Icelandic: ekki strange position

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Again in simpsons, now twice I have seen ekki at the start of the sentence before a verb (which was not in the infinitive form and therefore not a command such as EKKI GERA...)

    Ekki hélt ég að ég þyrfti að fljúga til að hitta milhouse.

    I never thought i'd have to take a plane to see Milhouse (is what is acutally sad in the program)

    Why is it not ég hélt ekki að...
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    When you want to stress (put emphasis) on an element then you can move it to the front of the clause (this is called topicalisation) in a lot of descriptions of Icelandic but it means nothing more than putting something at the start of a clause and this having the order switch around in the normal ways. Not many people actually consider English to be a V2 language, and to be fair it is not, but we do have some teeny tiny areas of English syntax which show earlier V2 word order and it's exactly in parallel to this construction in Icelandic (i.e. negative element first in a sentence).

    Never did I think I would have to fly to meet Milhouse.
    (not *Never I did think....)

    Now, putting ekki at the start of a sentence is more normal than using this 'never' construction. As I said, their syntactically the same but not semantically (well, yes kinda the same semantically, too, but what I mean is while it might be more restricted in English, it's not so much in Icelandic).
    It's just a way of expressing a stronger (i.e. more in surprise, too) version of what would be the default order (the one you asked about).
    As you know, with case marking, it allows the order to be more variable like objects going first in a sentence and then V2 switching the order around of the subject and verb.
    It nicely allows for all sorts of things to be topicalised which then gives them more 'prominence' (which in turn comes out as they sound more emphasised in the sentence).

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013

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