BCS Syntax - Word Order

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Tassos, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    There is a certain I don't know if I can call it "rule", "way" or "practice" in the syntax of texts from all BCS countries. That consists of “breaking” the compound structures (future tense, past tense, conditional mood) and inserting words or phrases between the auxiliary and the main verb. I give you some examples:

    Večeras su mreže na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici mirovale, mada je bilo prilika na obje strane. (taken from a Bosnian newspaper)

    Osim što je Nizozemce proljeća u Ligi prvaka koštao Dinamov potop (6-0) u drugom poluvremenu utakmice protiv Lyona,... (taken from a Croatian newspaper – very diffucult syntax for me to grasp)

    On je mornaricu pozvao na sprovođenje intenzivnih priprema za borbu i ubrzanu modernizaciju kako bi Kina garantovala nacionalnu bezbednost i svetski mir. (taken from a Serbian newspaper)

    Kako je Velika Britanija postala probušeni dolar (title of a Zabranjeno Pušenje song)

    This type of syntax is allowed in English but the only things you can put between the auxiliary and the main verb are adverbs and "not" (for example: ...I had already eaten, I will almost certainly not come etc). In BCS you can insert adverbs, nouns, whole phrases etc. All this seems really unnatural to me (not so much to understand but to use it myself in speaking or writing), as in my native language – Greek – this “breaking” is allowed only in present and past perfect and only with adverbs and NEVER used in the future tenses. So I have to ask, do people use that type of syntax in everyday life or only in more formal contexts (like newspaper articles, speeches, lectures etc) and if someone does not use it (and says or writes: “Večeras mreže na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici su mirovale” or "On je pozvao mornaricu ...”) does that seem unnatural to you ?
  2. VelikiMag Senior Member

    Serbian - Montenegro
    Some time ago, there was a topic about syntax and word order in BCS so you can search for it. Generally speaking, certain 'rules' do exist, but often there is more than one way to say the same thing. Some of the sentences you gave indeed sound a bit formal to me, but then it all depends on circumstances. In everyday speech sentences tend to be short, unless you are explaining something.

    One way to put it is like you already wrote yourself: Večeras, mreže na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici su mirovale.

    Or, the most common way would be: Večeras su mirovale mreže na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici.

    This sounds as if word mornarica has already been mentioned before in the text. But it is also correct to say:
    On je pozvao mornaricu...
  3. yael* Senior Member

    Perth WA
    I totally agree with you. The sports magazines BSC is horrible, full of stupid banal and, often, meaningless metaphors.
    In these two examples the word order is better and more natural than any other possible combination, although the others might be correct as well.
  4. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    As VelikiMag (and, um, "someone" whose post was deleted in the meanwhile) hinted, our word order is not as free as often advertised. Namely, one of its rather hard limits is the principle "clitics second", where clitics, (particularly auxiliary verbs) must come second in the sentence... for a suitable value of "second" :D.

    I searched old topics, but I didn't find any thorough discussion on the subject. We did touch on it in several threads, like:

    Bosnian (BCS): Koja ti se jela sviđaju? (word order)
    Serbian (BCS): syntax - Моји пријатељи желе да остану на вечери.

    It is covered to an extent in Alt & Browne's A Handbook of Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian (http://www.seelrc.org/projects/grammars.ptml seems to give a dead link; try googling for mirrors), p.55. Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, a grammar: with sociolinguistic commentary by Ronelle Alexander is more thorough, but not all pages are available (it says "When it comes to clitic placement, in fact, the rules of BCS are so complex that it is better to use a different term altogether.").

    Basically, the rule says that the clitics must

    1) come after a stressed word (i.e. must not follow a logical pause)
    2) come second in a "sentence core"

    So it affects both syntax and prosody. Let us take the Tassos' sentence Večeras su mreže na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici mirovale, and break it into constituents:

    [Večeras]time [su]clitic [mreže]subject [na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici]location [mirovale]main verb.

    Now, you may shuffle the contents pretty arbitrarily, but you must keep the clitic second. All of the following is OK:

    Mreže su večeras mirovale na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici.
    Večeras su mirovale mreže na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici.
    Večeras su na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici mirovale mreže.
    Mirovale su mreže večeras na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici. (This one is a bit marked: verb is not normally put at the beginning of a long sentence)

    Now, the toughie is that long adverbial phrases are "logical units" (rhytmic constituents, as Alexander cals them) and they are usually followed by a logical pause (marked | below). When they start the sentence, the clitic should come second in the remainder:

    Na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici | večeras su mirovale mreže.
    Na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici | večeras su mreže mirovale.
    Na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici | mreže su večeras mirovale.

    Now, that rule is not so hard, especially in spoken language, so you will possibly hear:

    Na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici su mreže večeras mirovale.

    As for Veliki Mag's suggestion:

    Večeras, [mreže na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici] su mirovale.

    it could work, because it's ambiguous whether na stadionu modifies "mreže" (making together a noun phrase), or is just an adverbial locational phrase. Does not sound natural to me, though. And, as soon as you make a logical break (e.g. inserting a clause), you "restart" the sentence core, and the clitic goes to second position again:

    Večeras, iako oba tima imaju vrhunske napadače, mreže su mirovale.

    Now, opinions vary whether the clitic may break the noun phrase, i.e. an adjectival group. In everyday speech, they tend to stick together:

    [Veliki engleski klub] [je] [zapao [u velika dugovanja]].

    Since the noun phrase is long and often follows a pause/breath, the following is a bit more stylish:

    [Veliki engleski klub] | [zapao [je] [u velika dugovanja]].

    However, it is possible to insert the clitic literally second here, but that sounds formal and bookish. It is more encountered in Croatian media and literature, than in Serbian and Bosnian:

    [Veliki [je] engleski klub] [zapao [u velika dugovanja]].

    Like Alexander says, it's one of most complex aspects of the language; it just cannot be learned by heart. I suppose it would take a long practice and immersion to really grasp it, as even native speakers cannot really explain what makes an order grammatical, and what not. So... don't worry about it too much.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011
  5. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
  6. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    In Greece it's very much the same. In this particular phrase I was referring not only to the use of words
    "proljeća" or "potop" but also the choice to put the phrase about the "Dutch spring" first and mix it with the
    past verb "je koštao" and then the phrase about the flood in the second half (which was what cost the
    "Dutch Spring" in the first place ...)

    In fact this is the book I am using.
    But the good thing is that your analysis is more compact and it is based on a real example.
    (books sometimes create examples just to point out something, but in reality these are phrases
    that are seldom used in real situations). So thanks very much!

    This is very true. When I visit the pages on the Greek language of this forum and see what non greek
    speakers are posting I instantly know if there is a problem with the word order of their phrases. Most times
    it's not about a rule, it just does not sound right!
    The reason I started this thread is that when I am reading one of the many BCS newspapers I find a "su"
    or a "ću" and then no verb!! After six or seven words there is the verb and I am totally lost!! :)
    I consider this and the verb aspect to be the most complex parts of the BCS language (I don't have particular problems with cases for example because Greek is also a higly inflected language)
  7. yael* Senior Member

    Perth WA
    I am afraid that's true, it is very hard. I had the same problem with the compound verbs (verbs with separable prefix) in German - you can find many words between the second element (which comes first!) and the second element positioned at the end of the sentence, meaning you have to listen carefully till the end of the clause to understand what happened. And that was really hard sometimes, I would forget the verb while waiting for the prefix to come. And it gets much harder if you don't understand one of the words in the middle.

    I was reading some Serbian newspapers on line and I have to admit it's not easy. Check these three examples: :)

    - Budžetski inspektor je gore pomenute dokaze protiv Snežane Mandić predao i javnom tužiocu, ali javni tužilac nikada nije reagovao.
    - Oni su 13.10.2011 posle suđenja gde nije bilo dokaza o njihovoj krivici oslobođeni...
    - Interesantno je da je tokom protekle godine od 15 protivzakonitih javnih nabavki, na čak šest učestvovala i prošla firma iz Beograda "Mali princ".

  8. Huginn

    Huginn Member

    How about "Večeras su mreže mirovale na stadionu Bilino polje u Zenici".. would it be a common option both in spoken and written BCS?

    On Alexander's book i've also found these examples (labeled as Croatian):

    Kakav je on čovjek?
    Moja je sestra učiteljica.

    Do Croatians really speak like that breaking down the subject or it's just "written/stylish/formal language"? How would, for instance, constructions like "moja sestra je../kakav čovjek je..?" (which make more sense to me) be perceived in colloquial/spoken HR?
  9. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    I can't tell you about everyday speech but in Croatian online newspapers I frequently read these types of sentences not only in journalists' texts but also in quoted parts or interviews.

    A second very interesting thing concerning this subject is the following two song lyrics:
    Neke su žene pratile vojnike (also the song title)
    svakom je kralju potrebna luda (from the song "Dvorska Budala")
    written both by the very Serbian Bora Đorđević. I don't know what that means for this "tendency" and I'll wait for the native speakers before drawing any conclusions.
  10. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Kakav je on čovek? is pretty run-of-the-mill, unmarked, Serbian (and Bosnian and Croatian). Here, je does not break a strong bond: kakav čovek is not a tight noun phrase It is possible to say Kakav čovek je on?, but that's more marked and shifts the focus to on, e.g:

    - Pera je pošten, samo je malo lenj.
    - A Marko? Kakav čovek je on?

    On the other hand, Velik je on čovek is more marked, poetic; clitic breaks the NP velik čovek.

    Other examples:

    Moja je sestra učiteljica.
    Neke su žene pratile vojnike.
    Svakom je kralju potrebna luda

    are just slightly more stylish than versions with unbroken NP. They can be heard in everyday BCS, in the sense that nobody would notice, unless you start doing it in every sentence. Croatians maybe tend to do it more often, but only slightly.
  11. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    On re-reading, I guess I owe you few more answers:

    Yes; it's rather natural word order.

    As for the first, Moja sestra je učiteljica. is the most natural/unmarked word order in whole BCS area. For the second, I explained it above.

    I'm sorry that I cannot articulate the rules well. For the second example, the mind process goes like:

    KAKAV <pause> - main theses/topic of the sentence

    Je - clitics second

    on - subject before the verb/predicate

    čovek - predicate, i.e. what remains.


    Kako on pravi kuću?

    KAKO - topic/question

    on pravi kuću - subject-verb-object, no clitics involved.
  12. sesperxes

    sesperxes Senior Member

    Burgos (Spain)
    Tassos, you can put this sentence to our common collection of "rarities":

    Prilikom istraživanja Sibira sovjetski geolozi su 1978, osmatranjem iz aviona, otkrili porodicu koja je živela izolovano u tajgi. (from an article in Blic)
  13. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    I think that it isn't so rare because if I am not mistaken after Prilikom istraživanja Sibira the sentence "restarts" in a way. So, I don't think that the su can "enter" this initial phrase. To me the other (more "Croatian") alternative would be:

    Prilikom istraživanja Sibira sovjetski su geolozi 1978, osmatranjem iz aviona, otkrili porodicu koja je živela izolovano u tajgi.

  14. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Sovjetski su geolozi prilikom istraživanja Sibira 1978. osmatranjem iz aviona otkrili porodicu koja je izolirano živjela u tajgi.

    is conceivable as well.

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