entirely sure whether this form is a valid Swabian one, or if it was borrowed from the neighbouring Bavarian (I heard it in the Allgäu, the Easternmost part of the Alemannian dialect area).

However, if you broaden the scope of examined words, most dialects and non-dialectal ways of speech will show this phenomenon in one place or another. Comments to the question mentioned haste (hast du; frequently associated with Berlin or the Rhine-Ruhr area, but common in other places, too) and hömma (hör mal; most common in the Rhine-Ruhr area). My Saxonian colleague often says samo(r) for sag mal, my grandmother from Rhine-Hessia something close to hasche for hast du. Throughout probably the entire German dialect continuum you will hear some form of hammer for haben wir. (Hence a number of puns.) Another frequent one is the assimilation of es to 's, as in geht's. (In fact, the 1996 orthography explicitly allows ommitting the apostrophy for cases where es turned into 's.)

Just to stress it once again, nearly all of these examples are the result of slurry speech, losing the word break and then assimilating letters; always adhering to the general sound of whichever dialect the speaker's in.

There are soft rules, they're not really strict. The contracted parts have to belong together, they should be easy to contract and there shouldn't be any distinct sounds going missing. (Loosing a ch-sound as in samo is okay, loosing an ss-sound, as your example emma implies, wouldn't be.)

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