16

I just came across this Tweet saying that

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

is a complete English sentence because buffalo can be an animal, a place and a verb (meaning to outwit or intimidate).

I wondered if it's possible to create a similar sentence in German.

I thought a while about it but the best I came up with was:

Essen essen Essen.

Where the first Essen is Die Essen, the collective noun for all people of the City of Essen. The second essen is of course to eat and the third Essen is the noun for food.

I wonder if it's possible to create a longer "single word sentence" in German. I have the feeling that German grammar rules don't allow this. I already cheated a bit in my example by leaving out the die of die Essen and although I heard it a few times most people probably wouldn't use die Essen to refer to the people of Essen.

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    Famous honorary mentions: Wenn Robben hinter Robben robben, robben Robben Robben hinterher or Wenn Fliegen hinter Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen hinterher. – infinitezero Feb 21 at 15:39
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    Similiar with tweaks: "Die, die die, die die Dietriche erfunden haben, verurteilen, tun ihnen Unrecht." – Shegit Brahm Feb 21 at 15:45
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    @Takiro Unfortunately Essen isn't actually used as "the collective noun for all people of the City of Essen". So your example is not a valid sentence. The correct term is Essener. – πάντα ῥεῖ Feb 21 at 17:42
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    @πάντα ῥεῖ "Robben robben!" would be a valid and complete sentence (...) Same for "Fliegen fliegen!" - und wenn wir Sächsisch sprechen und geinen Underschied machen zwischen harden und weichen Gonsonanden, dann geht's auch mit Griechen... – Volker Landgraf Feb 21 at 18:34
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    The closest thing I know - does exactly the opposite .. split as few words over as many sentences as possible .. - A quick talk in a shop for sea food - "Morgen" - "Morgen" - "Karpfen?"- "Morgen!" -"Morgen?" - "Morgen!"-"Morgen"-"Morgen" ;-) – eagle275 Feb 24 at 11:18
26

As others said in the comments this is quite difficult in German language, because most sentences need some kind of "beginning". But this Website gives an example with 8 words.

«Weichen Weichen weichen Weichen, weichen Weichen weichen Weichen.»

With

weich - soft

Weiche - Switch

weichen - give way to

(although one may say this is also some kind of cheating, because it does not sound 100% natural.)

EDIT:

For our wondering non-German speaking friends ^^: It is a nonsense sentence which can be translated as

(If) Switches give way to soft switches, (then) switches give way to soft switches.

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    That's brilliant. It doesn't make sense but is grammatically correct. – infinitezero Feb 21 at 18:56
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    Fun fact: Having grown up in the South, the diphthongs of weich ("soft") and Weiche/weichen are different for me, which ruins the example. (see Wikipedia) – David Vogt Feb 21 at 19:07
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    "(although one may say this is also some kind of cheating, because it does not sound 100% natural.)" -- neither does the buffalo..... – djsmiley2kStaysInside Feb 22 at 20:42
  • Nice find and interesting link too. – Takiro Feb 24 at 13:24
  • Sounding somewhat unnatural shouldn't be a disqualifier because buffalo x8 has the same issue in in English. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Feb 24 at 14:34
14

Similar to the already existing answer, and unfortunately two words less :(

Grillen Grillen Grillen, grillen Grillen Grillen.

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13

I just made up the following stupid family of examples.

  • First, let's start modest, using the fact that the verb "sagen" (to say) is also a noun (myth / legend / saga):

    Sagen Sagen Sagen, sagen Sagen Sagen, sagen Sagen.

    If myths say legends, then legends say myths, (as) legends say.

  • Using a further property of the German word "Sage", we can actually push this much further: In German it is possible to refer to a myth that tells a story about X as an "X-Sage". For example:

    eine Ritter-Sage, eine Prinzessinnen-Sage, eine Helden-Sage.

    Now, it might happen that a myth tells a story about another myth or legend, in which case we will have

    eine Sagen-Sage.

    This is particularly useful in our case, as our sentence above says that a legend says something about a legend, which means precisely that it is a legend about a legend: eine Sagen-Sage.

    Thus, our sentence becomes actually more accurate regarding its content if we change it to

    Sagen Sagen Sagen, sagen Sagen Sagen, sagen Sagen-Sagen.

    If myths say legends, then legends say myths, (as) legends about myths say.

  • Finally, we can "cheat" by nesting this principle indefinitely, producing arbitrarily long sentences. After all, why should a myth not be allowed to tell something about legends that refer themselves to other legends? The next step would be

    Sagen Sagen-Sagen Sagen-Sagen, sagen Sagen-Sagen Sagen-Sagen, sagen Sagen-Sagen-Sagen.

    If myths about legends say legends about myths, then legends about myths say myths about legends, (as) legends about myths about legends say.

You get the idea ;-)

DISCLAIMER: What makes me feel slightly unhappy about these examples is that in normal German language usage one would not say "Sagen sagen" but rather "Sagen erzählen" (legends tell). Still, I believe that from a purely formal (grammatical) point of view the sentences above are correct.

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  • Very good observation that you can basically have arbitrary many words by connecting them with hyphens. This seems to work better with some words than with others. Like with "Weichen Weichen-Weichen-Weichen-Weichen... weichen [...]" in mtwde's answer whereas with "Essen-Essen" or other words it would be weird right from the start. – Takiro Feb 24 at 13:45
6

I can think of one myself:

"Fräsen Fräsen Fräsen, fräsen Fräsen Fräsen-Fräsen."

Which would translate to "If milling machines mill milling machines, then milling machines are milled by milling machine milling machines."

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  • I would reverse the word order in the second half: "..., fräsen Fräsen-Fräsen Fräsen" (because the milling machine milling machines mill milling machines and not the other way round). In fact, this works just as well with many other words: Sägen Sägen Sägen, sägen Sägen-Sägen Sägen. Tragen Tragen Tragen, tragen Tragen-Tragen Tragen... – B K Feb 24 at 6:43
  • Binden Binden Binden, binden Binden-Binden Binden. Bleichen Bleichen Bleichen, bleichen Bleichen-Bleichen Bleichen. – B K Feb 24 at 6:52

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