Icelandic: Tense matching

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Jul 18, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Ég vissi ekki að þú talaðir frönsku...


    ég vissi ekki að þú talar frönsku...

    Saying I didnt know that you spoke/speak french, in english, both sound correct? There is probably only one correct way for each I've just got used to the wrong way maybe?

    So what I'm asking is in a sentence that delves into the past, do we then remain in the past.
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi Jake,

    There is a strict rule about tense accordance in complements of verbs that have something to do with saying or believing, but this doesn't hold for að vita. You can 'officially/grammatically' use both though I am in no doubt that there probably is a preference held by some natives / more experienced speakers as to what they perceive sounds best. So, your examples are right and the option to go with comes down more to a stylistic question rather than an issue of being right/wrong, svo að mér sé kunnugt.
  3. Nemabrincar Junior Member

    Fyrra dæmið hljómar betur. En þú heyrir ábyggilega bæði úti á götu. En í íslensku er þetta bæði spurning um hátt og tíð.

    Framsöguháttur og viðtengingarháttur þátíðar "að tala" er sá sami en í þessu dæmi er notaður viðtengingarháttur. Maður myndi til dæmis segja:

    "Ég vissi ekki að þú værir frá Frakklandi."


    The first example sounds better. But you'll probably hear both in the street. But in Icelandic it's both a question of mood and tense.

    The past of the indicative and subjunctive mood of "að tala" is the same, but in this example the subjunctive is used. You'd for example say:

    "Ég vissi ekki að þú værir frá Frakklandi."
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    That's an interesting question, actually, about choice of mood.
    There is no record (in research on the subjunctive) of vita ekki taking a subjunctive complement ever, in works of fiction for example, before 1979.
    It's traditionally used with the indicative mood and that still prevails in older speakers but a change has happened in the last 30 years and I think the statistic was that approximately 60% of younger speakers chose the subjunctive in that environment, when questioned. It's probably better advice to go with the majority of what younger speakers say anyway. Just have it in the back of your mind this is an innovation because you will probably see a lot of indicative usages if you carry on reading Icelandic.

    Edit: aha found the paper.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2013
  5. Nemabrincar Junior Member

    Áhugavert, ég vissi þetta ekki. Ég þarf að skoða þessa ritgerð :)
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Gjörðu svo vel. :)

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