Icelandic: "If you buy six pieces, you get six free"

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by ShakeyX, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Just trying to work out this sentence and was wondering if anyone would give me some help.

    I would go with, "Ef þú kaupir sex, færð þú sex frí"


    Cheers, Jake.
  2. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hi ShakeyX,

    Two suggestions:

    1) I think that the word order færð þú is incorrect unless this is preceded by an adverb such as þá. So you could say, Ef þú kaupir sex, þá færð þú ...

    2) It seems to be more common (based on Google) to say fá frítt (eitthvað) than fá (eitthvað) frítt.

    Also, I notice that you didn't translate the word piece in your Icelandic sentence (your English sentence says "six pieces"). What are these "pieces" of, specifically?

    I didn't see anything else wrong with your translation, but the experts may have more to say. :)
  3. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    Yeh sorry it was a bit rushed, the bit I am most concerned about is this "þá færð þú" as I asked some icelanders and they all said færðu but was worried this was just a common mistake due to how they say it in real life (in Reykjavík where I have been living for half a year now, Hvað segirðu is reduced to something along the lines of "Hvasajðu", so lax pronunciation).

    I assumed færðu was always just for the purpose of a question like "do you get" rather than "you get". But thanks for your help :)
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi Shakey,
    Well, V2 (= the rule[not without exceptions] that a finite verb always has to be in the second syntactic position in a clause) means that sometimes when you have something that isn't the subject of the verb, is placed in first place, then the order of the verb and subject is inverted and therefore becomes the same order as a question. Also, what you note about the reduced form is correct, but Icelandic is strange in that (given its observed tendency to be conservative), reduced forms based on speech are actually acknowledged and recognised in formal situations. It's like if 'gonna' was accepted in all circles in English (spelling based on pronunciation).

    You were right to invert the word order because what is going on here is that you have the 'main clause' (you get X free) and the 'conditional clause' (if you buy X) and with the main clause coming first ([You get six free] [if you buy six]), what is happening is that the whole of the conditional clause moves to the first 'slot' of the main clause, and then you're left with a main clause, with its first position taken up by the conditional clause, and then this causes subject-verb inversion.

    If you want a general word for pieces that will most often fit in, use stykki.

    [Þú færð sex stykki frí][ef þú kaupir sex (stykki)]
    [[ef þú kaupir sex stykki] færð þú sex (stykki) frí]

    It's also possible to just drop ef but that triggers the subjunctive. It's not that common given only strong verbs really show that much of a big difference between indicative and subjunctive. Apologies for the description. I'm a linguist so this is how explanations make sense to me but I can fully appreciate this might just have been some weird over-the-top way to explain something. If that's the case then please say and I will take another shot at it!

    Just to sound ordinary, you're probably best just putting in þá anyway (Ef þú kaupir sex stykki, þá færð þú sex (stykki) frí).
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2013
  5. ShakeyX Senior Member

    British English
    This was actually a perfect explanation and you got exactly what I was getting at.

    So in short you shouldn't grammatically use færðu but as that is how it sounds it is becoming accepted. I did however know about flipping the verb and the subject around even though it isn't a question, when following an adverb such as þá.

    Thanks again.
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    In fact, it is fine in most circumstances. You can consider it analogous to you are -> you're in English. Everyone says it / writes it to some level but you're told to avoid it in formal/academic writing. It's certainly not grammatically incorrect and I don't imagine unless you aim to enter a profession where you are fairly consistently churning out formal letters, that you would raise any eyebrows by using this.

    Consider the imperatives in Icelandic. How you append the second person pronoun to imperatives depends entirely on the last consonant of the verb stem. This is fully accepted and is even fine in the most formal of writing (the fact of being appended is mandatory for the imperative mood means it's more accepted than something which is only optional, like what we're talking about in this thread). So in an example like 'kenndu..' (teach..(!)) you've gone from kennd þú -> kenndðu-> kenndu. The sound has basically assimilated with the final consonant of the stem. That being as accepted as it is, regarding non-imperatives, it's the same process going on: færð þú -> færðu.

    This is where things are now 'at' regarding widespread acceptability. Taking forward a step is where you would find people turning up their collective noses a bit, and that is dropping out that sound after the second person singular -ur ending of a lot of verbs. I'm sure if you've seen informal conversations written down and heard them, the fricative has dropped away completely and it's quite ordinary to see questions starting out as 'Hefuru...?' This is what it just sounds like in non-carefully articulated speech (a.k.a. completely typical/ordinary speech). People will tend to say this when speaking quickly but put in the extra letter when writing (though the younger generation often don't). I've seen books on the instruction of Icelandic to foreigners talk about this and include examples of published cartoons way back in the 70s. It's not a new thing, just a further development on from when this was accepted. An example I've got in a book now is an adult addressing a child who is looking for something with "Hefuru gleymt einkeru?" You can see from the spelling of einhverju that it's intended to be representative of connected speech.

    This subject/verb inversion often causes contractions. Here's an example from Google: "[Ef þú ert í vafa] [skaltu nota bókamerki sem þú getur treyst til að komast á mikilvægar síður]". It's not just with but wherever considerably possible that you're likely to see it i.e. in published instructions (which are not incredibly formal) as well. So, short answer being it is fine and widely accepted and definitely not to be considered grammatically incorrect.

    Hope it helps.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013
  7. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    My guess is that this has to do with the high level of literacy among Icelandic speakers. Even if the contracted forms are the ones that predominate in everyday speech, the non-contracted forms will remain in the minds of speakers as the dominant written option (or at least a very common written option). Therefore, it doesn't threaten the conservatism of Icelandic (or at least that of written Icelandic) to designate both forms as acceptable.

    Another possible factor is the small overall number of Icelandic speakers: if the population were larger, then it would be easier for divergent forms (such as the contractions you're talking about) to build "momentum" among certain groups of speakers and thereby edge out the more conservative forms.
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Exactly. Population-size is a big factor that means a level of control can be held over changing the route of development. That was how they eradicated flámæli (starting) back in the 50s and 60s. Also, when 'z' was officially dropped from the alphabet. Changes can be adopted in schools and a lifetime or two is enough to see complete changes in what many people would call the natural course of development.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013

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