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Recently I came across a text referring to an article on the newspaper "Der Spiegel" as "Ein Artikel aus dem Spiegel".
This had me confused. Being under the impression that "Der Spiegel" is simply the name of the paper and hence a proper noun, I expected it to not be declined under any circumstances.

Is this normal for German? Are proper nouns always declined as if the words composing them were taken out of context? Are there rules as to when and how to decline proper nouns?

  • You are actually not referrring to a simple noun, but to a book/film/periodical title, see this (german) related question. – guidot Apr 16 '18 at 16:02
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Is this normal for German?

Simple answer: Yes.

More complex answer:

If a "normal" German word is also the name of some product, organization etc. most Germans would decline the name - even if it is "officially" not declined.

One example that makes this clearer:

There is a German band named "die Ärzte".

In some of their songs their own band name is used in dative case. I don't remember the exact text but I remember that they did not decline their name - just like this:

... ein Lied von "die Ärzte" ...

Doing so they make clear that their band name (including the article) is a name which is not declined.

However (nearly) all German radio moderators would say:

... ein Lied von "den Ärzten" ...

  • One example is in "Rettet die Wale" the line "Jetzt denkt ihr sicher, was ist bloß mit die Ärzte los." – Arsak Apr 16 '18 at 6:27
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Newspapers always come with the definite article, whether they have that in their proper name or not. And no one bothers to remember which newspapers have that article in their proper name and which not.

Da stand wieder großer Mist in der »Bild«.

Hinter den Kulissen der »Zeit« (ZEITreisen-Eigenwerbung)

Man sollte weder glauben, was in der »B.Z.«, noch was in der »taz« steht.

Sometimes, there are exceptions:

Lesen Sie den »Spiegel« oder den »Stern«?

Lesen Sie »Spiegel« oder »Stern«? (also common)

  • I'm confused by your first example -- isn't "Bild" neuter, meaning the dative form would be "im Bild" or "in dem Bild"? – j_random_hacker Jul 13 '18 at 12:56
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    It's commonly known as die »Bildzeitung«, short die »Bild«. – Janka Jul 13 '18 at 16:43

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