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Thread: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

  1. #1
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    All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Guten Tag,

    < ... > I would like to take advantage of this thread to expose my curiosity on the subject of the structure of Restrictive Relative Clauses and Non-restrictive Relative Clauses in German.
    Obviously, the Relative Clause portion of any German Relative Sentence is set off by a comma — or by a comma and a final full stop. Now, how does German express the difference between:
    1. All my friends who've visited Paris say it's a fascinating city. (the sentence creates a sub-set of friends who've visited Paris, therefore a comma can't be used before "who") and
    2. All my friends, who've visited Paris, say it's a fascinating city. (where the scenario is remarkably different: all my friend have visited Paris. The comma is compulsory)

    Danke vielmals.

    GS
    Last edited by Sowka; 5th January 2013 at 7:16 PM. Reason: Post split off to a new thread; this is indeed a new topic :-)

  2. #2
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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    All/alle meine Freunde, die Paris besucht haben, sagten, es sei eine faszinierende Stadt.
    This expresses the subset of friends as in your first sentence without comma.

    To express that all friends visited Paris, you may simply use "und".

    All/alle meine Freunde besuchten Paris und sagten, es sei eine faszinierende Stadt.

    another version:
    Meine Freunde, von denen alle Paris besucht haben, sagten, es sei eine faszinierende Stadt.
    Meine Freunde, die alle Paris besucht haben, sagten, es sei eine faszinierende Stadt.


    ---
    I did not consider subtilities in grammatical time here. Depending on context the time forms have to be adapted.

    ---

    Note that this English subtility in your 2. example is a trap (false friend) for many Germans. Thank you for telling me.
    Last edited by Hutschi; 5th January 2013 at 9:41 PM. Reason: another version

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Quote Originally Posted by Giorgio Spizzi View Post
    2. All my friends, who've visited Paris, say it's a fascinating city. (where the scenario is remarkably different: all my friend have visited Paris. The comma is compulsory)


    GS
    I would contest that this is a correct English sentence. It is certainly not idiomatic. You should say something like: "My friends, all of whom have visited Paris, ..."

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Quote Originally Posted by fdb View Post
    I would contest that this is a correct English sentence. It is certainly not idiomatic. You should say something like: "My friends, all of whom have visited Paris, ..."
    I think you are arguing that the particular example is not the best. The point about English restrictive and non-restrictive clauses does not depend on how well-wrought a particular example is.

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Thank you very much, Hutsci, for the clear explanation.

    Hullo, fdb.
    From a transformational standpoint the sentence " All my friends, who've visited Paris, say it's a fascinating city" is made up of:

    1. an insert: All my friends have visited Paris
    2. a matrix: All my friends say it's a fascinating city

    Anyway, it's possible to work on even more simple stractures, such as:

    "My friends who've visited Paris say it's a fascinating city" vs. "My friends, who've visited Paris, say it's a fascinating city".

    Would this be any better, do you think?

    All the best.

    GS

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    I think the problem with the original sentence 2 is in the order of logic, not grammar. Surely, out of ALL your friends there is a least one who has not yet visited Paris. Leaving out the "all" does make it better.

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Quote Originally Posted by Giorgio Spizzi View Post
    Now, how does German express the difference between:
    1. All my friends who've visited Paris say it's a fascinating city. (the sentence creates a sub-set of friends who've visited Paris, therefore a comma can't be used before "who") and
    2. All my friends, who've visited Paris, say it's a fascinating city. (where the scenario is remarkably different: all my friend have visited Paris. The comma is compulsory)
    In specific cases, it's usually possible to provide an alternative formulation in German that avoids this ambiguity. For example, in this case one can use "Meine Freunde, die alle Paris besucht haben, sagen ..." (non-restrictive) vs. "Die Freunde von mir, die Paris besucht haben, sagen ..." (restrictive), depending on which of the two interpretations applies.

    In general, however, it is interesting to note that both English and German use pauses to differentiate between the restrictive and non-restrictive cases, where (in the latter case) the fact that there is a noticeable pause indicates that what comes is to be treated as ancillary information rather than as a restriction. So it really boils down to how one represents a pause in the written language. English uses commas to indicate pauses, so the presence or absence of commas can (as you've pointed out) be used to differentiate between the two possible scenarios.

    Unfortunately, the same is not true in German, where commas can be used for purely grammatical reasons (e.g., to separate a sub-clause from a main clause) rather than to indicate pauses. However, if you want to indicate pauses in German, you can use a Gedankenstrich (em-dash) instead. For example:

    (1) "Meine Freunde, die Paris besucht haben, sagen ..." would usually be assumed to be restrictive by default, whereas

    (2) "Meine Freunde — die Paris besucht haben — sagen ..." would (thanks to the pause suggested by the Gedankenstrich) usually be assumed to be non-restrictive.

    For more information, you might also find this thread useful.

    Cheers
    Abba

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Quote Originally Posted by ABBA Stanza View Post
    Unfortunately, the same is not true in German, where commas can be used for purely grammatical reasons (e.g., to separate a sub-clause from a main clause) rather than to indicate pauses.
    Worse: Must be used.

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Quote Originally Posted by ABBA Stanza View Post
    (1) "Meine Freunde, die Paris besucht haben, sagen ..." would usually be assumed to be restrictive by default, whereas

    (2) "Meine Freunde — die Paris besucht haben — sagen ..." would (thanks to the pause suggested by the Gedankenstrich) usually be assumed to be non-restrictive.
    Interesting example. You are right.
    If I want to use (2) restrictive, I have to add "die", "diejenigen", or "welche" or I have to describe it otherwise.
    (3a) "Meine Freunde — die, die Paris besucht haben — sagen ..."
    (3b) "Meine Freunde — diejenigen, die Paris besucht haben — sagen ..."
    (3c) "Meine Freunde — die, welche Paris besucht haben — sagen ..."

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    Re: All my friends, who've visited Paris, say... (non-defining relative clause in German)

    Thank you all, dear friends, for your precious contributions.

    GS
    Last edited by Giorgio Spizzi; 7th January 2013 at 6:14 PM.

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