Icelandic: ráðuneyti, skipulag, etc.

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Gavril, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    Ég er með spurningu um ráðuneyti, skipulag og svipuð samsett orð.

    Fyrst í staðinn hélt ég að þessi orð væri samsett af tvemur nafnorðum: ráða- + neyti, skipa- + lag. Þetta mynstur er að sjá í dæminum miðvikudagur, (miðvika- + dagur), tungumál (tunga- + mál) o.s.frv.

    En "ráða" og "skipa" eru ekki að finna sem nafnorð í orðabókunum sem ég nota, heldur sem sagnorð. Þess vegna velti ég fyrir mér hvort ofan nefndu orðin (ráðuneyti, o.s.frv.) eru í raun samsett af sögn (ráða / skipa / ...) + nafnorði?

    Ef þetta er ekki rétt, af hvaða orðliðum eru mynduð ráðuneyti, skipulag og svipuð?

    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It went like this:

    ráð + nautur
    ráðunautur (counsellor - formed by tengistafssamsetning; linking vowel added)

    Then plop on the i-derivative and apply I-shift (... [au] -> [ey]...) to get to:

    The original element is ráð and that -u- isn't part of the stem or a case ending.
  3. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    Is this linking -u- seen in any other contexts where no case form of the preceding noun (
    in this case, ráð and skip) ends in -u?
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    bekkjunautur / sökunautur / ökumaður / hoppukastali (as reported here).

    The possible letters you can use are: a/i/u/s to link words in compounds.
    You might find this newspaper piece interesting.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  5. NoMoreMrIceGuy Senior Member

    Meinarðu rekkjunautur og sökudólgur? :D
  6. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Thanks for the link. In the paragraphs about tengistafssamsetning, the writer seems to focus mainly on compounds with -i- (fellibýlur, etc.), and offering a possible historical explanation for the linking -i- vowel.

    For -u-compounds such as ráðunautur, it seems plausible that the associated verbs (saka, aka, hoppa, ráða, skipa) are the source of the -u-, possibly via a deverbal noun (cf. koma/ræða/tala) that hasn't otherwise survived. bekkjunautur is an exception to this pattern, but given that there are at least three other -nautur compounds with the linking vowel -u-, it seems quite possible that bekkjunautur owes its -u- to analogy. Are there any other -u-compounds outside of the 7 or so we've mentioned thus far?

    (One other part of the article that interested me: the author claims that, "í vitund manna", the linking vowel in a tengistafssamsetning isn't perceived as a case-ending or as part of the stem, but I wonder how he can be so sure of this. Isn't it possible that many speakers, when they see a compound such as ráðuneyti, think of the verb ráða and imagine that a similar noun-form has been declined in order to obtain the -u-vowel?)
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2012
  7. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Given that ráða is not a noun and there would be no other possible paragon in the language to make it seem as if this was the case, I highly doubt anyone would think that. The thoughts of a very famous and well-respected íslenskufræðingur are given in that article and I see absolutely no reason to doubt what someone in that position has to say. I don't think it's wise to base an opinion on what natives visualise as happening in certain constructions with what learners of the language might seem to think makes more sense.

    Of course this type of thing is not out of the question, linguistic reanalysis "gives birth" to many, many new constructions and this is just as much of a candidate as any other for people to apply backformation and presume there is a noun called ráða. The only thing is, usually when this sort of thing happens there is not a completely obvious candidate that explains what's going on in the construction (ráð). I'm no expert - that's just how it seems to me.

    To make those sort of assumptions you usually need to have a tiny bit of suggestive evidence for that - and in this case not only is there no suggestive evidence but we also have respected people stating the opposite.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2012
  8. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Given that that article was over 27 years old I thought I'd search for a more recent quote about it and to my surprise there was a small section in one of my books (published last year; 2011) that mentions this so just for FYI-reasons (excuse the blatant linguistic redundancy there :cool:) I thought I'd post it here:

  9. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In what sense is "eiginleg" meant here? It's accurate to say that "ráðu" is not an accepted case form of any noun that appears in Icelandic dictionaries, but that doesn't cover all forms that people have ever used in their daily speech, or (perhaps more significantly) all "potential" forms that pass through speakers' minds when they see/hear/produce Icelandic.

    In fact, it's not clear to me that the writer of the quote (I'm not sure what the source is) would deny what I just said -- the writer may simply be trying to explain Icelandic grammar using (at least in this case) the terminology of prescriptive grammarians, knowing that this terminology may not always be completely scientifically precise.

    This seems especially likely in the case of the "tengistafur" in athyglisverður, leikfimishús, etc. Here, it seems fairly obvious that the -s- originates in "incorrect" forms (*athyglis, *leikfimis, etc.) that would have passed through the mind of a certain speaker (or certain speakers) who was influential at some point in the development of standard Icelandic. If earlier Icelandic speakers "inserted" the -s- because the preceding noun seemed semantically genitive, then on what basis can we assume that today's speakers conceive of this -s- as a semantically empty "letter" (stafur)?
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2012
  10. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Well, athygli used to be used variably as a feminine and a neuter noun so you can find athyglis through the historical record until the feminine gender version became firmly established and while you can see logical sense thinking that athygliverður might be 'more correct' (something I was convinced of until fairly recently) it's actually more of a hypercorrection than anything else. The reason for having leikfimis can also be related to having too short of a phonetic gap in between the [g]'s given word-initial stress in a multi-syllable word. So on that basis I have to, not reject, but put up a challenge to the fact that it's "fairly obvious" what happened, especially when such a claim incorrectly states that the once-correct declension of athygli(s) was never correct.
    Who knows? I don't know why you're asking because I don't think linguistics or science is able to give a "scientific" answer to the questions you've been asking. You talked about a separation between prescriptive use of terminology that might not always be scientifically accurate - but of course we're talking about prescriptive grammars here. I'll admit I haven't been in a bookshop in a long time but what grammar books and language explanations do you know of that even approach anything close to this? The most influential psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics institutes in the world are barely scraping the surface of mentally classifying subconscious identification of independent morphemes and that is in English which pretty much has all the research directed its way. Do you think true answers exist to your questions or are you playing devil's advocate?
  11. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    What do you mean by [g]? Is this the phonetic form of the -k- and -h- in leikfimishús?

    Even if it's not possible to verify the possibilities I've been proposing, what's wrong with stating that they're possibilities?

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. I thought we were discussing Icelandic as spoken/heard/written/etc., regardless of whether or not it conforms to prescriptive grammar.

    For example, the statement "tengistafur ... í vitund manna er hvorki hluti af stofni né fallending", from the column you linked to, is not (at least if I understand "vitund" correctly) a grammatical prescription, but a statement about the cognitive processing of Icelandic words.

    I don't know what current research exists into some of the questions I'm asking, but I do think that answers to them exist, regardless of whether present or future research is capable of delivering these answers.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012
  12. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Woops, I had a little break to do a little more of an investigation and when I came back I started again but then I thought I was talking about landhelgisgæsla - but I hadn't even mentioned that! My mistake.
    Okay, if it can be considered as some sort of philosophical branch of language study then fine, but in this forum I thought the idea was to talk about learning languages so naturally that has nothing to do with those sort of questions which clouded my judgements on what you were asking. Isn't everything a theoretical possibility though?
    I meant prescriptive in the sense of being a more codified explanation of structure and not reflective as much of how prescriptive is used when at odds with 'descriptive' in the horrible debate between these two branches in English. Either way, whether prescriptive or descriptive, I still mean something that is 'real' in the sense that it reflects what's actually going on and can be measured.

    The guy just said you can see linking-letters are just there to link two compounds together, probably basing it on the fact there is no reason to assume it's part of the stem or a case ending, and it happens in other words. I have no idea how you translated that statement as being anything to do with a cognitive theoretical claim of linguistic processing. People say things all the time but they don't expect to be taken to the literal extreme. He knows this piece of knowledge about a connecting letter but it just goes without saying that it's that person's belief and something is obvious to them, not that a cognitive experiment would, without doubt, validate such a claim. I think you need to maybe separate out more of what people claim and what might be taken to be a literal scientific truth.

    Okay, that's a respectable point and people should always be looking for potential answers to currently unsolved questions, but isn't it a contradiction to believe the answers exist while taking into account that the technology might not or never will exist to actually give us those answers? How can answers exist if we don't have the tools to give us those answers?

    Just to make my stance clear, unless specifically mentioned, nothing I say - or link to - has links to a mental status in the mind. Beyond deep linguistic theory, this is the first time I've seen these two concepts come together in language learning. I think if you're after these sorts of answers, I should leave the natives to answer you as I don't have that "native instinct" and given there are no scientific answers available yet for these questions - native assumptions are the closest you're going to get. Even then, I imagine there would be no reason to expect everyone thought in the same way.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012
  13. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    You may be right: at least in light of the answers it's received, this thread seems to have more to do with the history of Icelandic and theories about how speakers process it than with its present-day, practical use. (Though I think we've touched on the latter as well.)

    I meant "prescriptive" in the second sense above.

    As you were composing your post, I re-worded "theory" to "statement", which is a little bit less heavy-handed. I don't think that the author of the column saw himself as putting forward a formal theory, either, but what he wrote --

    "In people's consciousness, a linking letter is neither a part of the stem nor a case ending."

    -- clearly seems to be a statement about what happens in people's conscious minds. It could be that the author didn't intend to say exactly this, and it's quite possible that he had no firm beliefs on this question, but can I be blamed for interpreting the quote this way (assuming that I translated it correctly)? :)

    I meant "answer" in the sense of, "the truth that a question aims to arrive at" (I don't think this is an especially uncommon meaning of the term). E.g., if I ask the question "What's the current population of Iceland?", the answer is "about 350 thousand" regardless of whether I ever hear or learn of it. Just because certain answers are not discovered or even discoverable doesn't mean they don't exist.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012
  14. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I see, if you read it like that then what you said makes a lot more sense. I would have translated his passage as:

    Linking-letter.... people are aware (lit. in awareness of people) it's neither a part of the stem or a case-ending.

    For me, even accepting a translation with the word 'consciousness' - all it means is in people's awareness, they are actively conscious (know-and-understand) that something is a case. I can see how it might look like something a lot more theoretically deep (and I absolutely don't rule myself out as being wrong here) but really I think there's nothing theoretical intended with such a statement. If you have people who know independent declensions of words, and along comes a compound, so long as they can decline all case forms and then use a linking-letter in one of these compounds, are they not on some level aware that it's not part of any stem or case-ending? Ignoring current linguistic theory that still seems like a pretty solid argument, though I don't think anything close to that was intended in that statement (it was just a casual observation people are aware it's 'intruding' in some sense).

    Okay given that (re-)definition I see what you meant, but I beg to differ that is the standard definition of the word or something the majority of people would understand by it.

    I think you were right in calling it 'truth'. Truth is always existent but answers are only relative to questions that are asked. We don't currently fully understand the nature of black holes in the universe and there are not a lot of answers to the questions we have. You'd be met with baffled eyes if you entered NASA and stated that all the answers they wanted to know exist now. That's my take on it anyway - never heard that other way but I don't mean that in a way that devalues your claim to such an interpretation. We shouldn't really be debating English semantics here so I think it's best to leave the discussion pending something Icelandic-relevant.

    We only know the vaguest of things about how language is represented in the mind. General ideas based on observations that have a good tendency to be consistent but not without examples that go against such claims. Looking at how words are structured, where they're kept, what separate categories we have or how/where we put it all together is nothing but (extreme) science-fiction at the moment. Theoretical linguistics hypothesise such grand plans in abstract terms of a potential structure, heavily guided by how things work in the real world. To actually aim at answering some of these questions, reasonable questions first need to be solved. I really hope one day we get these answers but such an extremely tiny percentage of linguists work in neuroscience so I don't think anybody with any actual credibility to be taken as someone professing such a claim will be anyone writing about correct use of language or descriptive quirks or language change.

    I don't think your questions are fundamentally bad, I really wish we could get to such answers, but I just feel it's a complete misdirection to take what most people write about language that don't work in neuroscience/psycholinguistics to be anything remotely connected to anything that's actual physical or that can be deemed scientifically-proven. I hope that's an appreciable statement.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012
  15. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    I think the answer depends on how fixed the speakers' conception is of

    1) what elements ráðuneyti, etc. are composed of
    2) what words ráðunetyi, etc. could be composed of (in other words, how "open" the lexicon of Icelandic words is)

    How fixed these conceptions are probably depends (at least partially) on the speakers' degree of exposure to prescriptive standards (here I mean "prescriptive" as contrasted with "descriptive"), and the degree to which they've internalized these standards.

    It's likely that the writer of the article you linked to has/had very fixed ideas about both of the above, but I don't know if this can be said equally of all Icelandic speakers.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012
  16. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    *Had. He died in 2001. He was still writing those articles until the year before at the age of 76. I don't know how you can evaluate what he had fixed ideas about at all. You're jumping to things without any logic or reason that I can understand and it's causing more questions than answers.

    I don't wish to participate in unanswerable speculation.
  17. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA

    "prescriptive standards" = the standards of teachers and anyone else who teaches a speaker the distinction between "correct" and "incorrect" language (and correct/incorrect analysis of language).

    Without such standards, speakers could come up with their own analyses of ráðuneyti and similar words (I don't think the same analysis will naturally occur to everyone, especially if the process through which ráðuneyti was formed isn't a productive one).

    As you said in your PM, though, this is getting a bit off-topic, so maybe we should continue the discussion elsewhere.

    Sorry, I shouldn't have said that he "likely" viewed things this way. I just guessed that because he was a language/grammar columnist, he would be very sensitive to standards of what is considered correct Icelandic, and that those standards might have influenced what he considered the correct analysis of -u-compounds, etc.

    But being sensitive to certain standards doesn't necessarily mean rigidly believing in or adhering to those standards oneself.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012
  18. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I apologise for not inquiring further before jumping to conclusions. I should have learnt after the second time I was mistaken in this thread about something that you meant. I mistook your comment referring to prescriptive analysis as some claim on mental representations. I fully agree on an analysis-level, being aware of the history and word-formation processes in the language would certainly mean he was sensitive to what was going on in a more prescriptively-leaning manner.
    Of course. :cool:

    I think it could be wise to start a new thread with the same two words in question and ask outrightly the opinion of a typical Icelander: would it be instantly obvious, sort of obvious or just muddled as to whether these words are confusing or completely clear as to analysing the component parts.

    Then we don't have to deal with all the clutter we've created here and it's a simple-enough question to just answer without reading all of this.

Share This Page