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

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Giorgio Spizzi, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    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: Jan 5, 2013
  2. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    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: Jan 5, 2013
  3. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    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, ..."
     
  4. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    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.
     
  5. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    Italian
    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
     
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    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.
     
  7. ABBA Stanza Senior Member

    Hessen, DE
    English (UK)
    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
     
  8. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Worse: Must be used.;)
     
  9. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    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 ..."
     
  10. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

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

    GS
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013

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