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I am suddenly encountering these examples everywhere, where "so das/die [noun]" means "according to the [noun]". See example here:

Die Eltern, so das Ministerium in einer Stille-Post-Kette über Schulleiter und Klassenlehrer, ...

Is this a new trend? What is the grammar behind this? Neither Collins nor Oxford lists this usage under "so".

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    It's only "so" by itself that indexes indirect or summarized speech. "Das" is merely the article, in this case "das Ministerium". If the original source had been m. or f. it would have been "so DER Minister" and "so DIE Ministerin" respectively – Nico Feb 19 at 14:56
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  • "The ministry was like, ..." Just kidding. – Carsten S Feb 19 at 17:24
  • @CarstenS: That's close, but it would rather translate to "das Ministerium so" ;) – O. R. Mapper Feb 19 at 20:51
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I'm not aware of "new trend" or "complicated speech".

The so is here simply used as a reference, compare "so" on DWDS, III.3.:

Grammatik: leitet einen Rel.satz ein, bezieht sich nur auf einen Nom. oder Akk.

Der emeritierte Herr Professor, so seitens der alma mater mit den Vorarbeiten zur 500-Jahr-Feier beauftragt worden

The example there fits quite well to your example (because I miss there some parts). I skip the second half of your sentence as it is irrelevant for content:

Die Eltern, so das Ministerium in einer Stille-Post-Kette über Schulleiter und Klassenlehrer, sollten sich laufend über die aktuellen Windverhältnisse informieren und [...]

different word order, almost same content & same intention:

In einer Stille-Post-Kette über Schulleiter und Klassenlehrer hat das Ministerium mitgeteilt, dass die Eltern sich laufen über die aktuellen Windverhältnisse informieren sollten und [...]

The difference in my rewording is, that so got replaced with hat mitgeteilt (=mitteilen as infinitive). It is pure speculation to use "mitgeteilt" rather "beschlossen" or "angeordnet" or whatever communication strategy the Ministerium has chosen.

In your example the so omits the used way of communication and quotation and obligatory level, it simply puts the reference of the used source. That also means, it is no direct quote. The reader will never no if it is a summary or at least an indirect quote.

That said, your found translation "according to" is what is meant in this case.

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    The initial example from DWDS is confusing. I am a native German speaker, and yet I fail to parse it even after reading it about 10 times. What is it supposed to mean, and what would the complete sentence look like? When reading "so ... beauftragt worden", my mind insists on asking "Wie beauftragt worden?" Assuming this is indeed correct German, I may have to admit I fail to understand it. As such, I am not convinced it is the same case, or a good example, for the "so" as used in the sense of "according to". – O. R. Mapper Feb 19 at 20:54
  • DWDS, III.3 does not fit. – Paul Frost Feb 20 at 0:32
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Mostly a misunderstanding of a quite ugly sentence:

das is the article of Ministerium and the verb (something like: kommentierte = commented) is omitted. Due to the ambiguity of so this provides no clear indication, that indirect speech is following, but leaves that for the reader to detect. (Integrated my comment with that of O. R. Mapper.)

The quote in the question title so das implies a unit, where the full sentence provides only an indirect reference.

So full translation would be something like:

as the ministry commented, ...

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    I agree with your analysis, but omission is a pretty frequent diachronic phenomenon especially in terms of language development, so I am wondering about "ugly sentence" and "misunderstanding"... – Nico Feb 19 at 14:16
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    as the ministry commented - that's pretty much what OP suggested, namely "according to". So, in fact, no misunderstanding. – mic Feb 19 at 14:23
  • @guidot "According to" indexes indirect speech as well unless followed by quotation marks. – Nico Feb 19 at 14:39
  • @Nico (and mic): I think the misunderstanding remark referred to "das" not being a part of the expression - maybe guidot might like to clarify? – O. R. Mapper Feb 19 at 21:01
  • @guidot: '"According to" indexes indirect speech as well unless followed by quotation marks' - certainly, but "according to" is pretty much unique as a set expression and cannot be confused with any usage of the same words for a different meaning. "so", on the other hand, is quite unspecific in contrast; the word serves various different purposes in German, including being used as one of the infamous modal particles. Therefore, it's arguably much easier to read "so" and not realize it's indicating indirect speech than when reading "according to". – O. R. Mapper Feb 19 at 21:05

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