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In this video, the song ends like this:

Hört, hört, hört Rachegötter! -
Hört der Mutter Schwur.

Why is it 'der Mutter Schwur'?
Because the Schwur is a masculin word, shouldn't it be 'Hört den Mutter Schwur'? (listen to the Mother's swear).

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    Not knowing what this grammar case is about, and what it is called in German grammar, one can't find the related 'Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung' question. So I think this question should not be closed.
    – Chan Kim
    Dec 10, 2022 at 10:57
  • A text, which was written centuries ago and in verses matched by music is no easy learning material. I also want to mention, that Schwur is a substantive translating to oath, while swear is a verb.
    – guidot
    Dec 10, 2022 at 22:32
  • @ChanKim, I do not see closing a question as a duplicate as saying that the OP should have found the other question.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 5, 2023 at 10:27

3 Answers 3

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That' in fact an interesting case. The main stylistic means applied here is the Inversion: The genitive attribute "(der) Mutter" was moved from behind the accusative object ("Schwur") in front of it. The normal construction would be:

"Hört den Schwur der Mutter!"

With Inversion:

"Hört [den] der Mutter Schwur!"

If you move the genitive attribute noun "Mutter", it keeps its article (otherwise, you can't recognize its case). Now, a question arises: what to do with the definite article of the accusative object? I've put it in square brackets, since it would be wrong to keep it in its place: the definite article of the accusative object is no longer needed as determinative (that swear you're listening at the very moment), thus it's replaced by the genitive attribute which now acts as determinative.

I assume that the german grammar works differently than the english grammar in this case because in english, the article doesn't act as "grammatical case marker". That's nicely illustrated by your translation:

"Hear the mother's swear!"

The genitive attribute "mother's" can't be placed behind the accusative object, and there's no "conflict of articles".


Addendum: There are in fact cases where two definite articles follow each other immediately. For example:

"Ich habe den dem Chef gehördenden Wagen repariert" (= "Ich habe den Wagen, der dem Chef gehört, repariert").

Another example:

"Die meisten bewerten den Zusammenhalt im persönlichen Umfeld weitaus positiver als den der Gesellschaft" ("Die meisten bewerten den Zusammenhalt im persönlichen Umfeld weitaus positiver als den [Zusammenhalt [innerhalb]] der Gesellschaft").

Or

Basieren auf den der Gruppe zugänglichen Informationen haben wir entschieden, dass... (Basierend auf den Informationen, die der Gruppe zugänglich sind/waren, haben wir entschieden, dass...)

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    Is it justified to call this an inversion or is just one word order more common than the other?
    – Carsten S
    Dec 10, 2022 at 9:29
  • @CarstenS: I'd stick with "Inversion", since i think you wouldn't encounter that construction in everyday language. IMHO it's deliberately chosen for stylistic reasons. Maybe "stilistische Inversion"?
    – tohuwawohu
    Dec 10, 2022 at 9:35
  • Thank you for the kind explanation, but is it completely wrong if I use 'Hört den der Mutter Schwur!'? I think I've seen two definitive articles come together like this before. (That was very weird when I first saw it)
    – Chan Kim
    Dec 10, 2022 at 10:51
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    @ChanKim: In this case (imperative, genitive attribute before accusative object) - yes, IMHO it's completely wrong. But yes - there are cases with two definite articles immediately following each other. I've emended my answer accordingly.
    – tohuwawohu
    Dec 10, 2022 at 11:45
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In this sentence "der Mutter" is the possessive case of "die Mutter". The word "Schwur" doesn't have an article because a possessive before the noun replaces the definite article. So it is either

Hört der Mutter Schwur.

or

Hört den Schwur der Mutter.

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  • Wenn ich mich so kurz gefasst hätte, wäre ich fünf Minuten eher durchs Ziel gegangen ;-)
    – tohuwawohu
    Dec 10, 2022 at 9:26
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    @tohuwawohu if I hadn't first looked for a good duplicate... ;) My answer here was actually longer: german.stackexchange.com/questions/52752/… But it didn't feel like a real duplicate.
    – Carsten S
    Dec 10, 2022 at 9:31
  • @CarstenS: I just closed it as duplicate. Where do you think it is different?
    – guidot
    Dec 10, 2022 at 10:40
  • @guidot, one say that the phrase was in a different case, but I suppose you are right and that doesn’t really matter. I probably remembered that exact question too late.
    – Carsten S
    Dec 10, 2022 at 10:44
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There are word groups that consist of two nouns. Often, as in "der Hut des Vaters", the noun in the genitive case is at the end.
In most cases, this noun can also be moved to the front in the so-called prenominal position, such as "des Vaters Hut". Nouns in the genitive in this position are called prenominal or antecedent genitives.

The article "der" is not the "masculine", but indicates the genitive. (Similar to the third example below).

der Hut des Vaters - des Vaters Hut
der Schwur der Mutter - der Mutter Schwur
die Arbeit der Mutter - der Mutter Arbeit

(example source in german)

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  • Thanks, I learned a new thing(I think I've seen this before but forgot). But I chose tohuwawhu's answer because it explained about the missing accusative article also. Actually at first I guessed for a while 'der Mutter' is genetive but was curious why the accusative article 'den' is missing. I thought Schwur is masculine not because the 'der' but I looked it up in the dictionary.
    – Chan Kim
    Dec 10, 2022 at 10:49

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