Conjunction at the beginning of a sentence?

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by linguaphile92, Apr 29, 2013.

  1. linguaphile92 Junior Member

    England
    English
    Hello,

    Is using a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence *in an essay* equally as frowned upon/ stylistically inelegant in German as it is in English?

    Here in particular I am looking at the word 'oder'

    'Es sieht so aus, als ob alle morgen schwimmen gehen werden. Oder vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschendenken.'

    Stupid sentence, but just an example.

    Thanks all
     
  2. Sowka

    Sowka Forera und Moderatorin

    Hannover
    German, Northern Germany
    Hello linguaphile92 :)

    I agree: In an essay, this structure would not be appropriate. It is used quite frequently in colloquial language and in informal texts. But more formal texts should be based on the rule: "Immer vollständige Sätze verwenden!".
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
  3. linguaphile92 Junior Member

    England
    English
    Thank you Sowka!!
     
  4. das brennende Gespenst Senior Member

    Berlin, Deutschland
    Australisches Englisch
    I just wanted to point out that, although it's widely regarded as "incorrect" in English, sentences beginning with coordinating conjunctions (eg. "and", "or" and "but") are found frequently in respected works of literature. Lots of prescriptive grammar rules are based on someone's funny idea of how languages ought to work instead of how they actually do work. Still, if you're trying to impress someone, stick to the rules. If in doubt, simply link the sentences together as that's (at least in theory) what conjunctions are there for. Personally, I feel that a full stop and new sentence beginning emphasises a pause better and conveys a slightly different feeling from a mid-sentence conjunction. The German example above could be written as one sentence, although I think that feeling of a pause before an afterthought would be lost.
     
  5. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    I think usually it is not wrong in an essay. It may depend on the type of the essay.

    It may be elegant or inelegant, but this depends on the context.

    So I want to support das brennende Gespenst. To use this form is a tool of style, the sentences change there character/emphasis.

    ---
     
  6. oberhaenslir Senior Member

    German, Switzerland
    Das sind 2 Hauptsätze. Möglichkeiten:

    "Es sieht so aus, als ob morgen alle schwimmen gingen. Oder vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken."
    "Es sieht so aus, als ob morgen alle schwimmen gingen, oder vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken."
    "Es sieht so aus, als ob morgen alle schwimmen gingen. Aber vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken."
    "Es sieht so aus, als ob morgen alle schwimmen gingen; aber vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken."
     
  7. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I must agree with Oberhaenslir there: It is a complete sentence. Here, oder is used in the same way as aber; I would say, oder can even be analysed as an adverb rather than as a conjunction.
     
  8. Sowka

    Sowka Forera und Moderatorin

    Hannover
    German, Northern Germany
    Hello :)

    Hm, I'm not sure... The sentence "Vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken" is a complete sentence, of course. But putting "Oder" before it makes it incomplete, at least in my perception. For the sentence to be complete, it would need an anteceding main clause that presents the alternative that the word "oder" refers to.

    Starting such a sentence with "oder" is a stylistic device that is used quite frequently, above all in newspapers. I'm sure I also use it in many texts. But I think in more scientific texts, it is not quite appropriate (or this is what I was taught some 40 years ago...). But this is a stylistic choice.

    Analogous examples:

    Unsere Schlussfolgerung lautet: Es sind keine Partikel vorhanden. Oder das Messgerät ist defekt.
    Unsere Schlussfolgerung lautet: 80 % der Befragten wissen nicht, was ABC ist. Oder sie vermeiden es, dies in einer Befragung kundzutun.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  9. Gernot Back

    Gernot Back Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    German - Germany
    No, because as an adverb it would occupy the pre-field in the sentence (position #1 in the sentence, directly preceding the finite verb in position #2), whereas as a conjunction it occupies the pre-pre-field (position #0 in the sentence")

    http://www.canoo.net/services/Onlin...n/Gebrauch/koord.html#Anchor-Verbindung-49575
     
  10. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    What about this sentence:
    Aber ich weiß nicht nicht wie das geht. ~ Ich weiß aber nicht wie das geht.
    The flexibility of position suggests aber is an adverb and rules out a conjunction. I have doubts whether the rule you quoted applies without exception.
     
  11. Gernot Back

    Gernot Back Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    German - Germany
    It is true; aber can be used as a modal particle as well. But here we are talking about the conjunction oder in particular, for which this does not hold true.
     
  12. Perseas Senior Member

    Athens - GR
    Greek
    Yes, I see it in a similar way. "Oder" is a "koordinierende Konjunktion", which combines "vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken" with the previous part. The meaning is complete when we know the content of both parts.
     
  13. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    The second sentence is incomplete when you do not consider that it has an empty trace which repeats the first one.

    'Es sieht so aus, als ob alle morgen schwimmen gehen werden. Oder vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken.'
    'Es sieht so aus, als ob alle morgen schwimmen gehen werden. (Es sieht so aus, als ob alle morgen schwimmen gehen werden) oder vielleicht üben sie sich nur in Wunschdenken.'

    Using this form, it has more emphasis than just one sentence connected by the conjunction.
     
  14. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    That is exactly what I doubt.
     
  15. Sowka

    Sowka Forera und Moderatorin

    Hannover
    German, Northern Germany
    On what basis? You can't move around "oder" the way you did it with "aber", can you?

    Aber ich weiß nicht nicht, wie das geht. ~ Ich weiß aber nicht, wie das geht.
    Oder ich weiß nicht, wie das geht. -- Ich weiß oder nicht, wie das geht. :confused:


    In formal writing, I would also prefer your first "aber"-sentence, as well as the "oder"-sentence, to be preceded by another main clause; for instance:
    Ich würde es ja gern tun, aber ich weiß nicht, wie das geht.
    Das Gerät ist defekt, oder ich weiß nicht, wie das geht. or, not a main clause:
    Entweder ist das Gerät defekt oder ich weiß nicht, wie es geht.
    In more informal writing, in newspapers etc, the use of the sentence with the "empty trace", as Hutschi describes it, is perfectly OK in my opinion. But opinions seem to differ in this matter, and that's fine.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  16. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    I agree but the modified examples have informal style here, too, you see this for example in the usage of "ja" and of "geht". (Or I do not know how "formal writing" works.)
    That is the reason why it works with the separation of the sentences.

    Formal style is for example:
    Das Gerät ist entweder defekt - oder die Bedienungsanleitung ist falsch.

    It may be possible to use informal style in formal documents, for example in a reclamation.
     
  17. Sowka

    Sowka Forera und Moderatorin

    Hannover
    German, Northern Germany
    Good morning :)

    You are right, Hutschi -- I was so focused on the use of these particular words "aber" and "oder" that I didn't pay attention to the style of the rest of the sentences.
     

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