All Slavic languages: position of adjectives

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by jazyk, Nov 28, 2007.

  1. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I don't know squat about Serbian, but with the help of other Slavic languages, I think it means literally: Come, yours are legs younger. The adjective seems to be after the noun, which is unusual for most parts in Slavic languages, except Polish, which uses it extensively, as was discussed here, and Czech, which has (rarely) that order in some fixed expressions. Ústav pro jazyk český is an example that comes to mind.

    Is my interpretation correct? What other Slavic languages place adjectives after nouns? I'm not talking about the predicate position, because in that position adjectives are typically separated from nouns/pronouns by a linking verb. I'm interested in the attributive position.
  2. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Yes, that's more or less correct. The exact English translation would be (with the corresponding words highlighted):

    Hajde, tvoje su noge mlađe.
    Come [on], your legs are younger.

    Actually, in this sentence, the adjective mlađe (meaning "younger", and in this case inflected for feminine plural nominative) is a part of the predicate, rather than a noun phrase. Thus, its placement after the noun in the above sentence is no more relevant than the fact that the adjective younger, being a part of the predicate, is also placed after the noun (though not immediately) in its English translation. Due to the large freedom of word order in Serbian, the sentence could also follow the English word order without any change in meaning (in this case, not even a change of emphasis):

    Hajde, tvoje noge su mlađe. :tick:

    Now, when it comes to adjectives that qualify the noun as a part of the noun phrase, they are normally placed before the noun, very much like in English: mlada djevojka = young girl. In most cases, it's also possible to place them after the noun, but this is generally restricted to highly poetic language and some fixed sayings.

    There are a few exceptions that, for some curious reason, closely parallel those in English. For example, adjectives are placed after pronouns: nešto lijepo = something beautiful.
  3. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština

    This makes Serbian the most wildly flexible Slavic language I've ever seen. I don't think Czech or Polish admit Tvoje/Tvé jsou nohy mladší and Twoje są nogi młodsze, respectively.
  4. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    The reason is that in Serbian (and Croatian etc.) , the verb biti ("to be") has two forms in the present tense: full and clitic.* I don't think anything similar exists in Czech or Polish. Syntactically, the full form (jesam, jesi, jest(e), jesmo, jeste, jesu) behaves more or less as you might expect, but the clitic form (sam, si, je, smo, ste, su) can move around more freely. Thus:

    Tvoje noge su mlađe. :tick:
    Tvoje su noge mlađe. :tick:
    Tvoje noge jesu mlađe. :tick:
    (Gives a special emphasis to jesu, as if contesting an opposite claim.)
    Tvoje jesu noge mlađe. :cross:

    The questions of when to use the clitic and when the full form, and which word orderings are valid with each form, are one of those incomprehensibly obscure areas of syntax for which you just have to develop an intuitive feel. Along with the verbal aspects, the syntax of clitics is probably the most difficult problem for foreign learners of Croatian and Serbian.

    * Actually, it has another quasi-present form, but that one is used mostly with future meanings.

  5. cajzl Senior Member

    In Czech you can even split the syntactical couples, but it is usually restricted to highly poetic style. For example the following fragment from Ovidius can be translated with the very same word order into Czech:

    Alta tardat arena pedes.

    Vysoký brzdí písek nohy. = The high sand slows down the legs.

    the following variant has different meaning:

    Vysoké brzdí písek nohy. = The sand slows down the high legs.
  6. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Too bad, not many answers yet, so I just add the Slovak shrewdly :) to refresh the thread, because the situation is the same as in Czech, and if I am not mistaken, but in Russian it is also the adjective + noun order.
  7. Awwal12

    Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    Usually it is so, but in high and especially poetic speech exceptions are highly possible.
    In common speech, the order "noun - attributive" usually means a statement (in present tense, where additional verbs aren't needed for it).
    эти прекрасные глаза - these beautiful eyes
    эти глаза (-) прекрасны(е) - these eyes are beautiful (statement)
    "Вижу очи твои изумрудные..." - "I see your emerald green eyes..." (poetic, by V.Solovyov; note the "noun -> attributives" order)
  8. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    And how about expressions like "Oh, my love!" in Russian? Or other languages.
    In Czech and Slovak you say "Lásko má!" or in Slovak "Duša moja!" so the noun+adjective order. I don't know why. Maybe Italian influence (Amore mio!).
  9. Awwal12

    Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    Both "моя любимая" or "любимая моя" (about a woman) would do, with insignificant nuances of meaning. And, actually, the word order with possessive pronouns seems to be more free than with adjectives. Or maybe it's just my imagination?.. :)
  10. TriglavNationalPark

    TriglavNationalPark Senior Member

    Chicago, IL, U.S.A.
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    It's the same in Slovenian: "Ljubezen moja!", "Ljuba moja!", "Draga moja!"
  11. pink_devil Member

    Same in Bulgarian- " Любов моя". Well, actually both ways are possible. Normally the word order is adjective+ noun- " красива жена" ( a beautiful woman), "млад мъж" ( a young man) and so on. However, in some cases- especially in poems - it's possible to be noun+adjective: "очи-дълбоки" (deep eyes) " кръв алена" ( scarlet blood).
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  12. Azori

    Azori Senior Member

    In Slovak (and in Czech) adjectives after nouns occur (apart from poetic language) also, for instance, in specialized / scientific terminology, such as names of animals, plants, substances... e.g. slon africký (African bush elephant), chlorid sodný (sodium chloride) etc.

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