Icelandic: omission of subject and object

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Gavril, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    This is a somewhat broad question, but, how normal or acceptable is it to omit both the subject and the object of a verb in Icelandic?

    Here are some possible (hopefully not too skringileg) examples:

    Möguleikinn, að Ísland gengi til liðs við ESB, hefur vakt mikinn áhuga; rætt hefur verið um

    Óeirðirnar höfðu sérstaklega harkaleg áhrif á miðbænum. Þar eyðilaggði meðal annars með kylfum og sprautumálningu.

    Í hvaða hlutum Höfuðborgarsvæðisins er mest byggt hin síðari ár?

    Can all the highlighted verbs be left without objects (the objects being understood contextually), or is an object necessary in some of them?


    P.S. -- This question was inspired by something Merkurius wrote in an earlier thread:

    (Here, I think með svakalegum = með orðinu "svakalegur")

    It appears as though eiga við is being used without a subject or object in this sentence, but perhaps I'm missing something.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Given that dummy pronouns only occur if they precede the verb, when you have V2 in subordinate clauses (unlike in Scandinavian languages, Icelandic being IP-V2 and not CP-V2), you often put the non-finite form of the verb directly in the first position of a clause in order to allow the finite one to occupy the correct 'second position' and this is how Icelandic obeys this rule. It's a bit clumsy I think to constantly use the dummy pronoun in subordinate clauses and when you have an often passive meaning, the natural order is as you have guessed.

    Við erum að tala um nýja rannsókn sem [gert] [[hefur] [verið]]....

    If you don't use this order you have 'hefur' (finite verb) coming right at the start of the subordinate clause, which Icelandic doesn't like to do. Often if you've already introduced the topic this is your only choice because it'd be weird to have an actual referential 'it' following a noun phrase you've already introduced in a previous clause. I have a few reservations on some of your example sentences but that's for a native to confirm. In Merkurius' quote, you have your first element in a clause and it's impossible to put a dummy pronoun in there due to V2, so the verb goes in, and since you don't use a dummy pronoun after the verb, it's left out. That sentence doesn't have/need an object anyway so it's not a case of any omission here ('With 'svakalegur', it's meant in a positive way').

    Often in more formal language, especially news-speak it's much more desirable to use the past participle first:

    Það er talið að ....
    Talið er að....:thumbsup::thumbsup:

    I hope that's answering the question! Apologies if not.

    This is the "Faroese" way to say this. It's used in Icelandic but you're much much much better using athygli here for this meaning than áhugi.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  3. Merkurius Senior Member

    To give you a quick response; no you cannot skip the words in blue.
    What inspired this thread
    Is obviously a misunderstanding. What I was trying to say was that ''with the word svakalegur I'm meaning in a positive way..'' I admit that I should have said there ''Orðið „svakalegar“ er átt við á jákvæðan hátt.'' and even better ''„Svakalegar“ er átt við á jákvæðan hátt.'' I'm really sorry for this misunderstanding!
    Addition: I should have skipped the 'með'.

    Actually to me Gavril is correct. It's allright to put in áhuga as well as athygli. :) But your theory is fascinaiting, and perhaps correct, but it is correct to use it in Icelandic.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  4. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I should also probably have written vakið rather than vakt, which I don't think is used in Icelandic at all. :)
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Thanks, Merkurius -- I had a question about the sentence,

    Á hvaða hlutum höfuðborgarsvæðisins var mest byggt hin síðari ár?

    It still seems as though var byggt has no (explicit) subject in this sentence. Can byggja normally be used without an object (e.g., Arkitektinn/Byggingarlistamaðurinn byggði oft á þessum hluta höfuðborgarsvæðisins)?
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  6. Merkurius Senior Member

    I'll let Alxmrphi answer the first two, but I'll answer the two in the end.

    No, there are not supposed to be two ''er''s in the sentence. You only have to say ''Það er talið að..'' He just did like I do so often and repeat the word! Like one says in Latin ''Errare humanum est'' ;)

    No, you don't use vakt as an verb... like ''Ég hef vakt alla nótt..'' but of course we have the noun vakt (kvk. et.) which means a shift (at work).
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2012
  7. Merkurius Senior Member

    Yes, actually you can. But you have to be careful about the meaning, even though it's not so far from each other:
    -> Many buildings were built in the Capital Area during the years 2000-2012.

    The ash as begun falling in the area where people live near Vatnajökull.

    So just watch out for the noun byggð vs. the verb að byggja (F.ex. Byggingin var byggð ... The building was built...) :)

    Here everybody would understand what you were saying because you're saying ''Byggingarlistamaðurinn'' .... But it would be much more beautiful to say
    But the one you used is correct in my opinion.
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Mission: short and concise.

    I really shouldn't have commented on the lexical choices made. I never do that and always leave it to the natives but in this case I don't know why I made an exception and went on a hunch. I always see "vekja athygli", everywhere. It's statistically much more prevalent than áhugi (I did check) and given that joining the EU is such a hotly debated topic, the idea of áhugi seemed to be not the best way to describe it, it'd be (for me) what I expect to be athygli (It's attracted a lot of [both positive and negative] attention). Having said that, if the person writing it wanted to express the idea of positivity then I'd completely accept and expect the original. My understanding of the 'real' situation led me to believe a more 'neutral' translation would have been more appropriate. I forget sometimes in linguistics we work in idealised situations and contexts and not always ones that have links to the real world.

    Yes, the double-er was a mistake! I don't even understand how I managed to write that and not notice it. Actually, I copied the bottom one and added the pronoun in and forgot to delete the post-verb 'er'. Working on a laptop and copying characters is not always easy!

    Sorry! I never meant to say it was 'incorrect' (I said it's used in Icelandic :p) but I just, as I said before, put in my own interpretation about the real situation and not focusing on the translation only. My error!

    The "it" comes in through a requirement of English, not taken from anywhere in the Icelandic. If I was doing a literal translation and didn't have to be grammatical in English, I wouldn't have included it. Some languages don't require subject pronouns but if you translate it and there is a requirement, you have to put them in. In Icelandic it's understood what the subject is and English puts the requirement in if a source language omits it.

    Extra note regarding subjects:

    It can get a little weird given that Icelandic also extensively uses the impersonal passive so some verbs don't appear to take them and they appear in many weird passive constructions so it's a little bit messy sometimes. :D

    Extra edit:
    Mission failed, it looks like. :eek:
  9. Merkurius Senior Member

    Well yes. You are correct. ''Áhugi'' does in fact to have interest in something so in a way it is positive yes.

    ''Athygli'' would probably be better like you say, but using ''áhugi'' is allright as well => Many people are interested in this case (even though they don't like it they are interested in where it is going). For exemple Sjálfstæðiflokkurinn (The Democratic/Conservative party (I think)) are against joining the EU but they are interested in where the debate is going. So both would sound fine to me. :D

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