Icelandic: eintala/sem problem

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    This was sent for kids about road safety and I swear it is incorrect.

    Vissir þú að það má aldrei fara á milli bíla sem er lagt við gangstétt og fara svo út á götu?

    Okay before I get told that this is perfectly correct and I should accept it :p what is the standard rule for sem as a conjunction and following adjectives, to they usually retain it's case.

    á milli einhvers sem er rautt


    á milli einhvers sem er rauðs

    Ontop of that back to the sentence, what warrants the use of er lagt when there are plural cars and the case doesn't even match, very confusing.
  2. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    I agree with you that it should be in plural.
    Regarding the case, I believe that in almost any IE language, the case of the relative pronoun depends on its position in the subordinate clause.
    So sem here will be nominative because it is the subject of er lagt við... (maybe eru lagðir við)

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    What case comes after leggja when you mean park?
    Think about it. :cool:
  4. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    And here goes the eternal dative passive problem again.
    Should it be bílum er lagt and then bílum is substituted by sem which is still sem in dative?
  5. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    On the right lines with that thinking.
    It's easier to view it as it would have been bílum but the preceding á milli has a higher precedence of case assignment and thus throws its genitive onto the noun which covers it. Sem is just a conjunction that is invariable.
    Often the clausal requirements of verbs nested in a sem clause don't have the 'reach' to assign their case to related nouns in the main clause, because of other reasons like case issues higher up in the main clause. Here though, the syntax of the dative passive shows itself in the verb and past participle, but it's cloaked on the noun by a preposition higher up that assigns genitive (á milli).

    Isn't Icelandic fascinating? :cool:
  6. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    I am completely confused why are we talking about the case of what sem is.. can sem have case. Can anyone answer my example so I can even begin to get into the realms of dealing with this following prepositions and dative and other such things, i don't even know if it should be rautt or rauðs yet :p
  7. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    No, sem doesn't take case.
    It wouldn't be rauðs because predicate adjectives don't work that way. It'd be the nominative if you have "er + red".
    What specific form of nominative we don't know because you didn't include any noun in your example.

    If you wanted to say something like "Between the Red Cross and other charities" then it would be genitive 'Rauða krossins'.
  8. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    I tend to see sem as a pronoun which does have case, just with a single form for all of them.
    As for a easier example, á milli einhvers sem er rautt, sem is the subject of the subordinate clause and have the nominative case (like you'd say það er rautt, and replace það with sem, so they are both nominative).

    Next, let´s look at a similar one:
    á milli einhvers sem hann lagði á götuna here, let´s assume you have used a generic 'einhvers' and not specifically parking a car, such that it is in accusative. Then you´d mean something like hann lagði það á götuna where það is accusative. now replace það with sem again, you get the sentence above.

    Similarly, assuming you are still using the accusative governing leggja,
    á milli einhverra sem eru lagðir á götuna
    you´d say þau eru lagðir á götuna where þau is nominative plural. so you´d expect sem to be also nom pl.

    Returning to the original sentence,
    when you use a dative with leggja, the passive of hann lagði bílum is
    bílum er lagt.
    then bílum should be substituted with sem, here as a dative plural. er lagt is unchanged.

  9. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Just little agreement fix.

    For the sem thing, I think for English speakers it's easier to conceptualise it as which/that.
    It's been about 50 years since sem was called a pronoun in Icelandic linguistics. It's viewed as a conjunction (different from which/that in English, but quite close). However it's easiest for anyone to view it, there's no wrong answer. To each their own.
  10. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    Isn't it grammatically possible to have á milli bíla sem rauðum er lagt við...? (I know everyone with a normal mind should useá milli bíla rauðra sem er lagt við..., but is it completely unheard of even in the old language and/or poetry?)
  11. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I'm not sure I get what it's supposed to mean.
    Can you elaborate?

    In the normal way the adjective would come before the noun (á milli rauðra bíla...).
  12. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    bílum rauðum er lagt
    If you leave rauðum out and only replace bílum with sem (or er), theoretically you can get bíla sem rauðum er lagt, where you have er and a dative adjective, that you said can´t coexist.
    I know normally people would just say bíla rauðra sem er lagt, but is the other way completely unattested, even when for example trying to comply with poetic meters?
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I don't think it's possible to make theoretical assumptions based on premises that we don't agree on.
    To linguists, sem is just a conjunction (tílvisunartenging) that doesn't hold case and isn't a specific subject.
    I don't know why you'd put the adjective after the noun when it would typically go before it.
    Yes, in poetic language and in older forms of the languages it could be the other way around, but never in a way that would cross 'sem'. It would be in its designated noun phrase (nafnliður) and sem could never be in between them except if you had a predicative use with the adjective and used stylistic inversion to get bílar sem rauðir eru but that's not what's going on in this case.

    It's an interesting idea but I just don't see how it functionally works. I'd prefer to stay within the opinions of the linguists who study it unless there was some really, really compelling case not to. Once you get sem followed by an adjective that is behaving attributively instead of predicatively, I'm sure it just becomes ungrammatical.
  14. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Okay, I went to sleep, re-read this. And I can now understand why this is lagt... parking takes dative... bílum er lagt - á milli (bílum) sem er lagt. Oh acutally just during writing this that sprung a question. If the preposition á milli wasn't there (and I can't think of a sentence) but would there ever be a case where a noun is affected by something after the sem... i.e. "það eru bílum sem er lagt" or would it be "það eru bílar sem er lagt"

    But yeh besides that I do now understand the sentence.... what I still don't get, and I apologise I know you've probably explained but I read your comments 5-6 times and I still don't know...

    á milli einhvers sem er rautt


    á milli einhvers sem er rauðs

    Maybe the example isn't valid, but you understand the concept i'm going for.. i tried to think of more but always come out with something that sounds odd... það er maður sem er hvítur... farðu til hans sem er hvítur/hvíts?

    I know again, go to him which is white doesn't really make sense but I'm just asking if case matching is required as you are referencing back to the main clause something which is declined so I would imagine you have to decline everything?
  15. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Your second example is correct. The thing about sem is it's adding information. In a sense (like I suppose is the case with all relative pronouns in a sense) they are superfluous and it's possible to have a grammatical sentence without them. Generally up in the main clause is where case assignment precedence is higher so there is a higher precedence for bílar to be nominative due to það eru than to take case from something after sem which is a sub-clause with less precedence. I can't think of an example off the top of my head at the moment but the environment of the sentence would be when there isn't another case-issue in the main clause with any strict case requirements, then the case inside the sem-clause can 'crawl up' and assign case.

    Here is one example I found:
    You have bil sem er á + dative and instead of því (dative) the genitive requirement of krefjast comes up out of the sem-clause and assigns genitive to þess which is up in the main clause. That sort of requirement for dative is looser. I'm not sure how best to explain why because it's just a feeling that develops. I'd say partly because it was conjoined and there already has been a dative noun phrase preceding it and because the meaning and point of it being there is directly because of wanting to say "that which is required."

    About the last sentence, you'll have to come up with a better way to explain what you mean because it's hard to correct what we both know is a mistake in the first place. Having vera and an adjective would break any requirement for case to be preserved anyway. I don't know if that answers your question.
  16. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    So I guess it's like...

    Donna borðaði kökuna - Kakan var ljúffeng - Donna borðaði kökuna, hún var ljúffeng... Donna borðaði kökuna sem var ljúffeng. (EKKI ljúffenga)...

    Donna borðaði ljúffenga köku would be okay...

    or Donna borðaði ljúffengu kökuna sem var á borðinu

  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Exactly, that's what I said before, vera + (predicate) adjective brings you back to nominative. :)
    You've made me hungry now.
  18. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    I reserve my opinion on this one.
    If this can be correct, the OP's sentence can become like á milli rauðs bíls og bíli (þeas. öðrum) sem er lagt
    which is very strange.
  19. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    What is the reasoning behind the correctness of both of them based on the correctness of one?
    This is language, not logic. For all we know, this might only be possible with það without any more information.
    It's just not possible to extrapolate rules like that.

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