Icelandic: usage of að

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Landið liggur að sjó að vestan, norðan og austan. Að vestan er Norðursjór, Skagerrak og Kattegat að norðvestan og norðaustan og Eystrasalt að austan, en að sunnan á Danmörk landamæri að Þýskalandi við suðurenda Jótlands.

    I wondered if someone could translate this short passage, I've rarely seen að used in this way and although I get what it means I can't find a suitable dictionary entry so I know what it could be used for in other contexts.
     
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    These are dictionary entries from ordabok.is.
    Do they help? You'd translate 'að + direction' as 'to' in these cases. As you can tell it doesn't make too much sense with 'from'. We'd say 'to' so that is how best to define it here.
     
  3. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Thanks for that :) Then in another article

    Kaupmannahöfn stendur við Eyrarsund á austurströnd Sjálands og er að hluta til á eyjunni Amager sem er austan við Sjáland.

    Why stendur við and what is this ones meaning, or is it exactly the same? why the different use
     
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It just means it's next to it. It's "standing with/by" it (imagine the metaphor).

    That's how I'd translate it so it sounded fine in English.
     
  5. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    " Danmörk landamæri að Þýskalandi við suðurenda Jótlands."

    What about the að and við here, as they arent complimented by standa or liggja
     
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    And to the south Denmark has a border with Germany at the south end of Jutland.

    These are just normal locational/prepositional usages of the prepositions.
    So, you might like to put somewhere in the back of your mind that to talk about borders of countries, when they meet, in Icelandic you say there is "landamæri öðru landi".

    The two countries share a border with one another - Tvö löndin eiga landamæri hvor öðru.
    France borders Spain - Frakkland á landamæriSpáni

    At the initial stages of learning, you learn initial words and their genders.
    Then, you progress to learn the categories of those nouns and verbs (strong/weak...irregular/regular)
    Then, you broaden your scope to look at the (for example) case of nouns after verbs.
    After this stage, you start to pick up on what prepositions typically go with certain nouns (like landamæri að)

    It's a gradual progression of getting a broader understanding and noticing more things, typical collocations of prepositions with nouns.
    Prepositions are the hardest and trickiest thing to master in foreign languages. It's just a case of observation and practice.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
  7. sindridah Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    Icelandic
    en að sunnan á Danmörk landamæri aðÞýskalandi við suðurenda Jótlands.

    From the south, Denmark(vomiting) has borders to Germany by south end of Jótland ( describing the location of the border )

    Or what alx said;D


     
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    You can also say landamæri við but I thinkis the more common preposition. They both mean the same thing though.
    Is that right, Sindri?
     
  9. sindridah Senior Member

    Reykjavík
    Icelandic
    Yeah, Icelandic native wouldn't notice anything if you said landamæri við/að X. He wouldn't pay attention to it because both
    sound naturally.
     
  10. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    So...

    Landið liggur að sjó að
    vestan, norðan og austan. Að vestan er Norðursjór, Skagerrak og Kattegat að norðvestan og norðaustan og Eystrasalt að austan, en að sunnan á Danmörk landamæri að Þýskalandi við suðurenda Jótlands.
    The country boarders on (I can't think of a better one to use) the sea to the west, north and south. To the west is The North Sea, "Skagerrak" and "Kattegat" to the north west and north east and "Eystrasalt" to the east, but to the south Denmark has a boarder with Germany at the south end of Jutland.

    Kaupmannahöfn stendur við Eyrarsund á austurströnd Sjálands og er að hluta til á eyjunni Amager sem er austan við Sjáland.
    Copenhagen is situated by "Eyrasund" on the east coast of Zealand and is "að hluta til... actually dont understand that, is that a verb að hluta, or a prep to the word hluti (part) or something"... blah blah blah which is east of Zealand.

    Are these translations, besides the msitakes I pointed out, fit for the words being used? Please offer a better suggestion if one is more fitting. I know I get what the meaning of the text is I just like to know that I'm getting a good translation incase similar "preps" pop up elsewhere.
     
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    [að hluta til] = in part / partly

    You need to treat that as just its own unit and not really as a noun or a verb in itself (it is actually a noun but the meaning of it you sort of have to know from experience).
    I'll tell you how I'd do it. First a literal translation to get the meaning. Then forget about the Icelandic and work from the literal English into something that sounds better.

    Landið liggur að sjó að vestan, norðan og austan.
    -> The land lies to sea to the west, north and east.
    ---> The country is surrounded by the sea to the west, north and east.

    Að vestan er Norðursjór, Skagerrak og Kattegat að norðvestan og norðaustan og Eystrasalt að austan
    -> To the west is the North Sea,
    Skagerrak and Kattegat to the northwest and north east and the Baltic Sea to the east
    ---> To the west is the North Sea, to the north west is Skagerrak and to the north east is Kattegat and to the east is the Baltic Sea

    We've already done the other parts (please note it's borders:tick:not boarders:cross:!)
    I have to admit, these aren't the easiest sentences to be dealing with. :cool:
     
  12. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Hey, Alxmrphi that really helped with the literal and the then the literal. Could you possible do it again one last time to lock it in as I found one that is again slightly different.

    Ítalía er land í Suður-Evrópu. Landið liggur aðallega á Appenínaskaga sem gengur til suðausturs út í Miðjarðarhafið og minnir í lögun dálítið á stígvél. Að norðan nær landið allt upp í Alpafjöll. Lönd sem liggja að Ítalíu eru Frakkland, Sviss, Austurríki og Slóvenía.

    So if possible could you lay this one out, and I have a few key problems.

    - gengur til suðausturs út í... goes to the south east an into?
    - The ordering of minnir í lögun dálítið, seems abit crazy.
    - landið allt (i have no idea what allt adds to the sentence, and if it means "entire country" why is it not before landið?"

    I am glad however that liggur að seems to repeat its meaning in the last sentence, to what you previously discussed
     
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Sure!

    I'll just go through the specifics first, which you mentioned you had problems with:

    - [gengur til suðausturs út í] is basically the same as [gengur út til suðurausturs í]
    .... This is quite literal in meaning. "Goes out to the south-east in..."

    - [og minnir í lögun dálítið á stígvél]
    -- að minna á - to be reminiscent of / resemble / look like.
    -- í lögun - in shape(form)
    -- dálítið - a little bit

    .... This is trickier but once you've got the meanings of the individual parts down it's very clear.
    It means: and resembles in shape a little bit a boot. ("and the shape looks a little bit like a boot")
    I mean, we all know that about Italy, right? :cool:

    - [allt up í]
    I think you put landið allt as a unit here (which is perfectly fine in many other sentences to mean 'the entire country') but in this specific example it should be seen as 'allt upp í' which means all the way up to.... which is just 100% literal with English. As for allt landið / landið allt - one sounds more formal, poetic, that kind of register of speaking I'm sure you know what I mean.

    So, the whole thing:

    Ítalía er land í Suður-Evrópu.
    - Italy is a country in Southern Europe. (doesn't need any changes to it)

    Landið liggur aðallega á Appenínaskaga sem gengur til suðausturs út í Miðjarðarhafið og minnir í lögun dálítið á stígvél.
    - The land lies mainly on Italian Peninsula which goes to south-east out into Mediterranean Sea and resembles in shape a bit .. a boot.
    -- The countries lies mainly on the Italian Peninsula which stretches out south-eastwards into the Mediterranean Sea and loosely resembles the shape of a boot.

    norðan nær landið allt upp í Alpafjöll. Lönd sem liggja að Ítalíu eru Frakkland, Sviss, Austurríki og Slóvenía.
    - To north reaches the land all up to Alps. Lands that lie to Italy are France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
    -- To the north, the country reaches all the way up to the Alps. The countries that border Italy are France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.

    So, you could say löndin sem liggja að or löndin sem eiga landamæri að/við. It wouldn't change the translation into English because it just means the same thing.
    The same way 'shares a border with' and '<country> borders <other country>' are other different ways of saying the same thing in English.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2013
  14. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Does this show a difference between The in English and Icelandic. I mean in the way that all the ocean names dont have a definite article and Lönd is indefinite. Does this show that we use The more to represent a specific thing "The Pacific Ocean" "The countries that". Whereas in Icelandic it is purely in the sense of, this is information that hasnt been introduced yet, whether there is only one of them or not, it is new information so it is indefinite. I mean if in the same paragraph it was to talk about these countries as a group again it would probably use the definite right... "eitt af löndunum sem á landamæri að Ítalíu er..."?
     
  15. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Again same article

    Íbúar eru um 58 milljónir og landið er þrisvar sinnum stærra en Ísland.


    We would say "The population/The inhabitants" but this is indefinite... am I on to something real or..?
     
  16. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It kind of does and kind of doesn't. I mean, Miðjarðarhaf does have the article.
    Lönd is indefinite but that's not really a difference with English. It'd be perfectly normal in English to just say -> "Countries that border Italy are...."
    There is a choice to specify an article or not and I guess when I wrote it, my mind decided it liked the version with the article. That sort of is the essence of this point though, that there is so much loose optionality not only between translations in different languages but even within singular languages themselves.

    Your point about Icelandic having a more 'confined' sense of article usage, I don't think is necessarily the case. I do think if you went on to further detail those countries (as you said) the article would be used, but I don't think you'll gain any benefit from seeing Icelandic as more rigid in its sense of article usage based on reference to already-mentioned things. The tendency is for proper nouns not to occur with the article in Icelandic. You might want to ask native speakers if there is any difference between using Miðjarðarhaf by itself in the sentence above and whether they judge it to be exactly the same or incorrect - I'm not sure about that.

    Consider:

    Citizens number around 58 million and the country is three times larger than Iceland.

    That's another possible translation that is fine and doesn't have the article.
    You really, really, really need to stop making these cross-language associations and see the massive possibility for variation that is all considered correct.
    When you see articles, you need to interpret the function it plays and translate that (which might be not translating it at all) instead of looking at an actual physical definite article and making both languages match. You'll save yourself many headaches that way. It is true that if we were to use nouns like population/inhabitants then we'd put 'the' before it, but it's not the only imaginable situation. We can use examples without it. All I'm trying to say is the translation choice has nothing to do with what there is directly in the Icelandic sentence. Many cases of article usage will overlap, so it's understandable for anyone to make these links but when you rely on it, problems occur.

    You'll have many times in the future when you're drilling this into learners who've asked you for help, the same way I battled with this for so long myself.
     
  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    If you have time to give this a read, or at best a quick skim, then you will quickly get an impression of how mind-boggling it must be for speakers of a language with no articles to fully understand how they're used in English. Now, from that, you should be able to quickly abandon the notion of there being any simple explanation for why articles appear in English sentences. As far as I'm aware, no such document in such detail exists describing the Icelandic language (another optional definite article there!) but if it did, it would probably be comparable. Let the usages build in your subconscious and let your instincts build up what sounds right by experience until a more explicit and fully-satisfying explanation can be consulted. Tis my advice.
     

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