The below sentence comes from an article "Tanger ist Europa" in ZEIT ONLINE. It describes what some of the guests in café Hafa in Tangier, Morocco, are doing. It evades me what the "shy love couples" are doing.

Schweigsame Männer bröseln Kif in Holzpfeifen, schüchterne Liebespaare vergessen in der Musikblase ihrer vor sich hin dudelnden Handys die Welt.

  • Was ist Dir daran unklar? Die Grammatik? Vokabeln? Der Satzbau? – user unknown Aug 17 '16 at 1:52
  • @user unknown At the time of reading the sentence, the situation described seemed to me so weird that I thought I didn't understand the meaning of the part highlighted in bold. – Eugene Str. Aug 17 '16 at 6:43

It can be translated (very) roughly to: They forget the world, inside the music bubble, which's blaring/humming from their mobile phone in front of them.

It's easier to understand, if I rewrite it as following: "schüchterne Liebespaare vergessen die Welt, in der Musikblase ihrer vor sich hin dudelnden Handys."

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  • Really weird: couples sitting at tables in a café and each listening to the music coming from their mobile phones. But that seems to be what the sentence is saying. – Eugene Str. Jul 26 '16 at 20:08
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    Couple do the couple thing (cuddle & listening to music), when they don't have anything to say to each other, I guess. – Gipfeli Jul 26 '16 at 20:16
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    To me, blaring indicates a certain loudness, which is not part of dudeln. Dudeln is done by flowing, unobstrusive, non-distracting background music. In contrast, blaring music demands attention. – hiergiltdiestfu Jul 27 '16 at 7:44
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    @hiergiltdiestfu: Headphones? – user unknown Aug 17 '16 at 1:53

Let’s do this step by step. First, identify the verb.

[S]chüchterne Liebespaare vergessen in der Musikblase ihrer vor sich hin dudelnden Handys die Welt.

(dudelnden is a form derived from a verb, but it is a participle so it now functions adverbially or adjectivally.) Since our verb is vergessen, we now have to look for a possible subject and an object (jemand{nom} vergisst etwas{akk}). (There are no infinitives, so thankfully a whole bunch of problems simply does not exist.)

[S]chüchterne Liebespaare vergessen in der Musikblase ihrer vor sich hin dudelnden Handys die Welt.

You have already identified schüchterne Liebespaare as the sentence’s subject, which is correct. The object can only be a different noun. We get in der Musikblase, something … Handys, sich (I’ll come back to those two) and die Welt. It cannot be in der Musikblase, since we are not looking for a prepositional object but an accusative one. (Also, Musikblase is dative here.) So die Welt is a very strong contestant.

What about sich? Well, if it’s sich, it would likely be vor sich which doesn’t really make sense, and it would leave the fragment hin dudelnden Handys which doesn’t make sense either.

What about the Handys? It’s difficult, but you have to follow up on everything that modifies them. First up, the adjectival dudelnden. This gives us a strong hint on Handys’ genus (the number is inferred by the plural-s): Unless we find an article-like modifier (definite article or possessive pronoun) it has to be dative plural. Well, looking around, we find an ihrer before Handys which very likely attaches to them (there is no other noun in between, there is no corresponding preposition and the verb does not take genitive nowadays). Assuming that ihrer and Handys go together, so would vor sich hin dudelnden which works (we’ll se how in a second).

Having identified subject and object, we can reduce the sentence to its bare minimum:

[Schüchterne Liebespaare vergessen die Welt.

So shy couples forget about the world around them.

Everything else just adds further precision to this core sentence. Where are they forgetting about the world? In der Musikblase (In the bubble of music). In whose music bubble? In der Musikblase ihrer Handys (in the music bubble of their mobiles). What kind of a mobile? Ihrer vor sich hin dudelnden Handys.

Okay, that last one may still warrant a short note. The full verbal expression is vor sich hin dudeln, so a sentence could be ‘das Handy dudelt vor sich hin.’ The meaning is to just to jingle/sing/make music to yourself. So ihre vor sich hin dudelnden Handys are their mobiles which seem to just be quietly playing music to themselves.

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