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Denn der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter. (Syntax)

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by popotla, Dec 15, 2012.

  1. popotla Senior Member

    British English
    Vielleicht hätten die Morde sogar verhindert werden können. Denn der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter und weitere Personen aus ihrem Umfeld seit den 1990er Jahren, hatte aber irgendwann ihre Spur verloren.

    Is the English equivalent of denn here "because"? It seems odd: from denn (because"?) to the end isn't a sentence. If the idea were written in English, there could be a colon after können, and the next words would be "the Office for ......... ." ("Perhaps the murders could even have been prevented: the OFPOTC knew those who were responsible and others they mixed with, but at some point lost the trail.") Anyway, as it stands, from denn to the end isn't a sentence.
     
  2. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    Germany
    German
    It's logically a single sentence with "denn" as a coordinating conjunction:

    Die Morde hätten verhindert werden können, denn der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter.

    You can also use he subordinating conjunction "weil" (because), but with a different word order:

    Die Morde hätten verhindert werden können, weil der Verfassungsschutz die Täter kannte.
     
  3. nievedemango

    nievedemango Senior Member

    Alemania
    alemán / German
    Demiurg hat das gut erklärt! :)

    And you need a comma between ..... werden können , denn der Verfassungsschutz..... (look at Demiurg's correction!)

    "denn" verbindet zwei Hauptsätze, "weil" leitet einen Nebensatz ein.
     
  4. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I think the sentence in exactly that spelling is to be considered given (source). The question was not to correct it but to explain it.
     
  5. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    I think with a comma, "denn" could be replaced by "weil" (with another word order as explained by others). But the separation in two sentences adds another meaning and gives some extra focus to the explanation.

    Ich denke das, weil ...
    Ich nehme das an, weil ...

    So this kind of "denn" does not give a simple cause like "weil" but indicates that it is an explanation and contains the thoughts (Meinung) of the writer or other people. "Weil" sounds objective and gives a cause "Grund", while "denn" indicates reasoning (Begründung).

    My try:
    "Perhaps the murders could even have been prevented. This is due to the fact the OFPOTC knew those who were responsible and others they mixed with, but at some point lost the trail."

    This is a result of my try to overcome the difficulties in translation, and there may be better versions. It should contain as well the idea of cause/reason as of reasoning.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
  6. popotla Senior Member

    British English
    Denn der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter und weitere Personen aus ihrem Umfeld seit den 1990er Jahren, hatte aber irgendwann ihre Spur verloren.

    A number of these answers have confirmed that the above, as it stands, is not a sentence.

    Die Morde hätten verhindert werden können, denn der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter.

    This, as it stands, is a sentence.

    In English, one of the uses of the colon is to serve as a signal that what follows is an explanation for what went before. Thus, Perhaps the murders could even have been prevented: the OFPOTC knew those who were responsible and others they mixed with, but at some point lost the trail is, if I may say so, a neater and more economical way of saying Perhaps the murders could even have been prevented. This is due to the fact the OFPOTC knew those who were responsible and others they mixed with, but at some point lost the trail. This version is, in my view, a little wordy.

    The original two sentences (Vielleicht hätten die Morde sogar verhindert werden können. Denn der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter und weitere Personen aus ihrem Umfeld seit den 1990er Jahren, hatte aber irgendwann ihre Spur verloren) came from the Deutsche Welle site (perhaps I should have stated that at the beginning). I felt that something wasn't quite right but given my low level of German, wasn't sure.
    Hutschi's comment,

    So this kind of "denn" does not give a simple cause like "weil" but indicates that it is an explanation and contains the thoughts (Meinung) of the writer or other people. "Weil" sounds objective and gives a cause "Grund", while "denn" indicates reasoning (Begründung),

    I found very interesting and useful.


    Vielleicht hätten die Morde sogar verhindert werden können.
    Denn der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter und weitere Personen aus ihrem Umfeld seit den 1990er Jahren, hatte aber irgendwann ihre Spur verloren.
     
  7. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    I want to add as the others that it is in some sense not a complete sentence but it is an elliptical construction (by rhetorical reasons).

    For usage of denn for reasoning (Begründung) see http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/denn_Konjunktion
    Thank you for this.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
  8. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    PS:
    The colon would be working in German, too.

    Vielleicht hätten die Morde sogar verhindert werden können: Der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter und weitere Personen aus ihrem Umfeld seit den 1990er Jahren, hatte aber irgendwann ihre Spur verloren.


    In this case it is a complete sentence.
     
  9. nievedemango

    nievedemango Senior Member

    Alemania
    alemán / German
    Popotla:
    Finally just a little hint: You can never use "denn" at the beginning of one single main clause. "Denn" connects two main clauses.

    Another example:
    Wir gehen heute nicht mit den Kindern spazieren, denn es regnet den ganzen Tag.

    You never could just say: "Denn es regnet den ganzen Tag." This would be completely impossible.
     
  10. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    I agree. But it is possible to write, and to say:

    "Wir gehen heute nicht mit den Kindern spazieren. Denn es regnet den ganzen Tag."
    The second part is not a complete sentence but it repeats the first sentence implicitly. It is an elliptic construction for

    "Wir gehen heute nicht mit den Kindern spazieren. Wir gehen heute nicht mit den Kindern spazieren(vague), denn es regnet den ganzen Tag."

    This rhetoric and pragmatic construction is used. The pronunciation differs from the pronunciation with comma significantly. The first part has the connotation: I am thinking about it and give you the reason after finishing the first sentence.)
     
  11. Gernot Back

    Gernot Back Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    German - Germany
    Why should the second part not be a complete sentence? It has everything it needs; a finite verb in the second position (as it is typical of main clauses in German:
    Denn occupies the pre-pre-field (i.e. position zero)
    I cant't see where the second sentence would repeat anything of the first sentence either.

    I would say, the difference between using a period (full stop) or a komma before denn is the same as the one between using a semicolon or a period.
    http://books.google.de/books?id=OiT...BQ#v=onepage&q=Komma Punkt "vor denn"&f=false
     
  12. djweaverbeaver Senior Member

    English Atlanta, GA USA
    Hello,

    As a native English speaker, I think you are conflating German grammar with English grammar. In English, such a sentence beginning with because is not allowed, but this is due to the fact that because it a subordinating conjunction. When it is connected to a sentence, this entire element becomes an dependent clause, which by definition cannot stand alone because it would be considered sentence fragments. Denn, on the other hand, is a coordinating conjunction, connecting two independent (main) clauses together. Maybe it will help you to think of denn as meaning for, which is also a coordinating conjunction similar in meaning to because, even though it is much less used in English nowadays by virture of the fact that it sounds rather stilted. Denn can connect two independent clauses with a comma, or denn can link them together, even though they remain two seperate sentences. It is often preferred to leave the two sentences separate especially if they are longer in form. You can find examples of this in every newspaper and in lots of books. Take a look at these examples:


    and


    If you'd like to read a little bit about the use of denn in German (as opposed to weil), then take a look at this paper/article. You see a couple of instances in which denn starts the sentence. The particle denn can never start a sentence. Also, in your example, you quite easily could have also used a semicolon in place of a colon to join the two sentences.

    Lastly, I will add that in English, we are often taught that one cannot begin sentences with coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. There are also others.), especially and, but, and so; however, most grammar reference guides, both British and American, say that this is not true. This so-called rule has no historical or grammatical foundation even though it is drilled into our heads as children like other rules such as not ending sentences with a preposition, not splitting infinitives, and not using contractions in writing. In some cases, it is even preferred to begin a sentence with one of those conjunctions for stylistic reasons. But old habit die hard; I still stick to these "rules" as much as possible in my own writing and only deviate when I cannot come up with a suitable alternative.

    I hope this helps
     
  13. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    The co-ordinating conjunction For in English (the F in DJW's Fanboys), not used much any more, corresponds exactly in usage to Denn in German.
     
  14. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    Germany
    German

    Amen! :thumbsup:

     
  15. nievedemango

    nievedemango Senior Member

    Alemania
    alemán / German
    Nochmal ein Amen! :thumbsup:
     
  16. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany

    Hi Gernot, it is an interesting point.
    You say it is a complete sentence. But is is also a well-formed (wohlgeformter) complete sentence without extra context?

    In my feeling a construction like

    Die Straße ist nass. Denn es regnet. is short for Die Straße ist nass. Die Straße ist nass, denn es regnet.

    The other form, however gives other problems and shows a difference to "weil":

    Es regnet. Denn die Straße ist nass.
    Here it does not work this way.
    It is:
    Es regnet. Ich weiß das, denn die Straße ist nass.

    Anyway, I complete such "denn" constructions with a kind of trace in my brain.

    Do you think that "Denn die Straße ist nass." is a well-formed complete sentence without context?

    I think, denn required two connections, one of them may be implicit by context.

    "Denn sie wussten nicht, was sie tun" -> this can be a title, but can it stand alone as sentence?
     
  17. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Deutschland (Hamburg)
    German/Germany
    Der Satz "Der Verfassungsschutz kannte die Täter" ist ein ganz normaler, korrekter Hauptsatz. Er wird auch nicht dadurch falsch, dass ein "denn" vorangestellt wird.

    Das "denn" stellt hier eine inhaltliche Verknüpfung mit dem vorausgehenden Satz her. Im Vergleich zur Konstruktion "..., denn ..." wird hier das "denn" deutlich mehr betont, die Zäsur zwischen den Sätzen ist stärker und der zweite Satz rückt mehr in den Mittelpunkt.

    Diese Art, "Denn..." am Satzanfang zu verwenden, ist sehr verbreitet und völlig in Ordnung. Im DWDS-Korpus findet man eine Unmenge Beispiele aus wirklich hochwertigen Artikeln.

    Die vom Fragesteller angesprochene amerikanische Art mit Doppelpunkt ginge zwar wohl im Deutschen auch, ist aber untypisch und nicht verbreitet.
     
  18. popotla Senior Member

    British English
    Djweaverbeaver, some interesting and useful points. Withregard to the linked paper, I myself, personally speaking, am less interested in what bits oflanguage are called than in how they work (though clarification of the lattercan be helped by the judicious use of terminology. However, in that linked paper, with regard to:

    (1) Es hat geregnet, denn die Straße ist ganz naß.
    b. * Es hat geregnet, weil die Straße ganz naß ist.
    It was raining, because the street is wet.
    (2) a. Ist vom Mittag noch etwas ¨ubrig? Denn ich habe schonwieder Hunger.
    b. ?? Ist vom Mittag noch etwas ¨ubrig? Weil ich schonwieder Hunger habe.
    Is there anything left over from lunch? – Because I’malready hungry again

    I would say that translating from German to English here in these examples, leads to problems (or the result is not correct). It was raining, becausethe street is wet. Something wrong, isn’t there? It was raining because therewere rain clouds in the sky, or whatever the meteorological phenomenon was, no tbecause the street is wet. “Because the street is wet, I know that it was raining”. OK.” Is there anything left over from lunch? I’m already hungry again. OK.

    You mentioned that In your example, you quite easily could have also used a semicolon in place of a colon to join the two sentences (Perhapsthe murders could even have been prevented: the OFPOTC knew those who wereresponsible and others they mixed with, but at some point lost the trail.)

    However, a semi-colon here would not, I believe, convey the “AND NOW I’M GOING TO TELL YOU WHY” that the colon conveys.


    Yes, I might be conflating German grammar with English grammar, though I’m not sure. Meaning (something independent of whatever particular language is used to convey that meaning) is primary. Grammar is used to convey that meaning, whether in speech or in writing. Gernot Back asks why, in " Wir gehen heute nicht mit den Kindernspazieren. Denn es regnet den ganzen Tag", the second part is not acomplete sentence.

    [Why should the second part not be a complete sentence? Ithas everything it needs; a finite verb in the second position, as it is typicalof main clauses in German. Denn occupies the pre-pre-field (i.e. position zero).]

    The answer, I believe is that the underlying meaning of thatsecond part (independently of whether that meaning is conveyed in English,German, Greek, Guaraní or Gujarati) is incomplete. Why is “I have a” an incomplete sentence? Because the underlying idea/proposition or whatever we want to call it, is incomplete.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2012
  19. Gernot Back

    Gernot Back Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    German - Germany
    It is as simple as that:

    To have in English or haben in German is a divalent or transitive verb: Somebody has something.
    To rain in English or regnen in German is an avalent verb. It is raining and the it stands for nothing.

    That is why
    I have a
    without a complete direct object/accusative complement/argument is an incomplete sentence and
    Denn es regnet.
    is a complete one.
     
  20. popotla Senior Member

    British English
    Although, in one sense, "it stands for nothing", Es regnet (It is raining) is a complete sentence. To know this, no assignation of grammatical terminology and subsequent analysis is required: it is complete because it's semantically complete. Denn es regnet, in isolation is not, I suggest, semantically complete and is therefore not a complete sentence. However, if part of a conversation about wet streets or the need to take an umbrella when one goes out, and the context of its utterance is thus understood, Denn es regnet is semantically complete and can be said to be a complete sentence on the grounds that it it is an elliptical version of "You need to take an umbrella because it's raining". The above does not depend on the matter of an avalent or transitive verb but on meaning, the very reason, one can say, for the existence of the spoken and written word.

    Hutschi (post 16) is right: "In my feeling a construction like Die Straße ist nass. Denn es regnet. is short for Die Straße ist nass. Die Straße ist nass, denn es regnet."
     
  21. Gernot Back

    Gernot Back Senior Member

    Cologne, Germany
    German - Germany
    The sentence
    Denn es regnet
    is in no way less complete than a sentence like
    Deshalb ist die Straße nass.

    Of course you always need a preceding context if you use connectors in a discourse, but it is merely an arbitrary convention that we usually write a period (full-stop) before deshalb and a comma before denn. We might as well do it vice versa: You can express exactly the same causality relations with both denn and deshalb.
     
  22. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    Eine Frage habe ich aber dazu trotzdem noch:
    Deshalb ist die Straße nass. - Das folgt dem normalen Satzbau. Das (gebeugte) Verb ist an zweiter Stelle, es ist ein "normaler" Hauptsatz.

    Denn es regnet - hier steht das (gebeugte) Verb nur an zweiter Stelle, wenn man "denn" nicht mitzählt.
    "Denn" hat also eine Sonderstellung. Es wird nicht mitgezählt, es verbindet ja (normalerweise) zwei Sätze.
    Im gegebenen Satz kann man das erfüllen, wenn man annimmt, dass der erste Satz leer ist, aber noch eine Spur enthält. "Denn" stellt eine Verbindung zu einer Bedingung dar. Es hat also (bildlich gesprochen) zwei Zipfel, an denen es angebunden ist. Im gegebenen Satz ist aber nur einer angebunden, zumindest, wenn man keinen Kunstgriff ausführt.

    Vollständig einig sind wir uns ja, dass es eine im Deutschen normale und nicht seltene Konstruktion ist.

    Wie also verhält es sich hier mit dem "denn"?

     

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