I'm seeking clarity on a passage written by Ivan Fedorovich Kruzenshtern, the captain of the first Russian around-the-world voyage. He wrote an account of his trip and there's a point in it that I don't get: enter image description here

[das] war der ganze Reichthum dieser guten Leute, die überdies beide verheirathet waren.

They were both married -- but who, the artillery officers or Major Krupskoi? I followed this ambiguity from the English translation back to the original German and I still don't understand who's married. Maybe the captain started writing about the artillery officers' house without saying so? What do you think?

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    Huh, where did the answer showing this is a translation error go? Without that bit of information the other answers only make limited sense. – Konrad Rudolph Jun 26 at 14:41
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    @KonradRudolph The answer was deleted because the German text is the source: the Russian text was actually a translation of the German text. So, the fact that there was no ambiguity in the Russian text was just based on the Russian translator’s decision. – Philipp Jun 26 at 14:52
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    @Philipp Ah, I misunderstood that and thought it was the other way round. – Konrad Rudolph Jun 26 at 15:08

Indeed after reading the whole section it is unclear who was meant with "both" (beide).

The author talks about the poor circumstances where in one of two houses the Major Krupskoi lives, the other was inhabited by two artillery officers. So it is all about three people. Obviously we can't say that both of three people are married in this case.

Therefore I believe that from earlier passages it must have been made clear who was married or not. It is easy if we already knew that Major Krupskoi was a single or was married. If however we don't know, I still believe we can safely assume that the author did not mix up the major with the two officers. Then "both" is meant to relate to the officers only.

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    This should be the accepted answer. Also, I’d like to add that the passage could be an inconsistency in the book, or that beide Leute really refers to both parties: one party is the major in one house, and he’s married, and the other party is the two officers in the other house, and they’re married as well (not to each other, obviously). In that case, beide would actually refer to three people. – Philipp Jun 26 at 7:48
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    @Philipp: good point with the beide Leute possibly meaning two parties. I had considered that as well but dismissed it because it would be rather awkward to mix two parties and marriage. – Takkat Jun 26 at 7:52
  • I don't know if Krupskoi was married. How to square Takkat's suggestion that "we can't say that both of three people are married" with Philipp's that "beide would actually refer to three people"? – Aaron Brick Jun 26 at 15:10
  • @AaronBrick: we would have to read that whole book to find out ;) I think Javatasse made a good point in that Krusenstern was more of an adventurer and a soldier than a writer. So style issues may not have been too obvious to him. If I had to rewrite this book today I would simply leave out "beide" without any change in meaning. "Beide" as opposed to simply using plural would only make sense if it were important that only two people/parties but not all of them were married. This is apparently not the case here. – Takkat Jun 26 at 15:22
  • Beware of overinterpreting. This is just a sloppily written and not really copy-edited text. Trying to extract the "meaning" of obviously incoherent information leads to nothing but speculation. (Like trying to derive a "strategy" from the erratic utterances of a certain US president.) – Christian Geiselmann Jun 27 at 16:20

I'd interpret the sentence

... dieser guten Leute, die überdies beide verheiratet waren.

as two people, who are married to someone else but not to each other. If I'd like to emphasize that the two of them are married to each other I'd use an explicit miteinander and possibly omit beide:

... dieser guten Leute, die überdies (beide) miteinander verheiratet waren.

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    Why the fluff? If they're married to each other, just say "die ueberdies verheiratet waren.". – FooBar Jun 26 at 8:55
  • Because it can mean that they were married to someone else, but not to each other. – arminb Jun 26 at 10:12
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    I guess most Germans I know would take the "miteinander" to be implicit when no preposition is provided. – FooBar Jun 26 at 10:51
  • @FooBar Why the fluff ever? Whenever you use "beide" (or "both", for that matter), it will already be clear that you are talking about two people, so it's always superfluous in a sense. – sgf Jun 26 at 21:27

I agree to the points made by Takkat. I would add that the writer is not a writer by profession and might not detect misleading passages in his own writing that easy.

He mentions 3 people first and than proceeds to refer to the majors house only, by describing the furniture and other items of some kind of hall. This description can't logically refer to both houses. While reading you feel taken into the frame of the majors house only.

This would lead me to the conclusion that the major is married to his wife and that either "beide" (both) was used back then in the sense of "miteinander" (with each other). It might also just be a regional difference in the use of "beide". A possible expression in this sense would be "Die beiden waren verheiratet", which doesn't exlude them being married to each other. If "beide" refers to a male and a female, one would actually conclude they would be marrried to each other.

Other possible explanations or assumed writing errors seem much more far fetched.

I can't comment yet, but I don't think @Philips comment under Takkats answer about 2 parties makes sense in this case, as regarding 2 officers as one married party is not used that way in the german language.

  • I suggested that »beide« might refer to both parties, because of Beide Häuser and Beide, besonders das Haus des Majors. If there’s a break in the description that leads to only one house (and therefore one party, i.e. 1 or 2 people) being described, it must be at Die Möbeln des Vorzimmers. But it isn’t clear. After reading through all of the many definitions of Leute in the Grimm’s dictionary, I tend to agree with you and also Takkat. – Philipp Jun 26 at 15:13
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    Yes, it appears from the text, the writer considered the expression "besonders das Haus des Majors" sufficient, to point the reader to the majors house only for the following sentence. It might still be possible to assume the furniture would be the same in both houses, but when it turns to tea cups, one glass, broken forks and knives and silver spoons it doesn't seem logical any more, that this should be identical in both houses. – Javatasse Jun 26 at 16:56
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    Also, the expression "gute Leute" in relation to married people I think I read regularly in Karl May books. "Eheleute" is also common, so I don't think that the use of "Leute" diverts the meaning from a married couple. – Javatasse Jun 26 at 17:02
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    And finally, later in the text, after describing the windows, he jumps to write about children, when it is not clear at first, if it is the children of the couple or more general. So it looks like a general style of the writer to not mind much about a strict logical flow. – Javatasse Jun 26 at 17:09

Because of the context, I interpret it as both houses married with each other, for example the Majors sister with one of the artillery officers or the uncle of the Major is the father of the artillery officers or that both (the only 2 people in the house of the Major) would be married with each other. House in old texts can be both in the meaning of the building as well as in the meaning of the family/clan leaving there like in House of Windsor

Here the explanation how i come to this conclusion:

The text starts with how poor the life in Kamtschatka is. Then it talks about the two richest houses, the Major and the two artillery officers, which are also in bad state to demonstrate how poor the rest of the area must be if even the richest are that poor. An important word the other answers seems to have missed is the word "überdies". This word is used when going from something bad to something worse or from good to better. So the question is, which meaning of "verheiratet" would make it worse? I didn't find a way why it would be bad to be married to someone else in general. So I asked myself, what if the houses where married with each other? That would mean that both houses of the richest people in the area would be more interweaved than usual. That would mean that they would have more power than the rest of the area and that the others in the village would have less chance to get wealthier because they would use their power to ensure to keep their power and wealth.

My other interpretation would be that "dieser guten Leute" refers to the Major and his wife living in this house and that those two are married. To mention that they were married would also fit to the description of the problematic situation of marriages in the area later in the book. (I scanned part of the book to find references to the houses but didn't find any but found this part.)

Thinking again about it I would prefer the second interpretation that it refers to the Major and his wife. But it is very ambiguous or up to interpretation in what he means, also in other parts of the book.

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