1

Wer zu Lebzeit gut auf Erden
Wird nach dem Tod ein Engel werden
Den Blick gen Himmel fragst du dann
Warum man sie nicht sehen kann

[Erst wenn die Wolken schlafen gehen]
[Kann man uns am Himmel sehen]
[Wir haben Angst und sind allein]
Denn Gotte weiß ich will kein Engel sein

(„Engel“ by Rammstein, according to various people anyway)

Does anyone know why, in this line of the chorus, this song uses Gotte instead of Gott? I know it is a possible dative form. Is it antiquated? Is it expressing something particular here that Gott (in nominative or accusative?) would not, is it trying to imitate some biblical quotation, or is it meaningless? More than knowing what it means (clear in the context of the song), I want to understand it structurally (I realise it can take liberties as a song).

  • 1
    It's a deliberate glitch as the rhythm needs a two-syllable word at that place. Think Gott, er if it bothers you. – Janka Jul 28 '19 at 0:32
  • That's certainly one explanation, but a boring one… – Andrea Jul 28 '19 at 0:37
  • 1
    If you are looking for meaning, I recommend Lessing's Nathan der Weise instead. – Janka Jul 28 '19 at 0:48
  • 2
    As said in my answer the last line is wrong. It's "Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein". You will find the line above online, but it was probably never sung this way. At least not by Rammstein. – mtwde Jul 28 '19 at 8:23
  • "Various people" are probably confused by the way the singer draws out the final "t" in "Gott" (see e.g. 1:18 here), which he has to do as he is singing, not speaking. But the word ist still "Gott", not "Gotte", and it's clearly nominative in this sentence, not dative. – dirkt Jul 28 '19 at 12:45
8

Link to the official "Rammstein - Engel" music video. Chorus in question starts at the 1 minute mark.

Does anyone know why, in this line of the chorus, this song uses Gotte instead of Gott?

Sure ... the song doesn't use Gotte, just Gott. Sorry, you were mistaken. Take a look at the official lyrics from the "Sehnsucht"-booklet. I made the picture by myself. It's blurry, but you will see no Gotte ;)

Lyrics Rammstein-Engel, Sehnsucht 1997

(I cropped the image, but believe me: all three "Gott"-lines are the same.)

It's nothing more than Lindeman's pronounciation and the typical teutonic Rammstein-sound. He just uses a typical hard t-sound at the end and stresses the word Gott, which creates this illusion.

Maybe you can hear it in this version.


Here are some other "Gott"-examples from native speakers.

To be honest: when the song came out in 1997 I was wondering myself.

BTW: Here is a (terrible) cover from Germanys The Masked Singer episode which aired this week.

| improve this answer | |
  • Oof. Then the vowel sound before „Gott“ that I rationalised as being „Denn“ is also not meant to be so. This is really annoying because it seems to not actually fit the metre. Thanks! – Andrea Jul 28 '19 at 9:41
  • (For whatever it's worth, I originally thought it was just „Gott weiß“ for most of the time I've known this song, the problem is I wanted to karaoke-time it, and in that context I am really used to trying to make out slurred-to-oblivion vowels and syllables, but I should have applied a few grains of salt for Rammstein :D) – Andrea Jul 28 '19 at 9:52
3

In German, the fortis plosives are always aspirated, which means, that we always add a short breath sound after the consonant. So, [p], [t] and [k] in fact are [pʰ], [tʰ] and [kʰ] in German pronunciation. This is also is the reason, why before 1876/1901 many German words was written with »th« where you find just [t] today:

changes from 1876:

  • Armuth = Armut
  • Gluth = Glut
  • Noth = Not
  • Unterthan = Untertan

Changes from 1901:

  • Thal = Tal
  • Thür = Tür
  • Thor = Tor
  • Thee = Tee

(Just to make it clear: In German digram "th" never was pronounced like in English. The sounds [θ] and [ð] never existed in German language. "Th" was written just to make clear, that the letter T is aspirated).

If you want to speak an extra hart T, you will find, that it is hard to make the [t]-sound louder without turning it into something that sounds like spitting. Instead you can make the aspiration (i.e. the short breathing sound) stronger. But it is a quiet sound, so the best thing is to make it longer and to mix it with a schwa-sound. But then it sounds like an extra "a"- or "e"-vowel after the T. And this is what you did hear in the song. It is just an extra aspirated T.

| improve this answer | |
  • Always? No not always. A stop stops airflow. In what is called Auslautverhärtung, tot and Tod are homophones, at least in the north, but distinguised in todesgeil, Totensonntag, etc. The voicing in um Gottes willen is not really optional but archaic, and obsolete in e.g. Landsmann, which thus sounds like Lanzmann ("Lanzer"); hundsmiserabel. Also cp. Tür ~ Türe, mit erhobenem Haupte, wie es im Buche steht, Manneskraft, dem Manne, dem Weibe. -e is an old Ablativ morphem, too. – vectory Jul 28 '19 at 7:15
  • The voicing in Gott weiß also geminates from the following voiced bilabial "w". Gott hat or Gott kann are possible to aspirate without geminated voicing. But voicing may be preferable for melodic singing anyway. – vectory Jul 28 '19 at 7:19
  • English (my native language) is the same re: aspiration. But thanks for this answer, I was never actually sure whether standard German used aspiration in these places, as an English speaker I just did it anyway. – Andrea Jul 28 '19 at 12:46
  • If the purpose of the spelling <th> was to indicate aspiration, why were <ph> and <kh> not a thing for [pʰ] and [kʰ]? – David Vogt Jul 29 '19 at 9:13
  • 1
    @HubertSchölnast Ich wollte eigentlich nur die Behauptung, daß th-Schreibung zur Kennzeichnung von Aspiration diente, als fraglich darstellen. – David Vogt Jul 29 '19 at 17:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.