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Swedish: Ett kraftig (adjectives/adverbs)

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Frusen, Nov 7, 2012.

  1. Frusen Junior Member

    English - BrE
    I was reading this article (http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/fentanyl-ny-dodsdrog_7648910.svd) and wondered why the writer wrote "kraftig" instead of 'kraftigt' in the paragraph directly beneath the diagram. Surely the adjective must agree with the gender of the noun (neutrum medel)
    Mod edit:
    Thanks in advance :)

    <<Moderator note:
    Context sentence should have been provided in the thread itself also, not just in the link, this is why it's been edited in.>>
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012
  2. timtfj

    timtfj Senior Member

    Northwest England
    UK English
    The answer in Norwegian would be that adjectives ending in -ig don't add the neuter -t ending: the neuter is still just -ig.

    Of course Swedish might be different, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same.
     
  3. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Swedish is different with respet to this :)
    Maybe it's just a typo.
     
  4. AutumnOwl

    AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Sweden
    Swedish - Sweden, Finnish
  5. Frusen Junior Member

    English - BrE
    Aha, thank you :)
     
  6. timtfj

    timtfj Senior Member

    Northwest England
    UK English
    Thanks---I'll make a note of that :)
     
  7. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Just for the record, it's an adverb in this context.
     
  8. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    I also interpret it as an adverb modifying smärtstillande, although I can see the confusion, it could theoretically be interpreted as adjective #1 of 2, both modifying läkemedel. However, we would normally then need a comma or an och separating the adjectives: Ett kraftigt och smärtstillande läkemedel / Ett kraftigt, smärtstillande läkemedel.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
  9. Hannouschka Senior Member

    Göteborg
    Swedish
    Funny... Spontanousely, I interpret "smärtstillande läkemedel" as the headword, in turn modified by "kraftigt". I don't know where this leaves me in terms of parsing/syntax...? But that's how I understand the phrase contents wise. (Compare "ett farligt smärtstillande läkemedel" -- how would you interpret that?)
     
  10. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    The whole sequence is a noun phrase - ett kraftigt smärtstillande läkemedel, where läkemedel is the headword, smärtstillande modifies läkemedel and ett is a determiner. Then we have the problem: does kraftigt modify smärtstillande? in that case it's an adverb, and kraftigt smärtstillande is an {adjective phrase} modifying the noun.
    ett {kraftigt smärtstillande} läkemedel

    If we think it modifes läkemedel, then it's two adjective phrases, both modifying the noun.
    ett {kraftigt}{smärtstillande} läkemedel
    The problem here is that kraftigt is commonly used as both, i.e. ett kraftigt läkemedel (adjective) or kraftigt verkande, kraftigt smärtstillande (adverb). Farligt is rarely used as a modifier for verkande, so it's easier to see it as an adjective modifying läkemedel.

    If we switch to en-words, we may see it in a different light:
    en {kraftig} {smärtstillande} tablett :tick:
    en {kraftigt smärtstillande} tablett :tick:
    en {farlig} {smärtstillande} tablett :tick:
    en {farligt smärtstillande} tablett :cross:

    Here the difference is clearer - the three first options are all acceptable except the last one, because we rarely use farlig in that context. It is still grammatical, but less idiomatic. Hence the :cross:.

    P.S. The headword of a noun phrase is always a noun!
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2012
  11. timtfj

    timtfj Senior Member

    Northwest England
    UK English
    I think Hannouschka is mentally hearing it as ett kraftigt {smärtstillande läkemedel}, where the adjective kraftigt modifies the whole noun phrase smärtstillande läkemedel as a unit (i.e. not smärtstillande or läkemedel).

    I think I often hear the structure that way in English too: mentally I parse a small blue car to mean "a blue car, which is also small" rather than "a car which is both small and blue". There is a class of blue cars, of which small blue cars are a subset.

    In English too we'd probably say that small and blue both modify car, but it feels more accurate (to me) to say that small modifies blue car.

    I'm pretty sure this varies from person to person, though. I hear something somewhere between {a small {blue car}} and {a {small} {blue} car}. Maybe at this level a strict interpretation isn't possible, because of the subjective element. But either way, the car is blue and also small. Both adjectives ultimately modify the noun. The difference is in whether we hear the first adjective as modifying it directly, or via a noun phrase containing the second one.
     
  12. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    I might be the case that we parse adjetives like that. What is more interesting perhaps is that the opposite order sounds awkward.

    1) ett kraftigt smärtstillande läkemedel
    2) #ett smärtstillande kraftigt läkemedel
     
  13. Hannouschka Senior Member

    Göteborg
    Swedish
    timtfj: "I think Hannouschka is mentally hearing it as ett kraftigt {smärtstillande läkemedel}, where the adjective kraftigt modifies the whole noun phrase smärtstillande läkemedel as a unit (i.e. not smärtstillande or läkemedel)." -- Yes, that's exactly what I meant!
     
  14. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    We need to look at kraftigt again, to determine whether it's an adverb or an adjective. If it's an adverb, it should always end with a -t. If it's an adjective, it depends on the gender of the head noun. I'll use tablett instead of läkemedel to illustrate it more clearly:

    Adjective: en smärtstillande tablett som är kraftig - en kraftig smärtstillande tablett.
    Adverb: en tablett som är kraftigt smärtstillande - en kraftigt smärtstillande tablett.

    The basic rule is that adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify adjectives or verbs. Adjectives are inflected according to their head nouns. Adverbs are not inflected. With 'ett' nouns, they look the same (normally end in -t) - kraftigt, but with 'en' nouns, they don't, because the adjective will then be kraftig. Adjectives and adverbs ending in -ande aren't inflected because they are originally verbal participles.

    This is why I don't want to see 'smärtstillande läkemedel' as a sub-unit the way you do, because it confuses more than it helps, in my opinion. There may be more modern ways of parsing noun phrases than the way I described, perhaps, but the bottom line in Swedish is to work out how any adjective needs to be inflected.
     
  15. Hannouschka Senior Member

    Göteborg
    Swedish
    "This is why I don't want to see 'smärtstillande läkemedel' as a sub-unit the way you do, because it confuses more than it helps, in my opinion. There may be more modern ways of parsing noun phrases than the way I described, perhaps, but the bottom line in Swedish is to work out how any adjective needs to be inflected."

    It's not that I *want* to see it that way, it's that I do! What I mean to say is that if you were to say something to me containing the phrase "ett kraftigt smärtstillande läkemedel" I would intuitively understand "smärtstillande läkemedel" as a unit, modified by "kraftigt". I'm not claiming it's more logicial or a better way of parsing, it's just how I understand the contents of the phrase.

    "...but the bottom line in Swedish is to work out how any adjective needs to be inflected"

    Maybe, but I don't see how that's relevant...? Both adjectives ("smärtstillande" and "kraftigt") will be inflected in accordance with the headword of the nounphrase ("läkemedel"), whether you consider "smärtstillande läkemedel" as a subunit or not, right?


    (Well, "smärtstillande would have been inflected, had it not belonged to this special class of adjectives... you get my drift.=)

    Thank you, by the way, for some very clear presantations of grammatical structure :).
     
  16. timtfj

    timtfj Senior Member

    Northwest England
    UK English
    It seems to me that there are two kinds of grammar going on here.

    1. The codified rules, where everything fits into tidy categories enabling someone to work out what a string of words means, and to work out which words or inflections will work in a given situation, what usage is most widely accepted, and so on.
    2. The internal rules by which our brains process a sentence and extract meaning from it.
    I think the rules we codify and write down are simply our best approximation to how the internal rules work; their accuracy depends on how closely they represent what's actually going on in the mind of a speaker or listener or reader or writer, and how good they are at producing results that don't conflict with that.

    In the case of ett kraftigt smärtstillande läkemedel, if we agree that kraftigt is an adjective, I imagine the codified rules would be something like

    • if a list of adjectives precedes a noun, then each adjective must individually agree with the gender of the noun;
    • läkemedel is neuter;
    • therefore the forms we need are kraftigt and smärtstillande.
    But the mental rules someone experiences while reading or writing might be

    • an adjective modifies the noun our noun phrase immediately following it, and must agree with its gender;
    • therefore kraftigt must modify smärtstillande läkemedel, since smärtstillende on its own isn't a noun;
    • läkemedel is neuter;
    • therefore smärtstillande läkemedel is also neuter;
    • therefore kraftigt has to be neuter.
    Both sets of rules lead to exactly the same string of words. The first set of rules explains what to do if you want to get the words right, and is simple and concise; the second set explains how the first set arises (in the case of someone who hears the phrase that way). And the second set is more complicated because there's more going on psychologically than just two successive adjectives individually agreeing with a noun.

    What's interesting to me is that the same thing is happening for a Swedish-speaker (Hannouschka) in Swedish as happens for me in English. I normally hear a phrase split into levels like these, with the smallest possible number of elements in each unit. For example a small blue car presents itself to me as


    • {a NP}
    • = {a {small NP}}
    • = {a {small {blue NP}}}
    • = {a {small {blue {car}}}}
    Where NP is a noun phrase.

    Normally we don't bother with these intermediate layers in describing the grammar, since they're not needed to get the right result, but at least for me they're automatically there when I read or write something. But another person might process the words differently, meaning that my set of internal rules is counterintuitive to them.

    As Hannouschka says, in my own language it's not a matter of choosing to parse the phrase that way—it's simply the structure that my brain uses when I read it.

    I suspect the ease or difficulty of learning codified grammar rules probably depends on how close they are to these intuitive structures.
     
  17. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Hi,
    adjectives do in fact take scope over each other and are ordered due to grammatical or semantico-pragmatic reasons. I believe you perceive a difference in meaning between (1) and (2):

    (1) hackad frusen lök
    (2) frusen hackad lök

    Forgive my Swedish if it's not correct.
     
  18. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Hi,
    I think this would entail that it would take longer time to process Swedish than a language without grammatical gender (e.g. English) and I am not sure if that's true.
     
  19. AutumnOwl

    AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Sweden
    Swedish - Sweden, Finnish
    This is only true if kraftigt is an adjective in this phrase, it could as well be an adverb and in that case it would be kraftigt whether the noun was neuter or common gender.

    Ett kraftigt smärtstillande läkemedel - could be either A strong analgesic substance or A strongly analgesic substance.
     
  20. timtfj

    timtfj Senior Member

    Northwest England
    UK English
    That's why I included "if we agree that kraftigt is an adjective". I'm pointing out that different speakers of the same language can hear the same grammatical construction internally in different ways, and showing one of the ways someone might hear it in the case where it's understood as an adjective.

    My point is: (i) the way Hannouschka said she hears the phrase leads to the same form of kraftig that the simpler textbook version does; (ii) the way someone hears the same grammatical structure can vary from person to person; (iii) textbook rules are simplified from what people hear internally, and represent the part that the different users of a language have in common.

    But I can't really develop this any further without getting too far off-topic, since it's more about the psychology of how individuals parse grammar than about the phrase in question.
     
  21. timtfj

    timtfj Senior Member

    Northwest England
    UK English
    That's an interesting possibility. I don't want to lead us further off topic, but my thought is that it might only take longer if the steps are performed sequentially. I don't think that's my experience of understanding a sentence. It's more like having a mental template that the words drop into as I read them. The rules are implicit in the template so have effectively already been applied.

    Also a language without grammatical gender may well have other grammatical details that need processing instead...
     
  22. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Moderatös

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    I've extended the thread title to encompass the general discussion about parsing adjectives and adverbs. Feel free follow on within that scope! :)
     
  23. AutumnOwl

    AutumnOwl Senior Member

    Sweden
    Swedish - Sweden, Finnish
    For me kraftigt in this phrase is definitively an adverb, maybe because I work at a hospital, and see analgesics as either weakly effective or strongly effective.
     
  24. Lugubert Senior Member

    Göteborg
    Swedish
    I fully agree. I am a medical translator with experience from the pharma industry, and do not generally label pharmaceuticals as more or less strong: it's a matter of dosage.
     

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