Yes, we use 'then' to emphasise as well. I would translate "was weiß ich denn" as "oh, what do I know" - if I had to add filler words in English. A good explanation:
Thanks, ElleLingo, for this very helpful link. What a demystifying, detailed look at the usage of denn!
To quote its summing up,
... at least in spoken German the more common denn is the question filler. People add it to questions to make them sound more casual or, in combination with question words, to get a little more room to express yourself using your voice.
I think I would translate your "then" with "dann", though. Here are a few ideas about the difference between denn and dann: http://german.stackexchange.com/questions/4768/denn-vs-dann
True, "what then . . . " is much more emphatic than just "what . . . ", but the meaning is also different. With a "then", the sentence effectively means, "In that case, what . . . " which is why you would use it in the context you gave. Does the "denn" in the German sentence also give it that shade of meaning?
i think sakasiru means that, yes. (emphasis on know rather than on I) Four letter words would do to convey the type of emphasis involved, i believe. The german version is far from being that offensive, but i dont think it is completely neutral either.
"What do i even know?", maybe?
Without the "denn" "Was weiß ich?" could just be a factual question. The answer could be be "I know that a tomato is a fruit" or "I know about 1000 words of French".
The additional "denn" makes it a rhetorical question "what (the heck) do I know?" (Why do you expect me to have an answer?)
In English, the translation for this would be "But what do I know", the implication of "denn" being that of exasperation, or "well clearly, you think you know better than me..." The more of the DL German course I take, the more I realise how nebulous a thing an exact translation is... all language is so nuanced
This is nothing you can explain with grammar, it depends on what kind of context a sentence invokes in a native speaker.
"Was nehme ich denn?" would be said in a situation where someone is standing in front of an all you can eat buffet and ponders what he should load on his plate.
"Was weiß ich denn?" would be said in a situation where someone nags you for an answer you don't have.
I've seen several people comment in a confused manner on the use of "then/denn" in this sentence. Is this a regional thing? I've used the exact phrase "Well, what do I know, then!" on numerous occasions, usually at a loud volume while throwing my hands in the air and knitting my eyebrows. If it matters, I'm a Midwesterner who also uses a handful of Southern-isms thanks to a Southern mom.
> usually at a loud volume while throwing my hands in the air and knitting my eyebrows.
I think that's not what the German "denn" is about.
Unfortunately, I deem myself unable to give an elaborate explanation, so please have a look at this article => https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_modal_particle
I was always taught at school to use 'ss' instead of ß, but I always use ß now when necessary.
With this sentence I accidentally put 'weiss' instead of 'weiß' and it said I was wrong, is it an error with the program? or are there times when 'ss' cannot be used for 'ß'
If it is my fault, any advice to help me build on my error is appreciated, thanks ! :-)
In standard German, "ss" can't follow a diphthong like ei, ie, eu, au. So it's not weiss, but weiß. After a single vowel, it usually depends on whether the vowel is short (in this case, it is followed by ss) or long (followed by ß) => der Fluss (short u), ich aß (long a).
Note that in Switzerland (and Liechtenstein I think?), ß is never used and always replaced with ss.
there are several words in German emphasizing that you want to refer to something that has happened and effects you now, because in english you have present perfect for that.
'denn' is used in questions. you would ask 'hast du das denn gesehen?' if you have talked about a show but forgot to ask if your opponent has seen it. you would ask 'was weiss ich denn' if your opponent expects you to know. you would ask 'Wann passiert das denn?' if your opponent tells you something will happen but has left out that tiny little detail.
'doch' stands alone after your opponent disagreed with you and means 'i disagree it is actually yes'
'fei' is used in a sentence after a verb and means that although your opponent just said that you have done or will do something, sometimes a bit appologetic.
I may be wide of the mark here. But, as a speaker of American English, this sentence would ordinarily be translated "What do I know anyway?" Or "But, then, what do I know??"
As usual with DL, because there's no context to guide the participant, it gets away with the most parochial--and frequently wooden--version.