bidra til = føre til?

serbianfan

Senior Member
British English
Do these sentences sound ok to you? Or the equivalent sentences in Danish and Swedish?
(From Utdanningsnytt): Men i 1997 brøt borgerkrigen ut og bidro til store ødeleggelser i landet
(From Årsrapport, Røde Kors): Syklonene Idai og Kenneth bidro til store ødeleggelser langs kysten i Mosambik.

The Norwegian dictionary NAOB doesn't give 'føre til' or 'forårsake' as a meaning of 'bidra til', it says 'bidra til' = 'være medvirkende årsak'. But it seems to have become quite common to use it in the meaning of 'føre til' in Norwegian. Obviously there weren't any other contributing factors when the cyclones caused the destruction (unless you say that the houses were in bad shape already, but that's stretching it a bit!) Opinions, please! :)
 
  • Svenke

    Senior Member
    Norwegian
    I agree, as a native speaker.
    I'm not sure whether I would have reacted to hearing/reading those sentences, though. There's quite possible a change underway.
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    Or the equivalent sentences in Danish

    To be perfectly honest, I don't think I would have picked up on this in Danish, but I think it's an excellent observation, serbianfan.

    The definition of bidrage til (according to 'Den danske ordbog') is, "medvirke til et fælles foretagende," which is in line with the Norwegian definition above. Bidrage til - contribute to something (instead of being the cause of it.)
    bidrage — Den Danske Ordbog

    Interestingly, the dictionary also has a category, "ord i nærheden"...which is a list of parasynonyms based on 'Den Danske Begrebsordbog.'


    Clearly, some of the verbs in these groups, including medføre, foranledige, give ophav til, forårsage etc. seem to be used synonymously with bidrage til in Norwegian/Danish today.

    Why is this happening? Is it because of structural similarities between verbs like medvirke and medføre? I haven't noticed a similar trend in the use of contribute and cause/generate in English so I doubt it's because of English influence/Anglicisms.

    Any ideas?
     

    winenous

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Why is this happening? Is it because of structural similarities between verbs like medvirke and medføre? I haven't noticed a similar trend in the use of contribute and cause/generate in English so I doubt it's because of English influence/Anglicisms.

    Any ideas?
    No, not in English in the context of destruction, but I wonder if it might also be the result of a general reluctance to link cause and effect in reporting.

    In the UK now, you tend to hear sentences on the news like "The man died after being shot in the head", when I am sure such events used to be reported as "The man was killed by a shot to the head". It's almost as if they want to allow for ridiculously unlikely possibilities, like that the man was actually poisoned, and the bullet in his head was incidental to his death.
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    Still no answer from a Swedish speaker here, but I found "Orkanen Matthew bidrog till stora skador" so it's maybe the same in Swedish. I wonder about Icelandic? And I wonder how it happened that "bidra til" came to mean "føre til" and whether it happened at the same time in all the Scandinavian languages? I'm sure in Ibsen's day it wasn't used like that, but I can't prove it.

    As Winenous says, it's not correct in English. I did find "LONG DURATION OF TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS AND HIGH GUSTS CONTRIBUTED TO CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE TO TREES AND FOLIAGE IN..." (on weather.gov), but just because you get 1-2 hits for something on Google, that doesn't mean it's correct!

    And Bicontinental says "Why is this happening?", using the present continuous to suggest it's going on now and perhaps increasing. My feeling is that when I first lived in Norway in the 1970s, "bidra til" wasn't used in that way, but again I can't prove it. You can find statistics on how often a word or phrase was used in written Norwegian, but probably not on how often it was used with a certain meaning.

    Dette "bidrar til" mye hodevrengning! (There's a nice Norwegian word for you :))
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    In the UK now, you tend to hear sentences on the news like "The man died after being shot in the head", when I am sure such events used to be reported as "The man was killed by a shot to the head".
    A language is definitely dynamic and in constant evolution. That said, I think the two sentences above could also mean something slightly different...depending on the context, of course. The 'died after being shot' might suggest that the victim survived initially but later succumbed to his wounds, whereas the 'killed by a shot' sounds to me as if he died on the spot.
    Why is this happening?", using the present continuous to suggest it's going on now
    Yes, I do wonder if it is a more recent change and my choice of grammatical tense was probably influenced by the reference to "Den Danske Begrebsordbog" which was published in 2014 according to this source: Den Danske Begrebsordbog — ordnet.dk
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm a bit busy just now, but I think I will post something about this on the "all languages" forum, to see if "contribute to" has come to mean "lead to" in any other languages :)
     

    serbianfan

    Senior Member
    British English
    If you look at the latest posts under 'contribute to = cause?' on the All Languages Forum, you will see that 'bidraga till' was used in Swedish with the meaning 'cause' as far back as the 18th century. So then I (mistakenly) thought it may have been acceptable in Swedish for a long time and come to Norwegian and Danish later. But looking up 'bidraga' in the SAOB dictionary, I see that it only gives the 'contribute' meaning, and all of the 30-odd examples from about 1700-1900 mean 'contribute', as far as I can see.

    So we have a situation where the dictionaries in all three languages say that 'bidra(ge/ga)' means 'contribute', but in fact it's often used (even by organisations, government, etc) in what to me is a quite different meaning. And it's an important difference - imagine reading a medical article where you don't know whether x was the only cause, or a contributory cause, of disease y.
     

    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    That's very interesting...now I'll definitely start paying attention to the use of these verbs. And as you point out, at least in some contexts the choice of one or the other may not be trivial or inconsequential. Thanks again for noticing it.
     
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