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Zum allerersten Mal hörte einen der neue Partner Dialekt sprechen.

I'm quite confused by this sentence. I would try to reform it like this:

Der neue Partner hörte zum allerersten einen Dialekt sprechen.

But I think einen here refers to the Akkusativ of "man". Thus I would translate it to this:

The new partner heard for the very first time a person speaking a dialekt.

Is what I wrote correct? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

PS: I have inserted a picture of the text, from which I took this sentence.Here

1
  • And that's why Germany won't have any dialect speakers left in a couple of generations. As a dialect speaker whose standard German is better than that of most Germans: I think this text is pretty strange. It's grammatically correct, but it's not a well written article. It's clearly visible where they artificially and unnaturally fitted in certain grammatical cases or less common vocabulary.
    – Nobody
    Apr 12 at 16:24
10

You got the grammar almost right, however, there are two different cases of einen usage:

  1. Die meisten Menschen, die Dialekt sprechen, haben erlebt: Der neue Partner hörte einen zum ersten Mal Dialekt sprechen.
  2. Der neue Partner hörte zum allerersten Mal einen (~jemanden) Dialekt sprechen.

The meaning of einen in (1) is different from (2): instead of meaning any person/any dialect, it refers to allermeiste Menschen, die... from the first sentence and their specific dialect.

So it doesn't mean that the new partner for the first time hears an arbitrary person speaking some dialect (which is virtually impossible living in the D/A/CH area), but that the new partner hears his/her partner speaking his/her dialect for the first time (with people from his/her childhood). Einen can be the accusative of man, but in this case a previously specified man. So in English it would read:

Most people who learned a dialect before Standard German may have experienced a situation like this: [...] an old friend called and their partner heard them for the very first time speaking in [their] dialect.


Your suggestion

Der neue Partner hörte zum allerersten Mal einen Dialekt sprechen.

is possible and common for case (2) mentioned above, but uncommon in the context of (1) because einen is a personal pronoun here. Compare the standard word order of:

Der neue Partner hörte ihn zum allerersten Mal Dialekt sprechen.

The original word order is also less ambiguous: in hörte einen Dialekt sprechen, the word einen could be the article of Dialekt, while in hörte einen zum allerersten Mal Dialekt sprechen it is clear that einen is the direct object.

(I'm not sure if you were arguing that hörte zum ersten Mal makes more sense than zum ersten Mal Dialekt sprechen, but in both cases zum ersten Mal can refer to hörte rather than to Dialekt sprechen.)

Maybe the appearence of einen apart from a noun is somewhat unusual for DaF speakers, but I can assure you it's perfectly fine because you can think of it as a pronoun like ihn, sie, es etc.

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You're quite correct, congratulations on not being fooled by the misleading form! (It should be added that even to a native speaker, the inflected forms of 'man' sound somewhat weird, but they're the only ones we have.)

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  • It really confused me xD. Thank you. Apr 11 at 15:26
  • 2
    Even as a native speaker I read this sentence two times until be sure about the meaning :D Apr 12 at 15:03
  • Genau das geschah mir als auch, sogar nach dem dritten Lesen erschloss sich mir nicht der Sinn des Satzes ... Apr 12 at 19:04
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The other answers have explained the meaning of einen in the sentence "Und zum allerersten Mal hörte einen der neue Partner Dialekt sprechen."

Taking the text as a whole, it seems to me that it is not very good German because the use of einen is stylistically inadequate.

  • Sentence 1: Die allermeisten Menschen [...] dürften eine solche [... ] Geschichte erlebt haben :

  • Sentence 2: Sie hatten sich verliebt [...]
    I include the two "Oder"-rudiments into sentence 2.

  • Sentence 3: Und zum allerersten Mal hörte einen der neue Partner Dialekt sprechen.

  • Sentence 4: Die Angerufenen fürchteten [...]

It is not absolutely clear what "Sie" in sentence 1 means: (a) It could be the pronoun "they" (for die allermeisten Menschen) or (b) the author could address the reader with the formal "Sie".

In case (a) I would expect sie (again for die allermeisten Menschen or perhaps for die Angerufenen in sentence 4) instead of einen. This "sie" would also fit perfectly to sentence 4.

In case (b) I would expect another Sie instead of einen.

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