Sentences with more words than syllables

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by luitzen, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. luitzen Senior Member

    Frisian, Dutch and Low Saxon
    I just stumbled upon a curious thing. In my native language (Frisian) there's a sentence consisting of 14 words that can also be pronounced with 10 syllables (which is the most standard pronounciation). The sentence is kinda like a folk wisdom and I've probably heard it hundreds of times throughout my life.

    The sentence is: "At it net kin sa't it moat, dan moat it mar sa't it kin."

    Dutch: "Als het niet kan zoals het moet, dan moet het maar zoals het kan." (14 words, 16 syllables)
    English: "If it is not possible to do it the way it should be done, then do it the way it is possible to do."
    In Dutch you could also say: "Als 't niet kan zoals 't moet, dan moet 't maar zoals 't kan." (14 words, 13 syllables), but most Dutch people would probably consider this weird.

    14 syllable pronounciation: /ɔt ət nɛt kɪn sɑt ət mɑt, dɔn mɑt ət mɑr sɑt ət kɪn/
    10 syllable pronounciation: /ɔt nɛt kɪn sɑt mɑt, dɔn mɑt mɑ sɑt kɪn/

    The reason I marked those t's is because I wanted to illustrate that the word 'it' is not simply left out. The t is pronounced slightly differently with your throat closed instead of open, so the word 'it' is still there. Looking at Wikipedia, I think it's called the dental ejective. Most Dutch people or advanced Frisian speakers will not be able to hear the difference, only native Frisians will hear it sound weird when it's pronounced incorrectly.

    I'm curious if you can think of any (long) sentences in other languages that can be pronounced with far less syllables than there are words in.
  2. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    This isn't really a "long" sentence, but English It is all right (four words, four syllables) can be contracted to [sa: ait] (2 syllables) in some people's speech. It seems possible to go further and contract the two vowels of [sa: ait] to make just one syllable; however, I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone do this.
  3. bibax Senior Member

    Czech has four non-syllable prepositions (v in, k to, s with, z from). They evolved from the original IE prepositions by reduction. Every sentence that consists from one-syllable words plus some non-syllable prepositions has more words than syllables. However such sentences are rare as most nouns take an ending after prepositions.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013
  4. francisgranada Senior Member


    V ten deň pes bol s ním, no mal z nás strach a šiel k nim. (16 words, 12 syllables)
    (that day the dog was with him, but he was afraid of us and he went to them)

    @bibax #3: Exactly :)
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013
  5. TitTornade

    TitTornade Senior Member

    French pronouns me/m', te/t', se/s', le/l', je/j' or article le/l' or preposition de/d' are/can be non-syllabe. They can be combined, especially in spoken language.
    e.g. "je bois de l'eau" (I drink some water) = 5 words, 2 syllables (/ʒbwa dlo/)
    "je t'aime" (I love you) = 3 words, 1 syllable (/ʃtɛ:m/)
    "je t'achète un livre et je te le donne" (I buy a book for you and I give it to you) = 10 words, 7 syllables (/ʃta ʃɛ tẽ li vʁe ʃtəl dɔn/)

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