Viele wollen manche (... erschrecken)

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by kynnjo, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. kynnjo Senior Member

    USA Spanish and English
    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but AFAICT, the cases of viele and manche in the following sentence are ambiguous:

    Viele wollen manche mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken.

    Either viele is the subject (of wollen) and manche the direct object (of erschrecken) or viceversa. Am I right?

    Does this sentence sound ambiguous to the "native ear". If not, which of the two alternatives above would a native speaker understand from this utterance?

    TIA!
     
  2. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Grammatically it's ambiguous, but the only logical reading is "There are a few people who try to scare a lot of people with the word "Socialism".

    "A lot of people try to scare a few people" doesn't make sense.
     
  3. rubidou Junior Member

    German
    In addition, version #1 (with viele as subject) sounds pretty unnatural to me.
     
  4. kynnjo Senior Member

    USA Spanish and English
    @exgerman & @rubidou: thanks for your replies. I agree that one version does not make much sense, but for me at least the typical English word order (subject-verb-object) trumps logic, so it takes active effort for me to pick up the intended meaning. As a follow-up question, do both of these mean the same thing? And are they both equally natural-sounding?

    Viele wollen manche mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken.
    Manche wollen viele mit dem
    Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken.
     
  5. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    Germany
    German

    Sorry to say this, but they both sound awful and unidiomatic. Who's meant by "viele" and "manche"?
     
  6. kynnjo Senior Member

    USA Spanish and English
    Sorry about that. The original sentence came straight out of a textbook (Sandberg and Wendel, German for reading (1973), p. 197 (#59)), and it's loosely based on a passage in a 1882 speech by von Bismarck, to the Reichstag:


    ...aber wenn Sie glauben, mit dem Worte [sic] „Sozialismus“ jemand Schrecken einflößen zu können oder Gespenster zu zitieren, so stehen Sie auf einem Standpunkte, den ich längst überwunden habe und dessen Überwindung für die ganze Reichsgesetzgebung durchaus notwendig ist.


    The second sentence in my earlier post is simply the one obtained by transposing viele and manche.
     
  7. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    It's a big difference between English and German. English has a rule: the grammatical subject comes first. German has a rule: the thing we're talking about comes first. (Of course that's usually, but not necessarily, the grammatical subject.)

    Are we talking about the few? Manche wollen viele mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken (here grammatical subject and topic co-incide)

    Are we talking about the many? Viele wollen manche mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken (here gramatical object and topic co-incide---the subject gets put after the verb and the spoken intonation pattern is slightly different

    Are we talking about Socialism? Mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ wollen manche viele erschrecken (since the topic is neither subject nor object, the order is topic-verb-subject-object)

    Are we talking about scare tactics? Erschrecken wollen manche viele mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ (ditto)

    It works both ways---Germans learning English have to fight the urge to write a lot of contorted (from the English point of view) sentences that start off with the topic instead of the grammatical subject.

    PS I kept your example intact, but it would sound more like "real" German if you replaced viele with die vielen or die Leute.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  8. kynnjo Senior Member

    USA Spanish and English
    @exgerman: wonderful, very enlightening, thanks! That explanation really goes a long way.
     
  9. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    Germany
    German
    That's exactly what I meant. You could write e.g.

    Manche wollen die Leute / die Bevölkerung / das Volk mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken.
    or
    Viele wollen die Leute / die Bevölkerung / das Volk mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken.
     
  10. kynnjo Senior Member

    USA Spanish and English
    I see. This may be yet one more case in which the need to test the student got the best of the teacher... (The original line comes from an exercise where the student is supposed to identify the subject of the sentence. It seems that this led the authors to concoct some pretty stilted German...)
     
  11. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Yup. The original sentence is unnatural as well as grammatically ambiguous. Based on what I think the sentence is intended to mean, I assumed that manche is subject and viele is object, but that's not necessarily so from a strictly grammatical perspective.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  12. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    Hi, because this might be ambigious from point of view of pure grammar, but there is a rule like in English - SPO - replacing the case rule if you cannot recognize the case structure because nominative and dative are the same.
    It sounds a little bit clumsy.

    In some cases the rule is exchanged with the rule Exgerman gave: the important comes first. In some cases the context clears it. In others case markers clear it.

    Many want to scare some with the word "socialism".

    In my ears "viele" is subject, and "manche" is object in this type of sentence, if there is no context replacing this rule.

    ---
    Because the most of the others read "manche" as subject, there mus be a reason. It might be a local idiom. (For me it sounds like a kind of "Berlin" idiom.) In this case grammar is not relevant for explanation.
    It also can be used to combine both meanings like in a "Vexierbild" - designo-rebus;rumpecapite.

    PS: I searched in Google. This saying "viele wollen manche" is extremely seldom, and in most cases "manche" is (grammatically correct) combined with an object "viele wollen manche Sachen ..." which makes it clear.


    ---
    It is not a good example in a school book.

    Style: Funny and ironically.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2013
  13. ABBA Stanza Senior Member

    Hessen, DE
    English (UK)
    That's what I would have assumed (i.e., subject first if grammar is ambiguous and there is no context to help). See below for an example.

    Yes, but there are other analogous examples that are much more common. For example, I looked up "Deutschland schlägt England" and got lots of hits of the type "Deutschland schlägt England 4:1". Such a sentence invariably means that Germany won, not England, even though the latter is grammatically possible. Indirect proof of this can be obtained by searching for "England schlägt Deutschland", which, not surprisingly, yields substantially fewer hits. :D

    Cheers
    Abba
     
  14. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    That is true but the examples do not contain the viele - manche - relation. This is a relation with unknown amounts and sounds paradoxical and unusual in some way.
    It is a little bit like "Anstatt schlechter wird's immer schlimmer!" considering the poetic aspect.

    In the "viele manche" saying is some semantic part replacing grammar and grammar has influence to the semantic, like in a rebus. But nevertheless for me it seems likely that "viele" is subject, while rubidu and some others say the contrary.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2013
  15. exgerman Senior Member

    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Yes, that's the first thought, but then one says "that doesn't make sense, so it must be the other way around."
     
  16. JudyJo New Member

    Deutsch
    wow, now I am very confused about what this post was all about :D
    The fact that Viele wollen manche mit dem Wort „Sozialismus“ erschrecken sounds not natural is already named but what was the question? :D (just personal interest because I am so confused :p ein Deutscher kann es mir auch beantworten, Deutsch ist meine Muttersprache :D)
     
  17. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Dresden, Universum
    German, Germany
    The question was

    I do not think that it sounds directly ambiguous, but it sounds as if it is not well-formed in semantic sense. It is like "Nachts ist es kälter als draußen." It seems to be a kind of ironic language joke - if it is not used by accident.

    Viele can be fewer or more than manche, and both are indefinite.
     

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